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Getting into College: Advice for Homeschoolers

College admissions officers are looking for evidence that your child will be an asset to their school and will be able to succeed in a college environment. Good documentation and advance planning will help your teen make a strong presentation of his or her abilities to admissions officers. Begin to investigate possible college choices early to determine exactly what documentation is required. Admissions criteria may be based on a portfolio, a transcript, an essay, letters of recommendation, and/or test scores. Knowing the requirements can help you determine what type of record keeping you will need.

Transcripts


For college admissions officers, a transcript is like a snapshot. It gives them a quick look at the homeschooler, her skills, and her knowledge. It is usually presented through number or letter grades, or in clean, efficient prose. It may list classes taken and the grades earned, or it may efficiently categorize the student's past accomplishments. Homeschoolers may obtain a transcript from an outside source, such as a distance-learning school, or they can create their own transcript at home.

Note that not all colleges require a transcript. Visit the website of the school your child hopes to attend to find out whether a transcript is required for admission.

My homeschooling family uses the Clonlara School (www.Clonlara.org), an accredited distance-learning school, because of the flexibility of their curriculum and their provision of a diploma and official transcripts. Clonlara supplies us with an official transcript listing subjects and grades after my daughter Jessica submits her required course work for the year. The transcript is identical to most public- or private-school transcripts. When Jess meets the requirements for graduation, she will receive a diploma.

Clonlara is just one distance-learning option. For a complete list of diploma and independent study programs, visit Cafi Cohen's teens and college website.

Portfolios


If a student's accomplishments are best appreciated by displaying their work, a portfolio is critical. Most art and design schools require a portfolio. Loretta Heuer, author of The Homeschooler's Guide to Portfolios and Transcripts, describes a portfolio as "a collection of artifacts that has been selected from a larger body of work — a carefully designed sampler created for a specific reason. It should not be cumbersome — the word "port"-folio indicates a portable collection." Think "scrapbook," taken to a professional level.

Wherever you are on your homeschool timeline, Heuer advises that now is the time to start documenting homeschooling activities. Even if you're a late starter, The Homeschooler's Guide to Portfolios and Transcripts offers strategies to help you recall the past, discover documentation where you thought none existed, and design courses retroactively from what you've already learned.

Extracurricular Activities


Colleges will also want a record of your child's nonacademic accomplishments. Volunteer activities, clubs, sports, leadership roles, and work experience all play a vital role in the acceptance process. Keep records of everything your teen does. You can record activities on a monthly grid sheet or in a notebook, and you can keep related documentation in a special drawer or box.

Besides keeping a daily journal (sometimes only a sentence or two), I keep all the playbills, handouts, certificates, and awards my kids receive during the year in a drawer in my filing cabinet. This helps when I need to recall specific information about events that occurred months ago.



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