I don't like the idea of making New Year's resolutions. But, wrapping up this year's college application season begs me to remind you to start early. Being homeschool guidance counselor is not for the faint of heart. I kid you not. Before you know it, your current junior will be a senior in the midst of the application process. It can be an extremely stressful time for them and you. The more you do to plan and prepare - the less panicked you will be when you are in the thick of it. I don't want you panicked! I want you to enjoy this exciting time, especially when it's the last year your homeschooler will be with you. You ready?!
- Start Your Transcript NOW. Use a template or create one with Google Docs; input freshman and sophomore years. Calculate yearly GPA.
- Start Your Course Descriptions NOW. List all textbooks, ISBN numbers, and methods of evaluation.
- Compile the High School Reading List. Start this list now while you still (ahem) remember books read in 9th grade. List pleasure reading and academic reading. Be sure to include ISBN numbers for textbooks.
- Save your Homeschooler's Best Work. Just in case! Most schools do not ask this of homeschoolers, but a few request graded/commented essays and lab reports.
- Collect Anecdotes and Quotes about Your Homeschooler. Or FROM your homeschooler. They can be used to create a great counselor recommendation letter.
- Check out Specific Homeschooling Pages on College Websites. Make sure you know exactly what they want to see from homeschoolers. If there is no designated page for homeschool applicants, call admissions and ask.
- Create a Common App Practice Account. Actually create two practice accounts. Or three. One as a student, one as a counselor, one as a teacher recommender. Learn how to navigate the Common App.
- Review PSAT results. Should you consider the ACT? Take a practice exam of SAT and ACT and choose.
- Prep for SAT / ACT. Develop a plan and put in your calendar. If not using outside help for SAT, schedule and practice with Khan Academy.
- Schedule SAT Subject Tests in Conjunction with Courses Ending in May. The best time to take SAT Subject Tests is at the end of a course when information is fresh. Does your homeschooler need any mom grades backed up? Subject Tests are the perfect opportunity.
- Consider which Teachers to Ask for Recommendations. There should be two academic teachers willing to write glowing recommendations. Cultivate strong relationships with those instructors over the course of the spring semester.
- Run the NPC calculator for a few schools BEFORE creating the college list! Find out what your family's EFC (expected family contribution) is using several schools’ Net Price Calculators. Know which schools use FAFSA-only or CSS Profile. Educate yourself on financial aid lingo. Know that schools are under no obligation to meet your EFC.
- Be Transparent about Finances. Have honest conversations with your student from the very beginning. Consider taking schools off the table if you are certain they are unaffordable.
- Research your Options for Summer Opportunities. Many applications are due in January and February. Search out summer programs, workshops, internships, international exchanges, university classes, jobs.
- Register for Fall Courses. Registration for 2018-2019 courses usually begin in early spring. Make sure you are aware of any prerequisites needed for those fall classes.
- Seek out Mentors. Ask friends, universities, online communities. If finances are not an issue, look into Pioneer Research Program. Scholarships are available.
- Understand Merit Scholarships. Know which schools offer and don’t offer them. And know which schools offer a lot to a large percentage of their applicants.
- Understand Early Applications. Know the difference between early decision, early action, and regular decision.
- Extracurriculars - Go Further, Go Deeper!
- Keep the BALANCE. Be aware of your homeschooler’s stress level. Spring of junior year is a crazy one. Heeding my advice above can make the process go by much more smoothly.
There you have it - 20 things to make next year a breeze! Allow Google Docs to become your best friend. Start a college folder and you'll be on your way to an exciting and fulfilling journey! Reach out with any questions. I am always happy to help.
Lisa Davis is a homeschool college admissions consultant and high school mentor. She is a champion for passionate and talented homeschool outliers who live and learn authentically. Visit her at fearlesshomeschoolers.com.