ROAD TO COLLEGE ADMISSIONS

HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru High School Newsletter--September 2006
The Road to College Admissions, Part II
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Dear Friends,

It's September and the smell of fall is in the air. The chrysanthemums 
are beginning to bloom and the leaves will soon be turning beautiful 
colors. As new books are being examined and pencils are being 
sharpened, take a few minutes to review your reasons for 
homeschooling, and renew your vision by prayerfully seeking the Lord's 
help right from the start. We'll ask the Lord, along with you, to 
make this your best year of homeschooling yet!

This newsletter is the second installment of a three-part series on 
The Road to College Admissions. Last month, we discussed the 
spiritual preparation for making a college decision and also how to 
research colleges in order to make good college choices with your 
child. This month we'll cover the specifics of applying to colleges, 
and also take a look at the important elements of a college visit.

THE COLLEGE APPLICATION PACKET

The college application packet may include along with the application 
form a separate financial aid application as well as information for 
supplying the college with a high school transcript, SAT/ACT scores, 
letters of recommendation, guidance counselor form, and essay.

Because the vast majority of colleges have already processed at least 
one homeschooled student, you probably won't be the first to apply so 
there is no need to fear even though at first glance this application 
process may appear lengthy and involved. You can help make this 
process less burdensome or time-consuming just by organizing your 
approach to it and by being diligent to record and document 
information as your child progresses through the high school years. 

After completing the college research, you may want to narrow down the 
number of schools your child applies to--possibly two or three. This 
allows for contingencies and comparisons of financial aid and 
scholarship offers from several schools. Along with the application 
fees there are also fees to be paid to have your child's college 
entrance scores sent, so keep this in mind when you consider the 
number of schools to which your child will apply. 

Although each college will set its own admission policies (and some 
colleges even have special policies for homeschooled students), here 
is what you can usually expect:

Colleges have strict deadlines for applying so note these deadlines 
and give your child plenty of time to complete the application. Since 
many colleges require an essay and letters of recommendation, 
completing a college application is not a 10-minute job; it may take 
several hours over a number of weeks to complete! Colleges prefer 
online applications since it saves them time, and the advantage to you 
is that when you submit your application you will immediately be 
prompted if you have omitted a piece of information. Also, in most 
cases, you can begin filling out the application, save the 
information, and then come back at another time to complete it. Do 
not leave any area of the application blank--if you have questions, 
simply email or call the college admissions office and ask any 
questions you may have.

Financial Aid Application

Along with application deadlines, schools also have financial aid 
application deadlines. You do not need to wait until your child is an 
admitted student before making application for financial aid. Fill 
out the FAFSA form as soon after January 1 as you can. The HSLDA 
website provides helpful links to college financial aid information 
and a recent high school email newsletter covered this topic and is 
now available in the email archives. See 
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3257 .

High School Transcript 

Colleges will request a high school transcript. As the homeschool 
parent you can generate your own transcript, or if you are enrolled in 
an umbrella or oversight program, it may supply you with a transcript. 
Briefly, a high school transcript is a concise record of the academic 
courses your child completed in high school. For a more detailed 
explanation of transcripts see HSLDA's website 
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3258 and also the October 2005 issue 
of the Homeschooling Thru High School email newsletter 
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3259 . 

Test Scores

College entrance test scores (SAT/ACT) are often required for college 
admission. Most colleges request these test scores be sent directly 
to them from the testing organization. For more information on 
registering for the PSAT, SAT and ACT see the October 2005 newsletter, 
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3260 , or the testing section of 
HSLDA's website: http://www.hslda.org/highschool/testing.asp . Many 
good test prep resources are available for the SAT and ACT, so be sure 
your student is well prepared to take these tests. See 
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3261 . 

Letters Of Recommendation

Colleges usually require two or more letters of recommendation. Have 
your child contact and request letters from others who know him and 
his academic abilities well. Be sure to request these letters far in 
advance, supplying the writers with a stamped, pre-addressed envelope 
to the admissions office since colleges may want to receive the 
recommendation letter directly from the writer. However, other 
colleges may want to receive the letters of recommendation all in one 
package with the application, so be sure to read the application 
instructions carefully.

Guidance Counselor Section 

Most college applications will have a section that is to be completed 
by the guidance counselor. As the homeschool parent you can complete 
this section. If an item is not pertinent (such as class rank) simply 
indicate NA for "not applicable." Many schools have stopped ranking 
their students so your child should not be adversely affected by not 
having a class rank. However, some scholarships may use class rank as 
a factor, so check with a particular college/scholarship to inquire 
about this. If you are unsure about any questions in this section, 
simply call the admissions office for clarification.

Essay

Colleges generally ask applicants to write an essay on a choice of 
topics. These essays are to be written entirely by your child. He or 
she should spend a good amount of time on these, reviewing, editing, 
and polishing the essays before submitting them. 

Check and double-check all sections of the application prior to 
submitting it--and don't forget to include your application fee! The 
majority of colleges now provide you with the opportunity to check 
your application/admission status online so that you are aware if the 
college is missing a piece of information or waiting on a 
recommendation letter, test score, etc. 

COLLEGE VISITS

Along with filling out all the forms for admission, it's important for 
your child to gain a close-up view of college life. This will help to 
quiet the fears of those who are uncertain about this next step and 
provide confidence and anticipation for those who are raring to go!

Although many college websites now give web tours of their campuses, 
actually visiting a college is still a worthwhile endeavor. Check 
with the college to see if they have certain open days for visits or 
if they prefer you make an individual appointment to visit. Many 
colleges will have "rising senior" open days and will line up a full 
day of seminars and activities so that many different representatives 
from various departments (admissions, housing, student clubs, etc.) 
can present helpful information and answer questions. In most cases, 
current college students lead campus tours, and they are usually very 
knowledgeable and enjoy answering your questions. (You will be amazed 
at the tidbits of information you discover. Most of these tour guides 
have also perfected the art of walking backwards while addressing a 
tour group--it is a skill homeschooling moms may want to perfect!) 

You should take time during your visit to tour the dorms or off-campus 
housing (some colleges will even make overnight dorm arrangements for 
your child). Also take the opportunity to eat in the cafeteria and 
sample the food, arrange for a classroom visit, perhaps set up a 
personal interview with an admissions officer, and even make 
arrangements to meet leaders of student groups in which your child may 
have an interest. This is also a good time to visit local churches and 
find out whether any offer transportation on Sundays for students.

Campus visits may be done prior to making application to the college 
(in this case perhaps to narrow down the list of schools your child 
will apply to); they may be done while waiting to hear about an 
admission decision (use this visit to rank a college in terms of your 
child's priorities); or the visit may be done once an admissions offer 
has been made (to help determine a final selection). Whenever you 
decide to visit a college, it's a great idea to take notes regarding 
both the advantages and disadvantages of each school while the college 
is still fresh in your mind. If you do choose to visit a school 
after you've received an acceptance, you may want to take the 
opportunity to check out the available part-time jobs on campus for 
the school year. These jobs are usually filled on a first-come, 
first-served basis, so your child can be ahead of the crowd and maybe 
line up a part-time job during his college visit. (In some instances 
your child may need to wait until he has registered for classes and 
his tuition bill paid before applying for a job on campus). 

College visits are wonderful opportunities to spend one-on-one time 
with your student. Use the trip in the car or plane to discuss your 
child's academic goals and the plans he or she may have to be involved 
in clubs, activities, and ministries during college. It's time well 
spent!