Getting into College: Advice for Homeschoolers
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For homeschooled students, application essays may matter more than test scores and transcripts. Certain colleges rank transcripts first and essays second, often ahead of the college entrance exams. Cafi Cohen explains: "Even schools that read essays only in borderline cases probably read every essay from homeschoolers. Because of the presumed bias in homeschool transcripts, admissions officers usually give more attention to other documentation -- test scores, letters of recommendation, interviews, and essays."
Homeschoolers are able to draw on a wealth of experiences and create essays that highlight their unique approach to learning. After my daughter has an especially gratifying or moving experience, I often remind her that it would be an unusual or interesting essay topic. Cohen's College Admissions Handbook contains examples of actual essays and practical advice on what is expected from homeschoolers. While a more competitive college may require up to three essays, some colleges don't require any. The only way to find out is to request an application.
For homeschoolers, letters of recommendation can substitute for the traditional letters from guidance counselors, principals, and teachers. Homeschool parents are advised to begin requesting letters of recommendation when their child enters eighth grade. Girl Scout and 4-H leaders, dance or music teachers, employers, pastors, rabbis, and college teachers are all good sources of recommendations.
It's important to request a letter in a timely fashion -- i.e., when a recent experience with your child is still fresh in the person's mind. It can be hard to track down a mentor later on, when the letter is required for college. Ask the person writing the letter to include how he knows the student, what skills and accomplishments he observed, and, of course, why he recommends the student for admission.