In our third and final article in our three-part series on college admissions and homeschooling, we focus on standardized testing and paperwork… essays and letters of recommendation. Make sure and check out the first two articles in our special homeschooling and college admissions series!
Standardized Tests: Which One to Take?
Ugh. Standardized tests. Unless you’re applying to a score-optional institution, you’re going to need to present standardized test scores.
Scores tend to be an important component of the application for homeschoolers because in some cases it’s the only setting where your performance is comparable against a standard. If you earned straight A’s from Mom and Dad but bombed the SAT, there will be red flags.
Homeschoolers should take a PSAT in 10th grade to establish a baseline. If it turns out that you’re not a great standardized test taker (let’s face it, you likely haven’t had much practice with standardized tests), then this gives you time to prep, practice, and improve your scores before they count.
Homeschoolers should also try both the SAT and ACT to determine the testing format best suited to your test taking preferences and abilities. Also, when it comes time to present scores on your application, typically colleges are not going to accept scores presented on the transcript prepared by Mom and Dad. It’s your responsibility to make sure the CollegeBoard (SAT) and/or ACT to send your official score reports to your institutions.
Who Should Write Letters of Recommendation
Another component of most college applications is the letter(s) of recommendation. First and foremost, parents should never write a letter of recommendation for their own child even if the parents were the primary instructors. Choose your recommender(s) wisely.
The first letter of recommendation should come from someone who can speak to your academic strengths and interests. Did you do research with someone in the community involving a specific academic interest area? Maybe you attended an academic summer camp related to something you wish to study in college? What about classes you took at the local community college?
After you’ve secured a recommendation from someone familiar with your academic performance, then you can supplement with additional recommendations from people familiar with your character and work ethic. Here’s where you can solicit recs from people like your scout troopmaster, your church clergy, your employer, etc. Under no circumstances should you send more letters of recommendation than the number requested. Even if you have 10 people begging to write on your behalf, if the college asked for two then you send one from an academic reference and one additional letter.
Let’s now address one of the most important parts of a homeschooler’s application — the essays. This is your chance to shine. You’ve likely had experiences very different from other applicants. It helps if you can frame one essay response around something related to your homeschool experience. Why did you choose homeschooling? What were the benefits? How did it help you grow as an academic and as a person? What experiences did it afford you? How did it shape your academic passions? In other words, don’t camouflage the fact that you were homeschooled. Make it be what sets you apart! Some of the best essays I ever read were from applicants who were homeschooled.
RELATED: Homeschooling With Jetpacks
Lastly, know that it’s unlikely you’re the first homeschooled applicant the university has had. Yes, you chose the path less traveled, but it’s not exactly a secret hidden path any longer. Most colleges have practices in place and personnel designated to work with homeschooled applicants. If you have questions specific to your situation, call and ask to speak with the person who works with homeschooled applicants. More than likely, that person will be happy to answer any questions you have!