The college search process can seem intimidating at first, especially for us homeschoolers. There are lists upon lists of potential schools, but only one of you! How can you figure out which college is your future home away from home? I went through these challenges last year, so I know exactly how you feel. However, I was able to work out a straightforward process to find the school that fit me perfectly.
1. Know your goals
You need to know what you want out of your college experience. Are you looking for an experience that is similar or different from your homeschool? What majors are you considering? Do you want to be close to home or far away? These are the typical college search questions, so I bet you’ve heard them already, and you probably have a couple of answers lined up already too. If you don’t know all of the answers yet, though, that’s okay! I recommend figuring out one of these answers to start with. With that one answer, that first step, you might find the rest come easier. Eventually, you’ll be able to get a start on the next three steps.
2. Know the policies
After you have a few colleges in mind, start looking into their admission policies. Do they have any specific information for homeschoolers? (I’ve seen some schools that have a specific admission counselor for homeschooled students! Other schools will have a webpage or an FAQ.) If not, send an e-mail to the admission office and ask this question:“Are there any special admission requirements for homeschooled students (e.g. a writing sample, test scores)?”
I applied to three schools, and only one of them required extra material from me as a homeschooled student—a writing sample. However, it’s important that you know the requirements going into the process. You don’t want to be caught off guard and need to produce something less than your best work!
3. Know the course prerequisites
Now you need to dig into your schools, including investigating course prerequisites. What kind of a curriculum does the school expect you to have? For example, the school might anticipate that all incoming students will have taken geometry, algebra I and II, and trigonometry. If you’ve only taken the first three, you may need to pick up a course in trig before matriculation. Trust me, you want to know these expectations as soon as possible!
4. Know the college
Finally and most importantly, you want to learn as much as possible about your potential colleges. Remember all the way back in step #1 when I asked you to think about your goals for college? This is the time to get to know your colleges and see how well they fits your goals. Besides that, this is a chance to see how well you fit your possible goals, especially if you’re thinking of trying a different environment from your home school. Hopefully, this experience will be perfect for you, but it’s better to know before you get too deep into the process! For example, I thought a big state school would be the best option for me . . . until I actually got onto the campus and realized that a small, private university was a way better fit.
How can you get to know your college?
If it's nearby, I would recommend visiting campus at least once. Preferably, visit both during a group tour and on an off day—see what the campus looks like when they aren’t ready for a bunch of potential students. (If you can, try the off-day dining hall food too.) Also, make connections with current students and alumni, and see if any of them would be willing to meet you for coffee. If you can’t meet them in person, ask a few questions over text or social media—I used Twitter and found students via our school’s hashtag—to find out more about their experience. Finally, if at all possible, shadow during a class or at least meet a few professors. These are the people who could be your potential mentors!
There is a college for every potential student, no matter your background. As you start the college search process as a homeschooler, remember to keep an open mind—you never know what might be perfect for you!
What kind of school are you looking for? Do you have any questions about the college search process? Find more tips for homeschool students right here on CollegeXpress.