|| PATRICK HENRY COLLEGE
Preparing to apply for college
by Rachelle Reitz
The birth of Patrick Henry College in 2000 brought new awareness of the homeschooling movement as the nation's first college made up of primarily home-educated students. With 96% of the student body coming from a homeschooling background, the opportunities to assess homeschoolers' preparedness for college have been abundant. Based upon these observations and my own experience as a homeschooled student and college graduate, here are some suggestions for families preparing a child for college admission.
|Rachelle Reitz meets with a prospective student at Patrick Henry College|
Covering the basics. While individualized curricula and the opportunity to specialize are strengths of homeschooling, do not be tempted to neglect the basics. Encourage your son or daughter to pursue his or her own interests while being certain he or she is taking courses in math, lab science, grammar, writing, and foreign languages. If you struggle with teaching math or any other subject, ask another knowledgeable parent to tutor your student, join a co-op, or consider enrollment at a local community college to cover the subject matter. Community colleges typically offer courses designed for students who are not yet ready for college coursework, and often have placement tests and counseling to help with areas of difficulty.
Recordkeeping. Most, if not all, of the colleges your child is considering will ask for a high school transcript detailing subject matter, credits, and grades.1 Some will ask for a description of curricula the student has used and/or work samples. Patrick Henry College requires a reading list from a student's last two years of high school. The format of your transcript will matter less than content, but it should be concise and easy to read. It is a good idea to note on the transcript that more information is available upon request and to always be prepared to provide more detail if asked.
Standardized tests. A few colleges will specify that they require either the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing Exam (ACT), but most will accept either test. The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is a test typically taken in the junior year. The PSAT provides additional preparation for the SAT and is a qualifier for National Merit Scholarships. More important for most students than taking the PSAT is the need to take the SAT or ACT (or both) in the spring of their junior year. This will provide the chance to identify weak areas and become familiar with the format so the test can be retaken in the fall of the senior year. Register to take the tests at your local high school or visit www.collegeboard.com or www.act.org.
College shopping. A lot of factors go into choosing a college. Ranking factors that matter most to your student such as private v. public, cost, majors, location, size, etc., will make your search more focused. Take the time to learn to ask the right questions of college admissions personnel. For instance, families often ask about student/faculty ratio. Savvy administrators will include adjunct (part-time) professors and teaching assistants when figuring this number. Smart college-shoppers will ask how many full-time professors and full-time students an institution has, and then do the math themselves. Be certain to visit two to five colleges that most interest your son or daughter. If possible, a student should stay overnight in the residence halls. This will help paint a realistic picture of the academic, social, and spiritual life of a campus. Be certain to schedule an appointment and official campus tour with the admissions office at least two weeks prior to your visit, and always choose a weekday when classes are in session.
Admissions personnel who used to view homeschooled applicants with skepticism are now scrambling to recruit and enroll students who collectively score better on the SAT than their peers. Remember that finding a college will be easy; it's finding the right one that matters.
1 See www.hslda.org and click on Issues, then Colleges and Universities, for more information and a sample high school transcript form