Just how the heck do you start your homeschooler’s 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.
Which ones are the best 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.”
Find colleges for your homeschooler in a way that feels good.
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.
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.
Be real with yourself and with your homeschooler. Know what colleges will expect you to pay and know what you are able and willing to pay.
Arm yourself with the financial policies of each school. Know financial aid lingo. Know your Expected Family Contribution before you add colleges to the list.
This book is a MUST read - my favorite book of the year!
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!
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.
The best study guides are those put out by CollegeBoard and ACT.
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. 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.
Some are very active; some aren’t. But it can give your homeschooler a better feel for a school. Click here to see 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”.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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?
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 13 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!
What is your biggest roadblock in starting the college search? Share in a comment below!