NARHS Newsletter 100 | January 9, 2018| Strong College Candidates

"We receive a good number of candidates every year with all or part of their education from a homeschool background. We are looking for the strongest candidates in the world and we find some of those among the homeschoolers." ~Marlyn McGrath, Director of Admissions for Harvard College

Year after year, NARHS advisors stay attentive to what college enrollment officers are seeking among the many applications they receive. With this newsletter, we are passing on in digested form what was learned from the report "2017 State of College Admission" published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Below you will read what college-bound high school students need to know in a nutshell.

Your NARHS advisor is equipped to help homeschool students prepare a transcript and portfolio that features them as notable candidates for college admission. The Curriculum Design Worksheet begins the process. The ongoing communication between families / students and NARHS advisors continues the process. The well-planned course of study presented on the emerging transcript crowns the process. We welcome you to stay in close contact with your assigned advisor. 

Strong College Candidates

What makes a high school student a "strong candidate" for college admission? For those who are first-time freshman candidates, whether coming from a classroom setting or a home school, these are the highest priority elements considered (in order of importance):

  1. Grades in college prep courses
  2. Grades in all courses
  3. Strength of curriculum
  4. Admission test scores (SAT, ACT)
  5. Essay or writing sample
  6. Recommendations
  7. Class rank
  8. Extracurricular activities
  9. Interview
  10. Work experience

Knowing this list, college bound home schoolers can plan ahead to prepare a transcript that features strong curriculum choices right from the start. A basic expectation for students who wish to be competitive in highly selective admission programs is that they have a rigorous high school education with strong development in all of the core areas: math, English, social studies, science, and foreign language. Homeschoolers are advised to make a four-year plan as they enter high school. This plan may be revised, but it will create a foundation for core subject studies and ensure that the student has budgeted adequate time to complete the expected courses.

The emphasis on testing is a tough point for many homeschoolers because escaping the national obsession with testing is part of what motivates many to choose homeschooling. It is reality, though, that homeschoolers who are aiming for top colleges need to pay close attention to ACT, SAT and AP scores. Testing strategies for homeschoolers should be planned out carefully. There are readily available practice tests for most of these. Getting the timing down is of utmost importance. So make sure as you take the practice tests, that a timer is set, at least once or twice.

In preparation for college admission, students can benefit from format writing training. The Institute for Excellence in Writing provides the training and is easily utilized by homeschoolers. Composition courses, taken through the high school years will enable the student to write easily with a focus on organization and grammar. What great preparation for college where well-structured thinking and writing is expected in almost all fields of study.

Time can be the home schoolers' strongest asset. If a student uses the flexibility afforded by this education style to develop some special area of talent or extracurricular interest, he/she will come across as an individual possessing drive and direction; a student who is going places. Marlyn McGrath Lewis, Director of Admissions for Harvard College says: "Follow the passions you have and develop them. We are looking for non-academic criteria - maturity, social facility, and non-academic talents." If a homeschooler has a passion or talent, whether academic or non-academic, take the years of high school to develop that skill. List it on the transcript as increasing levels of expertise. (Beginning ballet, intermediate ballet etc.) Keep a student resume in addition to the transcript that lists broad interests, community service, awards and accomplishments that occur over the years. Kedra Ishop, Associate Director of Admissions at the University of Texas says: "I recommend that homeschoolers give us a complete picture of who they are. Because their out-of-school activities are sometimes non-traditional or are so much ingrained in their schooling, I find that those that apply to us sometimes short change themselves by not giving us all of their activities, honors, awards, hobbies, etc. This is an integral part of our application process."
            When a home school graduate approaches college admissions, benefiting from targeted training and a high level of competence in his/her field of interest, that student will stand out among the many applicants. By prioritizing time commitments in order to grow skills and nourish accomplishments, the homeschool experience opens an avenue for recognition that few other education settings can provide.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things. ~Leonardo da Vinci