Friday, November 7, 2014

From Homeschool to College, Part 2

So, what are college admissions officers searching for in a candidate? What would they see as desirable in a non-traditional applicant's portfolio?

This was my research assignment as I battled with words, memory and with my own inclination to get a bit warm and fuzzy and nostalgic, looking back over all the wonderful years of living with my daughter and watching her grow and become herself. How do you capture that? Is that even what is needed in the situation?

With her brother, during a moment of camaraderie; 

Here are the results, straight from the horse's mouth (though what truck a horse would have with college is beyond me):

1) Academic: an applicant will need to somehow convey the fact that they are college-ready. This could be through teacher narratives about what was studied, reading lists (saved!), information on curriculum used (hmmm), and copies of papers written or projects completed.

From Princeton's website:

"We understand that for many home schooled students there is not as clear a distinction between academic and non-academic activities as there might be for students in a traditional high school.
The more you can document for us and describe what you have done during your high school years, academically and otherwise, the better. Feel free to go beyond the questions on our application forms if they don't cover everything you think is important for us to know."
and this:
"In general, we look for students who have challenged themselves with rigorous study in a range of academic areas during their high school years, but the exact course of study varies among our successful applicants."

Columbia states: "Home-schooled students must send a copy of their curriculum for the past four years." I am puzzled by this, I wonder if they actually want the books, photocopies of the books? Either way, they are in for some seriously heavy packages. They may want to give this one a little more thought.
2) References
The preference is to have reference letters written by three different adults who know you well and can speak to how glowing, intellectually precocious and how involved in your community you are.  Some colleges accept one of these from a parent, others strictly forbid family members from writing letters of recommendation, but not too many.

3) All about you
This is the "essay" section. This is where the student has a chance to let admissions know why they are so fabulous in 250 words. Or perhaps a few more. Children seem to do well with this part, they are. after all, in the midst yet of their super-ego-centrical selves and like to describe their hopes and dreams and how the world they create will be superior to the one their parents have sadly stumbled through.

4) Test scores
Depending on whether you wish to take college classes while you are still under-18 or post-secondary school, there are different requirements. Some schools do not require SAT or ACT scores, some, especially for those still in high school or community colleges, require a COMPASS score.

From the University of Iowa:
This is Cate's first choice, and given her desire to study foreign languages, a big school is an excellent option for her; they offer many languages and she would not have to wait for cycles of particular classes to take Chinese II, for example.
One guidance counselor; began answering questions on a "normal" level; SAT, class rank, GPA. I gently let her know that Cate had already completed this portion of the admissions paperwork, but that I now needed a little more advice from someone who was in the habit of working with homeschooled students. She very kindly and  immediately offered to transfer me to another counselor. 

This counselor assured me that they were very much used to working with incoming homeschoolers and had no problem with a non-traditional transcript. "Just email it directly to me and I will take care of it." 

I did, eventually, finish my job of putting into words the "transcript," though it looks nothing like what I have seen anywhere else. Much of my inspiration came from Allison McKee's  From Homeschool to College and Work, which is out of print, but available used. It is from 1998, but it is an excellent guide to helping a parent or student document a childhood of work. 

Hint for parents of kids under 18; start now. Write down what your child is up to, what books they are reading or you are reading together, what plays they are in or have attended, trips you've taken, classes in co-ops or libraries. Keep it somewhere you will be able to easily access later, on paper maybe, or really well backed-up electronically. Enjoy the journey, it's really not that long, sniff!

This just in...after many restless days and nights...Cate has been accepted to the University of Iowa. 

She is thrilled. I am all mixed. Success!

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