We are in the ending stage of the college application season, and I am so happy that we are nearing the end. I cannot explain how drawn out the application process is or all that goes into it. Applying to colleges is not just about the initial application. It is about researching schools, visiting campuses, writing essays, and communicating. It is a year-long process and one that the student needs to be in control of but one the parent should support along the way.
If you have a junior in high school right now, you should already be starting this journey. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Have your student begin researching schools. They should start by researching online. To get them started discuss possible majors, locations, and college size with them.
- Visit some schools that are close by to get a feel for different campuses. Touring a university or college helps high school students get a better idea for what they like or don’t like. I found it also gets teens excited about the process.
- Run the net price calculator at various colleges. This will help you get a better idea on the cost of sending your child to college and will help you eliminate some schools that are too expensive.
- Begin working on essays – It’s never too early to start thinking about essays. If your student will be using the common app (which they most likely will for some of the schools they apply to) the essays prompts are already available.
- Register your student to take the SAT or ACT. If they have already taken the test discuss with them if they think they could score higher on a retake. One thing I learned during this whole process is that test scores are still a huge factor in the decision making. If there is a chance your student could score higher have them retake the test.
- Start working on their transcripts and course descriptions if you haven’t yet. Ideally you have been keeping records for the last three years. If you haven’t give yourself plenty of time to get everything in order.
- Have your student begin contacting people that they would like to use for recommendations. It is better to get this set up now while you have time. Having strong recommenders is another vital component so don’t leave this until the last minute.
- And finally – try to let your student do as much of this as they can on their own. This is their first major decision of their adult life. They should be figuring out where they want to go/what they want to major in for themselves. They should also be the ones reaching out to colleges, professors, and recommenders. It is a learning process and will help prepare them for the next four years of their life.
What does an eclectic, academic course of study look like for homeschoolers in the high school years? It can take a variety of different forms depending on the teen and their strengths and weaknesses. It can also develop differently based on their interests and the resources available to them. Regardless of these differences, a rich eclectic, academic study will be one in which the student learns at a meaningful level through a variety of resources and opportunities.
At the beginning of my son’s high school years he became very interested in astronomy, and his natural curiosity about the subject matter gave me the idea of incorporating it into his school year as a science credit. Building upon and nurturing a high school student’s interests in an educational capacity is very important at this phase, as intuitive curiosity leads a student to want to pursue an area of knowledge at a deeper level. As a concrete example, here is what I did with my son for his study of astronomy.
Astronomy first caught the attention of my son when he discovered Black Holes Explained, a short series from the Great Courses. Because of his interest I decided to order a longer title from the Great Courses titled An Introduction to Astronomy which included 96 half-hour lectures. The guidebook to this series included several reading recommendations which we purchased and he eagerly worked through. It also came with questions which he answered as he watched the lectures. In addition to this I picked up a standard astronomy college textbook and he worked through parts of it.
After going through all of these my son’s passion for the subject of astronomy had not diminished and he applied to attend an Astronomy Camp at the University of Arizona. Upon being accepted he and other camp mates spent seven sleepless nights on top of an isolated mountain in the desert of Arizona learning about astronomy hands-on. He also had the opportunity to partake in a radio broadcast talking to the crew of the International Space Station, where he posed the question of how fast could the crew evacuate in an emergency. Through these hands-on experiences his love of astronomy grew.
My son returned from camp with a truly enriched understanding of the subject and a desire to delve even deeper into his studies, so I turned to other online options and found a Coursera class on Astrobiology from the University of Edinburgh, and then he and his sister joined our local astronomy club where he attended monthly lectures by experts in the field from local universities including Cal Tech, UC Irvine, and Chapman. He also rented a telescope from the club and used it to study the stars, planets, and the moon on clear nights. Along with his sister he attended a few “star parties” or large-scale stargazing events attended by experts and enthusiasts with a wide array of telescopes.
One thing that’s important at this level is that your teenager has an output of work which at the high school level should include essays, labs, and essential assignments and projects which engage them fully and challenge them to broaden their horizons. When you homeschool not everything has to be done traditionally but there should be enough work done to earn a credit. This course of study began in the spring of what would have been his eighth grade year, went on through the summer, and ended in the winter of what was his freshman year and for it he earned one full science credit and a half lab credit.
Although this study was rich and eclectic the cost was actually quite manageable which is important to point out as I know cost is a factor for many of us. We got the Great Courses used on Ebay for a very affordable price, and all of his books were used copies that we found on Amazon. The Coursera class was free and my son was lucky enough to receive a scholarship for the astronomy camp which is what made it possible for him to participate. Participation in the local astronomy club was very affordable, and they lent us a telescope for six months free of charge. My point here is that even if you are on a tight budget like I am there are resources out there for you to create a meaningful academic experience for your child.
This is just one example whereby a student-led course can lead to a gratifying pursuit in the high school years. Not every class is going to be like this; not every credit earned will be earned like this. Still, it is a wonderful thing that we have the opportunity, as homeschool parents, to craft at least a few high school courses in this way, and it is wonderful that our teens have the opportunity to learn through an engaging and memorable process.
This year the twins has been a transition year for my twins. They matured a great deal this year, and they began to think about their future. It is wonderful when your kids begin to take on more responsibilities and when they start to think about their own future. After being the one in charge for so long I happily pass on the responsibility to the twins. It is a wonderful transition made even more wonderful because the twins are very intelligent and very responsible. I don’t worry about their decisions too much (can any parent not worry at all?), and I enjoy hearing about their plans for the future.
In September of last year the twins decided to apply to Bard College at Simon’s Rock. They were not 100% sure if they wanted to go there, but they were intrigued with the idea of early college. They applied, which was an adventure in itself, and much to their surprise they were accepted. They also received merit aid and need-based aid which was great, but they would still have had to take out loans. They weren’t 100% sure that they were ready for early college so far away from home, and Tru wasn’t sure whether he wanted to take on student loans at such a young age. They spent some time thinking it over and ultimately decided that they weren’t ready for college yet.
After this the twins toyed with the idea of starting community college next fall. I went to community college early, and they thought maybe they should do the same. In California going to community college early is a very good option for homeschoolers. The twins thought this would be a good idea, and they started to plan out where to go and what classes to take.
At the same time they weren’t too excited about this option. The twins have very specific goals for their future, and they both were unsure whether this was the right path for them. I tried to stay out of their decisions and let them find their own path. This was not always easy, and I admit that I spent some time worrying about them and what they would decide, but in the end they made the right decision for them.
And what was that decision? They decided to enroll with Harari College Worldwide full time this year. Last year my daughter took a few classes from them, and my son took one class towards the end of the year. The classes were intellectually stimulating and challenging in a good way. In addition, the online community of Harari has been great for them, and they have connected with other teens all over the world.
And what is their ultimate goal? They would like to study in Europe, and Harari is one of the few schools we have found that will help them meet that goal. Hopefully in two years the twins will be on their way to university in Europe and happy with the decision they made this year. Either way, at this point, I am enjoying watching them grow up and make very adult decisions about their future. I am happy that they have each other in this process, and I am grateful that they are mature enough to make these decisions. After twelve years of homeschooling them I finally feel like I can relax a bit and sit back and enjoy the ride.