*Although this blog addresses homeschooled students, it can be used as a checklist for students in public or private schools as well.

At College Careers Consulting, we believe that the ideal time to begin the college admissions process is 9th grade. The freshman year, in many ways, is the “make it or break it” year.

Photo credit: sofatutor@sofatutor

A study called The Predictive Power of Ninth-Grade GPA identified a strong relationship between a student’s GPA in 9th grade and their GPA during junior year, a critical year for admissions. Unfortunately, we’ve watched countless traditional and home-schooled students experience deep heartache when they discover in their junior or senior year that they don’t meet the GPA or course requirements to pursue their top career choices (or attend their dream college).

If you have a homeschooled student, mapping out a robust four-year plan for academics, testing, and extracurricular activities can be daunting since there is so much to consider. As you work, meet the daily demands of your family, and homeschool, you must also assume the responsibilities of a high-school counselor.

Here are a few things to consider if you plan to homeschool your student through high school:

Create a Four-Year Academic Plan

Your student’s academic record is the single most important factor in college admissions.

  1. Check with HSLDA and NCES for your state\’s specific course credit requirements to graduate, but don’t stop there. The discrepancy between state and college admissions requirements can potentially create heartache later.

  2. Most colleges today require four years of core academic courses. Keep in mind that selective colleges require lab sciences and math through calculus. A general guideline for college-bound high schoolers includes:

  • Language Arts – 4 credits (literature, composition, speech)

  • Math – 4 credits (Algebra I and II, Geometry, Pre-Calc, Statistics, Calculus)

  • Science – 4 credits (might include but are not limited to – Chemistry, Biology, Health and Elective Science)

  • Social Studies – 4 credits (might include but are not limited to U.S. History, World History, Geography, Civics, Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology)

  • Foreign language – 3 to 4 credits

  • Fine Arts – 1 credit (drama, art, music)

  • Physical Education – 1-2 credits

  • Elective – 22-26 credits

College Careers Consulting Tips:

  • We strongly recommend dual AP and enrollment classes to build an impressive college admissions profile. A “B” in a college-level class speaks volumes over an \’A\’ in high-school-level courses.

  • Use electives to expose and explore different career paths.

  • Keep a detailed record of courses taken, their descriptions, and credits to avoid feeling overwhelmed when you create a transcript at the end of Junior year.

Create an Extracurricular Plan

Colleges and institutions that offer scholarships are highly attracted to well-rounded students who are deeply invested in non-academic activities. Homeschooled students have the potential to outshine traditional students in this area. Since homeschool parents have the freedom to use pedagogical approaches to help their students accomplish more academically in less time, it frees students up to focus on extracurricular activities, explore interests, volunteer, and develop real life-skills.

  1. Begin by asking your student to list all the activities they enjoy doing. Narrow the list down to the top 5 activities. Find ways for your student to invest in those activities by either volunteering, shadowing, joining a club or studying.

  2. Find creative ways to turn extracurricular activities into career exploration. An animal lover? Volunteer at an animal shelter. Fascinated with plant science? Join a 4H club. Enjoy baking? Start a small business or bake for a homeless shelter.

  3. Explore new interests that align with your student’s natural aptitude. A College Careers Consultant can help you identify aptitudes and suggest activities and potential career choices.

  4. It’s important to note that all interests do not become careers. Some interests help relieve stress and recharge, while others teach students invaluable lessons in self-disciple, teamwork, diligence, commitment, and more.

  5. Keep in mind that colleges are attracted to students who show long-term commitment to a few activities over a long list of short-term involvement.

College Careers Consulting Tips:

  • The Activity Section in the Common App requires students to provide the institution’s name, dates and year of participation, hours per week, and skill/talents/traits gained – so keep detailed records.

  • Help your student specialize and develop depth in an area of particular interest. Find at least one activity that they can transition from being a participant to an assistant, and finally a leader.

  • Research the Congressional Medal website to set a four-year goal in one of the four areas that they offer awards.

  • Call your local high school to see if your student can participate in sports teams or clubs.

Create a Test Plan

Even though post-pandemic, a lot of colleges have become test-optional or test-blind, it is a good idea to create a standardized testing plan if you want to stand out in the college admissions process. Additionally, test scores are still being used to determine scholarships.

  1. Here are College Careers Consulting’s top 5 tips to understand the differences between SAT and ACT and determine which one is the best fit for you.

  2. Homeschoolers should also commit to taking the PSAT in the fall of their junior year. The PSAT score plays a significant role in some scholarships associated with National merit.

  3. Besides these standardized tests, homeschooled students should consider AP (Advanced Placement) or CLEP (College Level Examination Program) tests to demonstrate content proficiency

College Careers Consulting Tip:

  • Test seats are limited and difficult to find. Commit to visiting the PSAT, SAT, and ACT websites every year and make a list of test dates. Register as soon as registration opens.

Create a College Visit Plan

One way to create excitement and reduce anxiety about the future is to have your student informally explore and experience colleges beginning in 9th grade. It helps them develop a feel for different sizes and types of collages and equips them to make better college decisions three years later.

Discover one parent’s perspective on how we helped their homeschooled students. To find out how we support homeschool families and those in private and public schools, Contact us today. We’re here to help!