It's Off to College We Go! - Part 1
- Friday, November 16, 2007
Over the High School and Through the Home ... It's Off to College We Go!
Stop! Read on only if (a) you currently, or someday will, have a homeschool high schooler; (b) you want your high schooler to have a college education but have plaguing thoughts that you can't guide your child through high school and into college; (c) you believe the maze of transcripts, applications, and assorted forms needed for high school and college will require you to hire a professional "worker-of-paper"; (d) contemplating the staggering cost of a four-year college induces within you strange physical symptoms such as loss of breath; or (e) any or all of the above.
If this describes you, take courage. Studies show that "Homeschoolers are academically, emotionally, and socially prepared to succeed in college" (Homeschooling on the Threshold: A Survey of Research at the Dawn of the New Millennium (1999), p.17, Brian D. Ray, Ph.D, quoting Irene M. Pure (1997). A nationwide survey of admissions personnel's knowledge, attitudes and experiences with homeschooled applicants. Doctoral disertation, University of Georgia, Athens.) and that "several colleges think so well of the home educated that they have been actively recruiting them for several years." (Ray 1999, p. 17.)
That's heartening, you say, but where is the path that will successfully lead my child from home to the campus gateway? Uncharted courses can appear daunting, but there is a roadway that will take you and your high schooler through choosing the best college, a marketable degree, and a fitting career path. So, put on your walking shoes and let's go!
The first step is actually to begin at the end and proceed backwards. It is easier to map a course when you know the destination. Help your high schooler choose a career or, if he is not yet ready to make that weighty decision, help point him in a life direction. God has a perfect plan for your young adult, and that plan includes a life work. You, as that child's parent, are the best person to guide him in choosing his career or path. We have been a student of our child since his birth, observing his gifts, talents, and passions.
At age 3 my son Micah was intrigued with the drainage system in our neighborhood park. When he was older, I provided him with plenty of building toys and books about how things worked. Now, at age 18, he is pursuing a college degree in engineering. You can help your young adult discern his life's work by observing his talents, discussing his interests, and providing varied curricular and extracurricular opportunities.
A tangible step in helping your young adult choose a career path is to take advantage of personality profile and career counseling resources. One such resource is www.collegeboard.myroad.com. It provides high schoolers with individualized personality profiles, career options, and appropriate college majors. Seek to provide your future collegiate with opportunities to interview, shadow, or apprentice in his field of interest. By tenth grade Micah had narrowed his career choices to engineering and dentistry. He interviewed several engineers and spent a day shadowing our family dentist, and he was able to choose the career that most intrigued him.
Discuss with your child the practical considerations of his career choice. How many hours will he be required to work each week? Could he support a family on the salary? How much travel would be involved? What about the job forecast? Are there any religious or moral issues to consider? An important step in choosing a career is to seek the counsel of others who know and love your child. Most importantly, seek the Lord's direction through prayer. Once you and your high schooler have taken the first step of choosing a career or direction, you are ready to choose a college major.
What major area of study will best prepare him for his chosen field and make him marketable to future employers? My daughter Grace is currently a high school senior and enjoys art. She is researching careers in art and is considering a degree in graphic design. This major would allow her to earn a marketable degree while using her artistic abilities.
Explore more about college majors through resources such as www.collegeboard.myroad.com, national magazines that evaluate colleges, such as U.S. News and World Report (www.usnews.com) and The Princeton Review (www.princetonreview.com), professional organizations, and college advisors. Once you and your high schooler have narrowed your career choice and college studies, you are ready to select the college that will be the perfect fit for your child.
Begin the process of choosing a university when the student is in his final two years of high school. Consider these important questions: Would my child best thrive in a public or private college? Is a private or Christian school important to us? Would he flourish at larger university with many diverse opportunities, or would a small, personal college be the place where he would best grow? Would my youth be more comfortable in a metropolis, suburban, or rural setting? What about the distance from home? My son and I agreed that he would not attend a college farther than one day's drive from home, even though this meant that he would not consider some very appealing universities.
Explore the admission requirements, and don't forget the cost and available financial aid. After you have determined your parameters, select 6 to 8 schools that fit within those guidelines and request general college information and specific departmental information from them. Spend time with your student browsing through materials with the goal of limiting your selection to the top 3 or 4 schools.
Colleges are academically ranked in three tiers. Unless your student rests soundly on one extreme of the academic continuum, he should consider selecting a tier I university, one to three tier II schools, and one tier III college. Next, visit as many of these universities as possible. Take a list of questions, be sure to visit the admissions and financial aid offices, take a campus tour, check out the housing options, and make an appointment with a faculty member. If campus visits are not possible, find college fairs in your area where you and your potential collegiate can speak with a representative from the university.
Once you have completed the steps of choosing a career, deciding upon a major, and selecting a college, you and your student will have completed the first leg of your path from high school to college. You can now confidently select the best high school course of study.
Planning High School
Now that your student knows where he is headed, the next stretch of the course is to map out a high school curriculum. High school transcripts must meet the mandates of (1) your state's high school graduation requirements; (2) the admission requisites of prospective universities; (3) the recommendations of the college or department major within the university; and most importantly, (4) your desires as a parent.
The demands of these four entities often differ. Our state does not mandate foreign language for high school graduation. However, all of the universities to which my son applied required two years of foreign language in high school. Similarly, our state required only three years of math and science and several universities had the same regulations, but the colleges of engineering wanted four years of both high school math and science. While none of Micah's prospective universities made Bible or worldview essential, these subjects were important to me as a parent. The assorted requirements may be obtained though your state educational organization, the admissions department of your prospective university, and the department or "college" of your child's prospective major.
To identify your parental requirements, ask yourself these questions: What do I want my child to know spiritually and biblically before he leaves home? What does he need to learn emotionally and mentally before he launches into the world? Are there any physical skills I would like him to acquire? Once you have these sundry requirements in hand, compile them into a list and then map out a four-year high school plan. This "map" will serve as one of your first high school records.
Getting into College
College admissions application will require high school transcripts, scores from college entrance exams, academic honors, community involvement, leadership experiences, letters of recommendation, work, and extracurricular experiences. Transcripts should include the course title, the number of credit hours based on your state's system of recording credit hours, the numerical and letter grade, and the grade point average (GPA).
College applications are designed with traditional high school education and extracurricular activities in mind. If the application includes a long list of extracurricular activities but your student can check only one or two, don't be discouraged. Be creative. Remember, the college admissions committee wants to know your child's background. Create your own attachment and organize his extracurricular activities in a way that puts him in the best light.
While my son could not check the leadership options of student council or class president, his positions in Boy Scouts and within our church proved that he had leadership experience. My daughter evidenced her involvement in community service by recording her time as vacation Bible school teacher, mission trip volunteer, and afternoons spent helping a young mother.
Academic honors can be awarded through you as a parent-teacher, through homeschool co-ops, and by tutors. National academic honor organizations available to homeschoolers include Who's Who Among American High School Students (www.whoswho-highschool.com), National Honor Society (www.nhs.us), and National Honor Roll (www.nationalhonorroll.org). Your student should begin requesting letters of recommendation when he begins high school. These outside recommendations lend credibility to homeschool students whose parents have served as teacher, principal, and guidance counselor. Consider seeking recommendations from other academic instructors, coaches, and teachers of extracurricular experiences, pastors, youth leaders, community leaders, and family friends. Ask for three or four signed originals and set up a filing system for your transcripts, entrance exam scores, extracurricular involvements, honors, letters of recommendation, and information about each college.
Renee Janzen resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her four teenagers. Micah studies engineering at Baylor University, having earned 85% of his college expenses in scholarships. Grace is a homeschooled senior and a candidate for National Merit Scholar. Samuel aspires to be a pilot via the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Natalie is considering medicine, but really wants to be a mommy. Renee operates a home business teaching junior and senior high homeschoolers, advising homeschool families concerning college, and writing. You may contact Renee at email@example.com.
Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Fall 2007. Used with permission. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com
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