Homeschooling High School: College Prep

by GfG on September 25, 2013 · 3 comments

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Homeschooling high school can be daunting, I know.  I remember when HB started her eighth grade year, I felt the pressure.  When she started ninth grade, I was pretty stressed (aka: I cried more than a few times the summer before that year).  The societal pressure is great, especially if you are planning, hoping, or interested even slightly in college for your child.

Next in my Homeschooling High School Series: Can you get your homeschooled kiddo prepared for college?

Here’s the deal: not only can your homeschooled child be prepped for college, but it doesn’t require insane amounts of effort on your behalf.  It takes planning and diligence, sure, but nothing crazy.  So take a deep breath.  Exhale.

The first thing on the list is to check the basic requirements for college entrance.  You can find that list in several places online.  Start with the state college and then check private colleges.   I’m not going to include a bunch of links here because the list may change over time.

If your child is not interested in college, that’s fine.  It’s actually more than fine.  Our world is changing (this whole topic is another post coming up later) and college isn’t for everyone.

If you want to prep them anyway, tell them that part of your job is to equip them for their future and sometimes eighth graders aren’t certain of their future (keep a straight face while saying this) so you are going to prep them in the basic requirements just in case they change their mind.

Make a general plan for sciences and math for your child(ren) that include college prep.  I shared ideas in this post about how to handle math and science (often overwhelming subjects for parents, myself included).  I will admit that we dropped the ball in this area (math) for HB, but have recovered nicely (thank you, LORD).

Include tests in your curriculum.  If you haven’t been test heavy or interested through eighth grade (and I’m one of those people), now is the time to start adding them into the school plan.   College kids need to be able to handle tests that cover large parts of material, so your student needs to be comfortable with these.  Start slowly, but do start.

Include papers in your curriculum.  If your curriculum hasn’t been heavy in the paper writing until now, again, it’s time to start.  I heard Susan Wise Bauer at a conference a few years ago and she said that most freshmen are completely lacking in writing skills (and she would know, since she teaches freshman composition).  To boost this skill, have your high schooler write at least one page papers every month or so, varying subjects (ex: a paper in science, a paper in history, etc). ETA:  Longer papers should be included each year.

Include literature analysis in the paper writing.  Lots of writing in college is in English class, especially at the beginning.  Make sure your student is familiar with literature analysis terms and can write about them.  (Again, SWB suggested that) Have them write on every other book or so in this area.  Choose a few aspects per book.

Give your student opportunities to learn from different methods and settings.  If your student has never learned from anyone other than you in your home, you may be setting them up for a serious disaster.  There are many different ways to give them experience outside of you: co-ops, online classes, tutors, and dual credit classes are options.  I would probably not have a child take a dual credit class unless they have had confidence and experience learning from someone other than you.


Teach your child to work independently.  By junior year, your child needs to be able to plan their day and work week according to the “syllabus” you provide (aka: weekly or monthly lesson plans).  They will most likely struggle at the beginning of this training, but make it happen anyway.  Seriously.

Provide consequences for work not completed on time.  Seriously.  They have to know that the deadline is the deadline.  This is especially difficult for homeschooling mamas.  We love our kids and see the “issues” that affect their week.  College proffs won’t.

Have your child take the PSAT their sophomore and junior year. This test can set your child up for a major scholarship if they become a National Merit Finalist.  A very big deal in the money category.  This will only be based on the results from the test taken during their junior year, so taking it earlier will give them confidence and familiarity with the test.   I know families that have their kids start taking this as freshman.

Though National Merit Schloar is often touted as the only reason to take the PSAT, I think taking this test also gives your child experience with major national tests.

Have your child take the ACT and/or SAT their junior year (and maybe several times).  These tests are required for college entrance.  Each university or college requires different ones and different scores.  Don’t wait until the senior year to do this (which is what we did and I seriously regret it) if you are interested in scholarships and/or your child’s score could be low.  Many scholarships are due before winter, so you need the best scores by that time.


Some test preps can help students boost their scores each time.  You need to give your child wiggle room for their scores.  Results take weeks to come in and you may miss deadlines.

We dropped the ball on this one too, but, thankfully, HB is a smart as a whip.  I learned my lesson though and all the other children will follow a new plan.

You can also sign up for a SAT question of the day at College Board.

{Bonus note: Please consider this when taking these kinds of tests}

Keep records.  Starting the transcript and data collection is important because you don’t want to create this the senior year.  Your mind isn’t the best place to store information about classes, curriculum, grades, scores, and more.  A friend I met here last year encourages homeschoolers to keep a binder for each child.  Put information about every class they take in this binder, including a flyer or write up of the class if it was something taken outside the home.  Include grades.  

Place photos of the student participating in high school classes, activities, and events.

Include every award or honor the child is given,  explaining it fully.

Include two to three writing samples in this binder.  You can use them for college admissions.

transcript image WEB

Keep a running transcript in it, so you have it ready when the senior year rolls around (which comes more quickly than you might think).   HSLDA has some basic transcripts you can use.

This binder may or may not ever seen a college interview office, but the information will help you create a full transcript and application for college admittance.

Think outside the box.  College is not normal life (not even in the slightest) and it is costly.  Research shows that 45% of college degreed adults are not working in their field.  There are lots of reasons for this (that I won’t go into here).  One way to make sure college is valuable and has long term benefits in a career field/area is to provide experience for your child.

This can involve many different ideas: internships, work, volunteering, dual credit classes, and more. I have an entire post about this coming up next week, so be sure to come back and read it.

Be sure your child is involved in activities outside the home.  Extra curricular activities (other than sports, but sports is a good start) help a child learn how to interact in a variety of ways.  I shared about this in the socialization post as well as the sports and extra curricular post.

Provide experience in handling life activities without you.  Honestly, this is important college or not, but many parents forget it because of the busyness of high school.  Your child needs to know how to handle basic “emergencies” without you.   They should go to the doctor on their own, report a stolen bankcard, go to church and church groups, pay bills, grocery shop, and cook meals.

They have to have the chance to try these activities when it isn’t urgent.  Learning how to go to the doctor when you are really sick is more than many students handle well.

Remember that college isn’t everything and it isn’t for everyone.  Be sure to keep the emphasis where it belongs in your homeschool and that’s not college prep.  Keep all the important reasons you homeschool in mind, even in high school.   Don’t lose sight of the most important goals you have for your child.

Also remember that we can’t make our children fit into a mold that weren’t meant to fit in.  If college isn’t something your child can do successfully, be sure you are equipping them for their different route.  With joy and excitement.

Remember that your child’s future is not in your hands, but in God’s.  Yes, it’s true that you are responsible and will be held accountable for doing your best for your child’s education, but you are not the captain of your child’s future.  God is.  Use wisdom, discernment, and hard work, but don’t bear the burden of all your child will be (in and out of college).

Yes, college prep is do-able for homeschoolers! 


Some of this information was gleaned from hearing Susan Wise Bauer’s talk Preparing for College.


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