Overview: Get the plan for preparing for college so you don't miss anything and can be confident your homeschooled teen will succeed there.
Preparing for college is a big task — but guess what? It doesn't have to happen all at once.
If you have decided that college is a good fit for your homeschooled kid, then you will want to make sure you have done everything necessary so they can get into college and succeed after they get there. This can seem intimidating, but when you break it down into categories and handle them one at a time, it's really not so bad.
In this article I will summarize all the aspects of preparing for college, and I will also provide links for further information so you can find all the details you need. I've gotten FIVE kids into colleges and watched the older ones as they have come out the other side, ready to take on the world — and it's actually a lot of fun!
Take a deep breath and find out what you need to know here. Then enjoy the ride!
Preparing for College Admissions Requirements
The first step to prepare your homeschooled teen for college is to make sure they have all the coursework requirements in high school that they will need to meet the admissions requirements that colleges demand. In other words, colleges expect your teen to have completed certain courses and credits in high school in order to be considered to be accepted at that college — and you want to make sure your teen has met them all.
Each college is different, and it is important to do the research necessary to feel confident that you haven't missed anything. My book Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School takes you step-by-step through this process with forms to fill out and all my reassurance at your fingertips.
But basically you will need to visit several college websites to find their admissions requirements page and determine how many credits of each core subject you want to require in your homeschool, based on what the websites say. For a more detailed article about this process, see How to KNOW What Your Homeschooled Teen NEEDS to Get into College.
Preparing for College Academics
Of course you want your kid to do well at college once they get there, and there is more to that than just meeting coursework requirements. To make sure your teen is ready for the college academic environment, do the following:
- Teach them how to learn independently BEFORE they graduate high school. College professors don't hold their students hands and remind them of every deadline or find out if they have questions; that is all on the student. Give your teen the opportunity to practice independent learning and take full charge of their school work for at least senior year, if not before.
- Time management is key. Allow them to experiment with their own work schedule and habits in the safety of the homeschool environment, when you are not spending thousands of dollars for them to learn these lessons. If they fail at home, you can walk beside them to fix the problem. Then they will have a better chance of succeeding at college. For tips on making this happen, listen to Episode 17 – Helping your Teen with Time Management or read 5 Ways to Guide Your Teen in the Art of Time Management.
- Give grades and expect their best work the first time. College professors do not allow work to be done over and over; usually one try is all the students get. Hold your teen to this same standard for at least one year before graduating high school, so they are comfortable with it and will not struggle with it at college.
- Dual enrollment in high school is NOT necessary, though many claim it is. However, it can be a great way to get your kid used to how college courses work, IF your teen is ready for them. More here: Episode 64 – Dual Enrollment For Homeschoolers – is it right for YOU?
Preparing for College Applications
As the homeschool mom, you have some responsibilities for getting your teen's grades and paperwork in order so there will be everything needed for the college application.
This will definitely include preparing a homeschool transcript, which is a list of courses, grades, and credits that gets sent to colleges. For ALL the details about transcripts, see Homeschool Transcript Essentials: What You Need and DON'T Need.
This also might include creating a course description document, although I only had to do this for one of my five kids. A course description is a short paragraph that describes a given course in regards to what the student learned, which resources they used, and how they were evaluated. Some schools request that course descriptions be sent along with the application. If you need to make them, you can find detailed instructions and examples here: The Complete Guide to High School Course Descriptions for Homeschoolers.
The high school diploma is NOT required to send with college applications.
Many people think that making college visits is required before applying to colleges, but I disagree. I think college visits are better done after being accepted, so you don't waste time and resources. More here: College Tour Do's & Don'ts.
Note: My book Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School has a chapter about what to consider as you look for colleges. It also has chapters on many of the other topics discussed in this article.
Preparing for College Scholarships & Financial Aid
The BEST way to get a scholarship as a homeschooler is by getting good test scores on the ACT, SAT, and/or CLT. Even in these times when many schools are going test-optional, a student with high scores WILL get corresponding scholarship money. It's hard to know exactly how the test-optional schools are evaluating your child in comparison to other applicants, and the tests are a way to remove many of the variables and prove that your teen deserves a scholarship.
I recommend having your teen take a semester-long test prep course so they can learn the tips and tricks of taking these tests. They can also take practice tests so they know what to expect at the testing session.
One of the best courses out there is College Prep Genius. It is incredibly thorough, guiding your teen in detail through ALL of the sections and types of questions. I've written a complete review here: How Your Teen can Pay for College.
(I also interviewed the creator of College Prep Genius on my podcast; you can listen here: Episodes 26-28 – Preparing for the SAT, ACT, & CLT with Jean Burk.)
Or you can create your own course with resources you find, like we did: Homeschool ACT & SAT Practice.
More info about the ACT, SAT, and CLT in these resources:
College Entrance Exams FAQ's for Homeschoolers
Episode 29 – Nuts and Bolts about the SAT, ACT, & CLT
EVERY FAMILY must fill out the FAFSA prior to their student attending college. This is an online application that indicates how much the government expects your family to contribute to college each year. Colleges use this to determine eligibility for grants, work/study, and other scholarships not related to test scores. Even if you think you won't qualify due to having too high of an income, you are still required to fill this out. More information here: Episode 59 – The Truth about College Financial Aid for Homeschoolers.
One last thing to think about when it comes to scholarships is which colleges to apply to so that your teen gets the highest awards possible. This is worth considering carefully. More here: The TRUTH about How to Look Good on College Applications.
Preparing for College Life
College isn't only about the academics. We want our kids to have fun, to learn and grow in other ways than just in the classroom, am I right?
That means they have to be prepared in more ways than just coursework. They need to be prepared socially and emotionally, and they need to be ready for college independence. Sometimes homeschoolers are sent off to college without being informed of what they might see and experience there, and they forget their family values in the rush of all the new things they are being exposed to. We don't want that!
Take the time to discuss college life with your homeschooled teen. Give them opportunities to socialize beyond their usual sphere. Let them try their wings a little bit while they are still at home, so if they have questions they can come to you. Starting that pattern now will make it more likely to happen after they're living on campus, also.
See 6 Ways to Prepare Your Teen for College Independence and Episode 55 – Preparing for College Emotionally and Socially for more information about how to help your teen enjoy their newfound freedom without crashing and burning.
Once you drop off your kid and they have become immersed in college life, they won't need you in quite the same way. Here's some encouragement for how to help them navigate without being a helicopter: Two Types of College Students.
Oh, and be sure they have everything they will need for living the campus life! Check out our tried-and-true college supply list here: Our Recommended College Supply List – Only What Your Kid will NEED and USE!
I'm about to send my LAST child to college this upcoming fall. It feels sad in some respects — but I know that we are entering some of the best years ever. Now that you know everything necessary for preparing for college, you'll be able to relax and watch your kid find their way with their own sense of adventure and style! Well done, homeschool mom! HUGS!
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