11 Ways to Jumpstart Your Homeschooler’s College Search

Just how the heck do you start the college search?

I mean, there are over 4,000 institutions in this country alone.

How do you narrow it down?

What matters? What doesn’t matter?

How do you find that “perfect fit?”

Wait. How do you know what the “perfect fit” is?

Here’s the good news.

There are over 4,000 institutions in this country alone. 🙂

Many of them can be wonderful options for your homeschooler.

I’m going to show you how you can get a jumpstart on this amazing journey.

You will often hear me say, “If this process doesn’t change who you are, then you’re not doing it right.”

Let me show you how to begin the college search the RIGHT way. The fun way. The intentional way.

1. Why College?

Ask yourself this question. Ask your homeschooler this question. Let your answers guide you through the next steps of the process. My previous blog post Should Homeschoolers Play the College Game? walks you through the questions you should ask yourself and your homeschooler.

2. Reflect.

Let this be a time when your homeschooler starts thinking, wondering, imagining. Develop that habit now because reflecting on who they are and who they want to be will evolve and be a major factor in finding the right school. Here are some basic questions homeschoolers can ask themselves at the very beginning.

  • How have you done your best learning?
  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • How hard do you want to work academically?
  • Do you have any idea what you want to do with your life?
  • What would you like to do on a typical Tuesday night in college? What about a typical Saturday night?
  • Do you want to go to a college in a place that’s different or similar to where you live now?
  • Do you want to be with students who are like you or different from you?
  • What’s your family’s college budget?

3. Make visits to local schools.

Have fun with this one! They don’t need to be researched; they don’t need to be a perfect fit. Just pick a state university, a research university, and a liberal arts college. Your goal is to get your homeschooler to notice things — different sizes, locations, campuses, students, towns. Take a tour, enjoy an information session, sit on a bench in the middle of campus, go to the coffee shop. This is a practice run to get excited and knowledgeable and thoughtful about the process — before getting attached!

TIP: Do NOT make one of these schools a super reach school. Take it from me: it’s hard for kids to see value in other schools when the bar is set so high!

4. Take a Practice SAT or ACT test.

If you don’t have scores in hand, how do you know what kinds of school to consider? Take a practice exam. Or better yet, take one of each. That way, your homeschooler will know which test to concentrate on during the upcoming months. Many students do better on one than the other.

ACT Practice Test

SAT Practice Tests

5. Buy a few books.

Borrow from the library if you’d like, but you may want to dog-ear and write all over them! Pass these books between you and your homeschooler.

What do I want you to do with these books? Consider new ways of looking at schools (and your homeschooler). Ask more questions.

There are plenty of options; here are two suggestions to get you started:

Fiske Guide to Colleges 2018. Awesome insight into the culture of many schools!

Colleges That Change Lives. Shift your mindset with this book. Consider schools you’ve never heard of before.

5. Check out a school’s youtube and social media accounts.

Some are very active; some aren’t. But it can give your homeschooler a better feel for a school. Here’s one of my fave youtube videos from Beloit College:

TIP: If your homeschooler is interested in a school, have them follow their social media accounts. Some schools track that as “Demonstrated Interest”.

6. Check school websites.

Many have virtual tours and admissions blogs. Search for their “Student Profile”. It will give you a heads up to their incoming class’s average GPA, scores, and other statistics. Many now have pages dedicated to homeschool applicants, so be sure to check those out as well.

Have you ever read Georgia Tech’s admissions blog? It’s compassionate and real.

7. College Search Engines.

I know, I know — this is how you became overwhelmed in the first place. In this early stage of the game, just use a couple of sites. Just change the variables to see if the same schools keep popping up. Here are two I recommend at the beginning of a search:

College Board

College Navigator

8. Consider Academics.

Has your homeschooler already decided on a major? If so, that can certainly narrow down your search. But go deeper than the name of the major when looking at schools. How is the major designed? What is its goal? Is it more theoretical or applied? What research are the professors doing? How many students graduate in that major?

9. Ignore Rankings.

In fact, don’t even go to US News and World Report. And don’t go to any of the other biggies when it comes to college rankings. You’re going through this process the right way! And that’s by building your own rankings by what matters most to you.

10. Go to Local College Fairs.

These can be crowded and impersonal, but it’s a great way to connect with a bunch of schools at once. Be sure to ask them what they like to see from homeschoolers! Check out the NACAC link below for fairs in your area.

NACAC

11. Flexibility of Curriculum

Here’s something you may not know. Each school is different in how the approach their learning philosophy. Make sure you know what kind of curriculum a school has — Is it an open curriculum? Does it have a Core? Does it have block scheduling or some other unique feature that allows you to create your own major? Or does it not even have a major like St. John’s College?

So when do you begin the search?

Junior year is the typical time to truly begin the search, but dip your feet in during freshman and sophomore years. Take a day and enjoy a local campus or visit a school while on vacation. Make it as low key and enjoyable as possible!

And just a heads up. Sometimes students aren’t too motivated to begin this process. Making those relaxed visits is a great way to ease into things.

The 11 tips shared above are a great way to jumpstart this process. They are best at the very beginning of the search. Things becomes much more detailed and personalized as time goes on.

So, no more excuses! Go back up to number one and enjoy the journey!

The Truth About Merit Scholarships for Homeschoolers

Have you looked at the price tags of colleges lately?

Take a look at these numbers. These are costs for the 2018–2019 school year.

  • Penn State University (main campus) $33,000.
  • College of Wooster $62,100
  • Harvard University $70,010

Remember: Tuition increases every single year!

When looking at price tags, be sure to factor this in your calculations. Colleges usually increase tuition by 2–5% each year. Sometimes more.

Can we say craaazy?

If you cannot afford these costs, you have several choices.

  1. Don’t let your homeschooler apply. This is certainly an option, but you may miss out on some schools that are a great fit.
  2. Apply without understanding details about financial aid and merit aid. This may leave you in that horrible situation many families experience after an acceptance from a dream school: “Sorry, hon, you can’t go.”
  3. Do your research so that you know how to craft a fabulous list not only for you homeschooler but for your family’s pocketbook.

I choose number three.

And you should too.

There are two main kinds of financial assistance for college students.

  1. Need-based aid.
  2. Merit aid (merit scholarships or academic scholarships).

Need-Based Aid

Need-based aid (also known as financial aid) is aid based on what the government or the institution calculates to be your need. This is NOT what you think your need is (never lose sight of this).

There are four main kinds of Need-Based Aid:

  1. Federal Aid. By now, you’ve probably heard of the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Filling out the FAFSA may qualify you for federal loans, federal grants, and federal work study.
  2. State Aid. States also provide assistance in the forms of loans, grants, and work study.
  3. Institutional Aid. This is needs-based aid given by an institution. Some schools use the CSS Profile; some use their own forms. Each institution calculates a family’s need based on their own methodology and priorities.
  4. Private Aid. This aid is given by certain organizations and corporations.


Each School Calculates Financial Aid Information Differently

  • Some schools require ONLY the FAFSA. These schools calculate your need only on information reported on the FAFSA.
  • Some schools require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA. The CSS Profile asks more detailed questions. In many situations, the expected cost is much higher than FAFSA only schools.
  • Some schools require the FAFSA and their own institution’s financial aid forms.

Because schools use a variety of methods, you may receive a variety of offers. Sometimes those offers can have a $20,000–30,000 difference.

I recommend running a school’s Net Price Calculator to get estimates. Just remember — these are only estimates and may differ greatly from an actual package.


So why am I spending time explaining financial aid when this is about merit scholarships?

  • Because you need to understand the language when going through this process.
  • Because you need to understand the financial aid packages when you start receiving them.
  • Because you need to understand why you may receive wildly different offers from schools.

Merit Aid

Merit Aid is given to students for academic, artistic, and athletic talent. It can also be given for leadership, community service, and professional experience.

There are two main sources of merit aid.

  1. Money awarded by an institution.
  2. Money awarded by a private organization.

Let’s Focus on Merit Awarded by Colleges.

Why?

Because your homeschooler can get the most amount of money directly from colleges!

Merit aid is given to attract high-achieving students who will add value to a college community. Not only does this lure desirable applicants with money, but it increases the school’s ranking and prestige if those students choose that school. A win-win!

Why is merit aid awesome?

Unlike loans, you don’t have to pay it back!

Who should REALLY be looking for merit scholarships?

Families who will not be getting much need-based aid, but need a lot of help covering the costs of college.

11 Truths About Merit Aid (be sure to read these):

  1. Not all schools give merit aid. This is worth repeating. Not all schools offer merit aid. If you’re a family who won’t qualify for need-based aid, but can’t afford the hefty price tag, consider schools that offer merit aid.
  2. Ivies and similarly selective schools do NOT offer merit aid.
  3. Some schools offer only a tiny amount of aid to a tiny percentage of students.
  4. Some schools offer a large amount of aid to a large percentage of students.
  5. Some schools offer guaranteed awards according to stats. This information is usually laid out very clearly on the college’s website.
  6. Some schools use a holistic approach to offer merit to all applicants. Each applicant is equally considered. This is where things get cloudy. There’s no way of knowing if or how much your homeschooler will receive until they’ve gone through the application process.
  7. Some schools require extra applications for scholarships. And some of these scholarships may be for certain majors or talents. Info on these scholarships will also be found on a school’s website.
  8. Some schools offer competitive scholarship weekends in which applicants attend campus to interview and compete for specific awards.
  9. Some schools require the FAFSA to be filled out for merit aid because it is tied to financial need. 
  10. Most schools guarantee the scholarship for all four years as long as the student maintains a certain GPA or academic standing.
  11. Most schools do not “stack” merit aid and financial aid. In other words, merit aid will be applied to your financial need, not stacked on top of your financial need.

What You May NOT Want to Hear

I’m going to get real here.

For the best chance at merit, your homeschooler should apply to schools where their stats are in the top 25% of that school’s averages.

And?

These schools may not be your homeschooler’s first choice school. Or second. Or third. In fact, they may not be on the list at all.

So you and your homeschooler may need a mind shift. A change in perspective. A new list.

What You DO Want to Hear!

There are AWESOME schools that give merit. And lots of it. Your homeschooler can find a great school at a price that is good for your family.

Don’t leave private schools off the table. You just have to know which ones to put on the table!

So How Do You Begin?

Find the right schools.

  1. Find schools that give a lot of merit aid to a lot of applicants. Make sure your homeschooler’s stats (scores and GPA) are in the top 25%.
  2. Find schools that give guaranteed merit aid.
  3. Find schools that value your homeschooler’s talents, passions, or intended major.
  4. Look at schools in less desirable geographical locations. The midwest is a great area to consider.

So How Do You Increase Your Homeschooler’s Chances?

Why a school offers merit may not always be transparent. Many times it’s based on holistic factors. Many times it’s based on a school’s need to fill a class of diverse students.

Cast a wide net: Apply to a variety of schools because you just never know what kinds of awards you will get. It also allows you to compare packages and make the best decision for your family.

What Schools May Consider (not a complete list!):

  1. SAT/ACT scores
  2. GPA
  3. Course Rigor
  4. Student Ranking
  5. Demonstrated Interest
  6. Interview
  7. Essay(s)
  8. Supplemental questions
  9. Talent
  10. Leadership
  11. Volunteer Work
  12. Geography (where you live)
  13. Ethnic background

Do the Homeschool Documents Matter?

Of course! It’s yet another piece of your homeschooler’s story.

  1. Make those homeschool documents clear and professional and thorough.
  2. Weight the GPA — some schools use weighted grades for scholarship purposes.

Are you Ready?

You know you are! Don’t let AWESOME schools pass you by.

The hardest part will be changing your mindset about which schools should be on the list. Think outside the box (like you always do). Challenge the status quo (like you always do). 

Do your research. Be transparent with your homeschooler. And start falling in love with schools that will be throwing money your way!

Whatcha waiting for?

1

How Homeschoolers Get Into Selective Colleges

Does this describe you?


  • You’re at the beginning of your homeschool high school journey and you've suddenly hit panic mode.


  • You’re afraid that you’ll miss that important piece of information you need for your homeschooler to attend top tier colleges (or any college, for that matter).


  • You’re afraid that you’ll set them up all wrong and colleges won’t take your homeschool seriously.

  • And most of all...you’re afraid you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.


I get it. And I'd like to let you in on a few secrets.


  • Because there is a lot of misinformation out there about homeschoolers and the college admissions process.

  • Because I have been there and done that - with my own kids and with other amazing homeschooled kids.

  • Because I want you to know how good it feels to launch your homeschooler into awesomeness. 


So what is the #1 thing to do if your homeschooler is considering top tier schools?


PLAN AHEAD.


I know, I know. This is not a surprise, but create a plan as early as possible. If you have a middle schooler or a freshman, understand how you can craft a homeschool story that selective colleges love to see.  If you have a sophomore or junior, it still isn't too late to develop that story.

Here's how you begin...


Have a Conversation.


Open up the dialogue now about the purpose and philosophy of your homeschool. Truly listen to your homeschooler and shape your homeschool accordingly, knowing it may change when a new passion is found or a new struggle arises or a new path is considered. Let that conversation - and those that follow - be your family’s guide. What is right for one homeschooler and one family is not right for another. And that is the beauty of homeschooling.




Embrace the Freedom.


Know that you can steer your homeschool in any way you’d like. You are NOT trying to replicate school at home. You are trying to live and learn authentically, so give your homeschooler permission to do so. What that looks like - that authenticity - is unique for everyone. Sometimes it looks like structure. Sometimes it looks like freedom.


Any way you choose…


Know that you’re in control. Of classes, credits, testing, self-directed exploration.


You don’t need a charter school or diploma program to guide you. You can do this on your own.


How?


Find out if your state has requirements for homeschoolers to graduate. Some don’t have any. A few have some basic requirements.


Some parents feel like they have to follow the local public school district requirements.


You Do Not Need To Do This!


I know it’s difficult to leave that mindset behind. I know you want to revisit it...because it’s safe.


But, do yourself a favor. Trust yourself.


You are the homeschool supervisor. You are the guidance counselor. You choose how to run your school. You create the transcript and issue the diploma. Except in rare cases, no one needs to do this for you.


Don’t let anyone (including you) tell you otherwise.



Become familiar with colleges and what they want.


Even if your student is a freshman, look at college websites. Many have pages dedicated to homeschool applicants. If a school doesn’t have the information on their website, call admissions and ask for the officer who reads homeschool applications. Check out a variety of schools - state schools, research universities, national liberal arts colleges, Ivies.

How about these for starters?


Do you see what they have in common?  

Ummmm...not much.



Welcome to the crazy college admissions process.


Each school has different requirements. Each school has different recommendations. As long as you know what these are in advance and you provide a strong college-prep education, this will not be a problem.


What is a Strong College Prep Education?


English: 4 years

History: 4 years

Math: 4 years

Science: 4 years (at least 2-3 Labs)

Foreign Language: 3-4 years

Arts and Humanities: 2 years

Electives: These are a great way to show depth in an area of strong interest.


Please, please, please don’t try to get away with less than this. I know it’s not always possible. I know not every school demands this. I know some kids are skewed heavily in one subject area.


But when I hear homeschoolers trying to do the bare minimum, I cringe. If we are trying to raise lifelong learners, why do we want to shortchange our kids with a bare minimum education?



When schools say that academic rigor is most important, what does that mean?


More than anything, selective colleges want to see that students have taken the most rigorous course load that is available to them. What does that mean for homeschoolers? It means that you should explore dual enrollment, university classes, AP classes, tutors, and high quality online classes. It means that when you create homegrown classes, you should choose college level textbooks and require high level thinking and output.




Testing


In addition to course load rigor, SAT and ACT scores are super important to most college admissions committees. These scores put applicants on a level playing field. They reveal a homeschooler’s competitiveness. They put your homeschooler in the “consider” pile.


With that said, there are a growing number of test-optional colleges.


Two things to consider about test-optional schools.


  1. Some test-optional schools still require homeschoolers to take some form of standardized testing - SAT, ACT, two or three Subject Tests.
  2. If an applicant chooses to apply test-optional, they must be able to demonstrate rigor, intellectual vitality, and high level extracurricular involvement in other ways.

Subject Tests Tip: Schedule these tests at the completion of corresponding classes.


AP exams are yet another way - in addition to the SAT, ACT, and Subject Tests - to validate your homeschooler’s transcript. For the most part, selective schools expect to see these. So plan carefully and prepare thoroughly. Some homeschoolers don’t want to play the AP game. I get it. One of my kids felt that way during his sophomore year. He took university courses instead.


It’s difficult to compile a college list before standardized tests have been taken, but don’t let that stop you from researching schools with various selectivity. Once those scores are in hand, the path will become much clearer.


Teacher Recommendations


Selective schools usually prefer 2 or 3 teacher recommendations from academic teachers (not a homeschool parent). Plan ahead and encourage your homeschooler to forge relationships with mentors and teachers. Most institutions only want recommendations from junior and senior years, however, so keep that in mind.


Documentation


Want to know where YOU, the parent, have the most impact? As the homeschool parent, you are considered the homeschool guidance counselor. You have the unique opportunity to package your homeschooler with documentation - transcript, school profile, counselor recommendation letter, course descriptions. Create thorough and professional documentation that leaves no doubt as to the quality education your homeschooler received.



Socialization


The stigma still exists. Almost every admissions counselor will say to me, “Homeschoolers do wonderfully on our campus, but please make sure they show evidence of socialization within their application.” Get your kids involved with others and let it shine through in those applications.




Extracurriculars


Whether they’re academic, athletic, or artistic, extracurriculars are super important. And the more sustained and developed they are, the better. Colleges like “pointed” students. No longer are well-rounded students - those with a wide variety of activities - all the rage. Admissions officers  like to see students who excel in one or two areas and have a strong impact on that activity’s community.


Qualities that Selective Schools Love to See


Intellectual Curiosity


Selective schools want curious, motivated students - students who go beyond textbooks and classes. Students who challenge themselves with research, independent projects, summer programs. Seek out those opportunities.



Initiative


Is your homeschooler a starter? A mover and shaker? A business owner? Awesome! If not, it is never too late to look for opportunities and nurture those qualities during high school. A natural starting point is your homeschooler’s passions.


Leadership


Colleges like leaders - genuine leaders. They want alumni who will graduate, go forth into the world, and make a difference. Gone are the days where being leader of your local club or organization is enough. Think bigger and broader.


Character


Is your student kind, caring, compassionate? Do they contribute to society in an impactful way? Colleges are beginning to look beyond tests and scores, considering the qualities that make good human beings, as well as good students.





Warning: Do NOT leave financial aid out of the picture when creating a list.


Yes, do this research years in advance. Understand the reality of college costs and how your budget fits in with those costs. Familiarize yourself with the difference between needs-based aid and merit-based scholarships. Know that certain schools don’t even offer merit scholarships. And know that if your family makes over $150,000 a year, and you only have one in college, it’s likely you won’t qualify for need-based aid. And know that certain private institutions currently cost over $70,000 with a tuition increase each year.


Getting a good grasp on the nuances of financial aid takes a lot of research. It is confusing. It is not straightforward. It can be disheartening. But...


Knowing which schools are affordable can help create a list of schools that are good fits for your student...and family.



So how exactly do homeschoolers get into highly selective colleges?


You know what’s coming, don’t you? There is no one way ticket. There is no secret, whether you are a homeschooler or not. The reality is that top schools have an acceptance rate between 4% and 10%.


Admissions officers often say that 80% of their applicants have the scores and the grades. So what is that character, that talent, that essence your homeschooler brings to the table?


Homeschoolers have the advantage of freedom and flexibility. They have the luxury of creating their story - one that can be compelling in highly selective admissions. Schools want to see that your homeschooler has taken advantage of this educational freedom. How will your homeschooler demonstrate this?


One more truth. There is MUCH more to college admissions than meets the eye. Some of it depends on your financial need. Some of it depends on whether your homeschooler applied Early Decision or not. Some of it depends on the institutional priorities of that particular school.


My advice? Plan early, but be flexible. And encourage authenticity.


Allow homeschooling to nurture your homeschooler’s sense of self and their place in this world.


Allow them to create their own genuine, compelling story.


Colleges will love that. 🙂

12 Ways to Find Intellectual Peers for Your Gifted Homeschooler

I have had the pleasure of engaging in some really thoughtful conversations with my sons lately. We have discussed learning, creativity, curiosity, motivation, and authenticity.

As gifted kids who resisted traditional education at an early age, they have a unique view on who they are as learners and human beings. They have looked back on their high school years with a keen and perceptive eye, appreciating some things, regretting other things, and holding on to ideals that are unshakeable parts of their personalities.

They learned much in isolation. Their passions, their self-directedness, their insatiable need to absorb profound ideas and knowledge manifested in absolute joy.

However, as a Mom, it was sometimes concerning. My oldest spent hours on the computer, programming, designing websites for his clients, hacking the PS3 to run linux on it. My other son couldn’t get enough of theoretical physics, maths, and philosophy. Each had journals and journals piled high beside their beds, filled with questions and answers, ideas and thoughts.

Their minds racing, they tried to keep up by reading and absorbing all they could for hours and hours a day.

It’s easily said that homeschooling was the best option for my boys. But, as gifted kids, they always seemed to be alone — in their heads, with their ideas and their plans and their questions. They had to dull who they were in most social situations.

Yes, they were busy with travel soccer and baseball and volleyball. They hosted events with members of various organizations with which they were involved. They took university courses and traveled the world. They weren’t alone.

And yet they were.

If you have a gifted child, especially an older one who is homeschooling, you can appreciate this conundrum. Because what a gifted person wants — more than anything — is to share their enthusiasm with others who can get fired up about the same thing.

It’s hard to find.

But it’s imperative that you try.

Gifted kids crave it. Need it. Thrive on it.

If you have a gifted homeschooler, understand how important it is to their emotional and intellectual well-being.

The following is a list of ideas that may help you find those intellectual peers for your homeschooler. Please, please, please share any additional ideas that you may have.

And remember, giftedness is for life. This struggle will likely follow them.

1. Online Courses

There is a wide variety of online courses available — some of excellent quality; some a waste of money. Choose carefully. Do your homework. Find a course with an outstanding instructor who will challenge your homeschooler to think critically about the deep nuances of a subject.

2. University Courses

I am not talking about dual enrollment at community colleges. I am talking about universities that may allow your student to take courses in an environment filled with engaged students. Do you know a professor? Do you know a university employee or student who may go to bat for your kid? Ask if they would be willing to let them audit classes.

3. Research

Once again, think about your child and their interests. Encourage them to forge relationships with professors by emailing with questions. If they are already taking university classes, seek out research opportunities there. Or you could go the shameless route and ask on your social media account!

4. Summer Programs

This is one area my son wished we pursued. Many summer programs, like TIP or CTY, cost thousands of dollars. I didn’t even consider the option. I should have at least applied for financial aid. Maybe I would have been pleasantly surprised. We did pursue the more exclusive, free summer programs with much success, academically and socially.

5. Competitions and Contests

There seems to be a competitive platform for hundreds of topics, from linguistics to music to physics. Search online. Find local groups or start one of your own.

6. Tutor

Can you find a qualified and passionate tutor for your homeschooler’s courses? A regular tutor who inspires and engages and challenges? I wouldn’t recommend that you google tutoring agencies. Get a personal recommendation. Ask universities. Make sure it is a good match before you commit. Remember that Skype is always a wonderful option!

7. Mentors

Similar to finding a great tutor, finding a mentor is invaluable for a gifted student with a specific passion. Networking is key to finding a mentor. In my experience, students tend to be proactive when doing their independent research. Encourage them to reach out to influencers a bit more and engage in meaningful relationships.

8. Online Forums

My oldest gleaned much information and guidance and encouragement from adults in online forums. He found them on his own. It’s easy enough to google which online communities might be best for your homeschooler.

9. Events

Attend hackathons, lectures, conferences, Meetups, club meetings, TEDx events. I have done all of these with my kids. I regularly checked local colleges for lectures and the city library for talks. Most of my sons’ interactions were with adults and that was a-okay with them and me. Sound familiar?

10. Start your own Meetup or Online Forum or Club or Organization or Co-op

Maybe this is a little out of your homeschooler’s comfort zone (and yours), but the rewards will be well worth it!

11. Start a Youtube Channel

This is a great way to create a community of like-minded thinkers. My son even makes money doing it!

12. You. The parent.

Sometimes you need to go the extra mile. Literally.

I regularly drove an hour to the most active astronomy club in the area. You know, where my son was the only kid. I drove hours to Rubik’s Cube tournaments. Then stayed overnight in hotels. I listened to their beloved podcasts and to their ideas. I taught myself — as much as I could — about quantum mechanics and javascript. I read their recommended books and the latest articles on the topics they loved.

I did it for them. And I did it for me. While I may not have been a true intellectual peer, sometimes I was the best they got. And I think they appreciated the valiant effort!

What Homeschoolers Need to Know about the Mid Year Report & College Applications.

It’s that time of year. I get calls and emails from parents asking, “A Mid Year What? Why didn’t I know? What do I need to know?”

Yes, as homeschool parent (AKA guidance counselor), you are required to submit a Mid Year Report to the colleges that require it. I know, I know. I hear you grumbling already. But trust me. Do not view this as just one more thing to do; view this as an opportunity to tell colleges “just one more thing” about your student.

                                                           

What is the Mid Year Report?

The Mid Year Report is a form that a counselor submits to colleges after first semester grades are recorded. It is a way to update schools about a student’s academic progress. An updated transcript is often required. Some institutions require both the applicant and counselor to submit a Mid Year Progress Report. It isn’t a difficult or lengthy process — you’re asked basic questions about academics and discipline and you’re given a chance to inform admissions about anything else that might be of value in their decision making process.

Why is it important?

Mid Year Reports provide the perfect opportunity to make the case that your homeschooler belongs at that school! It’s a way to continue the conversation, a way to confirm a decision, a way to update admissions on the awesome things your kid is doing. Colleges want to see an upward trend — in rigor and in grades. Here’s your chance to show them that your student is at the top of their game in senior year.

If a student has been admitted Early Decision or Early Action, schools want to be certain that they’ve made the right choice and that a terrible case of senioritis hasn’t taken hold. They want to know that their admitted students are ready to step on campus and be challenged. If a student is applying Regular Decision, schools want one more piece that reveals their worth in the applicant pool. If a student is a borderline applicant, the Mid Year Report is something that can make (or break) their chances.

Bottom line: Don’t slack off. Keep those grades up. Keep that engagement up. In fact, a strong Mid Year Report can increase chances at receiving merit aid or getting off of a waitlist or making a deferred application stronger. On the other hand, a poor Mid Year Report might warrant a letter from the college, warning that a student’s place in an honors programs might be in jeopardy or an acceptance might be rescinded or a reduction in merit might be given. Keep those seniors moving and shaking!

Will all schools require a Mid Year Report?

Nope, but here’s the thing. As homeschool guidance counselor, you need to be aware of which schools do and which schools don’t require them. Most schools do NOT send reminders. The Common App and Universal App do NOT send reminders. Go on each college website. Check the counselor section of the applications to see which schools require it. It is your responsibility to submit the correct documents to each school.

Where do I submit the Mid Year Report?

Some schools require the Mid Year report to be submitted via the application platform used to apply — Common App, Universal App, the institution’s online app. Some schools, however, require a separate form to be signed and mailed. It all depends. Be sure you are well informed of the school’s request.

When do I submit it?

Although there may not be specific deadlines, schools will want it in hand it by the end of January/beginning of February. If it is early in the application season, set a reminder for mid-January to do this. It is imperative that you remember!

How do I update the Transcript?

For the Mid Year Report, only a few things need to change on the transcript.

  1. Add first semester grades. Now, I know some of you will be tempted to not give semester grades for year-long courses. Of course you can choose that — just write “IP” for In Progress instead of a grade. But remember what I mentioned above? About the importance of strong Mid Year Reports? They cannot be underestimated when it comes to borderline applicants, merit aid, and honors programs. You have a fabulous opportunity to showcase your homeschooler’s worth. Take advantage of it!
  2. Update credits for any classes that are completed. These would be one semester courses which occurred in the fall.
  3. Make any changes to spring semester course names if they are different than the initial transcript. Stuff happens and changes are made to a schedule. Just be sure to note those changes on the transcript.
  4. Recalculate the GPA, only if semester courses were completed. Do not factor in ongoing, year-long classes in the new GPA. That is only to be done upon completion of the course. However, certain schools may recalculate GPA using those semester grades once they have the midyear report in hand, so keep that in mind.
  5. Remember to sign the updated transcript!

Should I add course descriptions?

If you didn’t include spring semester course descriptions in your previous submission, include them now. If your courses changed focus or changed altogether, feel free to include these course descriptions as well. Add this information to your PDF transcript upload.

What if my homeschooler has since received an award or distinction or special opportunity?

Awesome! This is a perfect time and place to highlight the fabulous things your homeschooler continues to do. If there isn’t a section provided to note these achievements, add a page to your transcript document. Do you now see how valuable Mid Year Reports are?

Open-ended Questions.

Some institutions will ask students or counselors to add anything they’d like. This can be an ideal opportunity to update admissions with a very brief personal statement. Write a few powerful sentences about it.

Another note: If your homeschooler is applying ED or EA at a school, and has a very strong first quarter, go ahead and send those grades. Strong grades can have a positive impact on admission!

What about Community College or University grades during senior year?

If your homeschooler has received semester grades from a college or university, it is important that those transcripts be sent directly to the school. This is also something to note in your calendar, as you should make the request early enough to be processed in time.

While we’re at it, what is the Final Report?

You’re in luck! The Final Report is handled essentially the same way. Update the transcript with grades, credits, recalculated GPA, and send by the end of June/middle of July. There is one important difference! Be sure to include the words “Final Transcript” along with the official graduation date. And, once again, don’t forget to sign!

The Final Report also holds a lot of value, especially to a student on a college’s waitlist. So, if your homeschooler’s top choice has them on a waitlist, their final grades may be just the thing that puts them in the acceptance pile! Keep encouraging!

Colleges expect their applicants to continue at a high level in their academics and extracurricular involvement during senior year. With the pressure these kids are under, it is easy to understand why some become numb to the entire process. Keep your kids healthy — mentally and physically — during those final months of senior year. That way, they have the energy to be the great student and the great human being that they’ve always been!

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