Wow—when I decided to teach my boys at home, I didn't know I was signing up to be the guidance counselor too! That was my first reaction when faced with the prospect of getting my oldest child into college.

Getting into college can be a challenge for students in traditional schools, and it's no different for homeschooled students—and the parents who help them! Our students need to take the same entrance tests and prove their course work was qualified, and like the students from traditional schools, they must try to make their applications stand out from the rest.

Susan Hare and Sheri Gervais are two ordinary moms who decided to help talented home-educated students excel in the world of college admissions. They founded Mu Eta Sigma as the first math honor society exclusively for homeschooled students. In this article, we will get to know these two moms and in the process learn how to make our students' applications shine in the college admissions process.

Leslie: First of all, tell us a little about yourselves.

Susan: I have been married for 22 years and have three children, two girls and a boy. We have been homeschooling for 11 years, since the beginning of our children's education. I have a bachelor's degree in business administration and worked in banking for eight years before having children.

Sheri: I also have three children, and I began homeschooling in 1995. I have engineering and math education degrees, so together Susan and I bring a unique perspective to the formation of a math honor society. My oldest daughter is a freshman at Texas A&M. My youngest is a freshman in high school and is the one who is mathematically inclined.

How did Mu Eta Sigma begin?

Susan: It all began when I tried to get my daughter into Mu Alpha Theta, a national math honor society. I wanted to build her transcript and justify her academic qualifications.

Sheri: My oldest child had taken dual enrollment courses and was invited to join Mu Alpha Theta, which is an honor society for two-year college students and high schools. We tried to start a homeschool chapter of MAT, but couldn't. Through this experience and Susan's, we discovered a need for a math honor society for homeschooled students and decided to work on filling that need.

Why a math society specifically for home-educated students?

Susan: There is a homeschool honor society for general education, but none specifically for math. When I needed to put together a transcript with credentials and wanted my daughter to be recognized for her mathematical merit, I contacted Mu Alpha Theta, but they responded that they did not have the ability to recognize homeschool students. That's one thing that prompted us to begin Mu Eta Sigma. I wanted to provide the same opportunities for homeschool students that other students have.

What are the requirements for membership?

Susan: Mu Eta Sigma is for home-educated 9-12th graders. They must achieve required scores on the PSAT, SAT, IOWA, or ACT. Colleges can go directly to the society Web site and see the requirements.

Sheri: We are not trying to be elitist, but we want to provide an alternative way for mathematically talented, home-educated students to be part of an honor society. Another requirement is that the students must do ten hours of community service per year. We have found that colleges like this because it shows leadership. We recommend that the student try to make some of those hours math-based. We also require community service because we want to represent the homeschool community well.

How did you come up with these requirements? 

Susan: Sheri did a lot of research to establish test score criteria. We researched other math honor societies, contacted HSLDA, and compared test scores.