Category Archives: Tip of the Day

Questions of the Day – College Perception & Choosing Correctly

Today’s questions are a couple of good ones. These are the last two from Laura.

Are colleges looking at homeschoolers differently?

It depends upon what you mean by “differently,” and whether or not you think it’s a good thing that they do or don’t, but the short answer is yes, they do look at homeschoolers differently.

Just a few years ago, when a homeschooled student applied to college, he was greeted with suspicion and a small amount of disdain. (Ok, maybe a lot of disdain, depending on the school!) These days however, many universities actively recruit homeschooled students, because of their higher than average test scores, strong work ethic, and recent history of collegiate success. Even so, there is still an attitude that homeschooled students need to “prove” themselves before they can be admitted. This generally takes the form of standardized test scores and dual enrollment courses being weighed higher, due to the perception of parental subjectivity regarding the student’s GPA.

So, in order to counter this attitude, make sure to prepare your students well, so that their ACT/SAT scores adequately reflect their GPA.

How does my child go about choosing a college?

Sit down with your student with a pen and paper and make a list of the qualities he or she is looking for in a college. Big school or small. Public or private. Religious affiliation or secular. Close to home or far away. Liberal arts college, or technical school. After asking these questions and listing which factors are important, begin researching what schools fit these criteria and if they have the program of study or major your child is interested in.

This process should begin informally freshman year. Very often, your student’s interests will change over time, and what he wanted in a college freshman year might now be different come senior year. Visit as many colleges as you can. Preferably during the school year, as it can be a vastly different environment than during the summer. Meet the admissions office. Take a tour. Stay overnight in the dorms with another student. Ask as many questions as possible. It never hurts to be overly informed. Keep a checklist of likes and dislikes at each school. Compare the list from one school to another.

Senior year, apply to all those schools which meet your criteria. Your student might not be admitted to every one, so this will further help to eliminate options. From there, see which school is the best fit, both academically, financially, and socially. Make your choice and begin the new adventure!

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Essay Writing Secrets for Admissions & Scholarships

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Writing is a skill that everyone uses in one form or another, and it’s also a skill that can always be improved upon. When it comes to college admissions, the application essay carries a lot of weight, especially for a student that is borderline entrance material. A good essay will make him stand out from the pack, but a poor essay will essentially disqualify him from consideration. For many scholarships, the essay is the defining characteristic for the scholarship award. If writing is so important, why do so few people practice it?

Homeschoolers are notoriously good writers. Probably because we have the freedom to write on topics that we enjoy, and not just on those which have been assigned us. One of the best articles I’ve read on the art of the college application essay was written several years ago by Parke Muth, assistant dean of admission at the University of Virginia. Entitled “How to avoid the Big Mac syndrome,” it was originally published in U.S. News and World Reports. Here’s just a short snippet of his knowledge and experience:

“A good essay is not good because of the topic, though that can help, but because of the student’s voice as a writer. A good writer can make almost any topic interesting. A poor writer can make even the most dramatic topic boring. A good essay always shows; a poor essay virtually always tells. By showing, a writer appeals to all of the senses, not just the visual. To show means to provide an assortment for the eyes, ears, and, depending on the essay, the mouth, nose, or skin.”

You can read the entire article here.

Since I’m in the process of writing an all inclusive guide for homeschool students on college preparation from an admissions office perspective, I’ve been fine tuning my own writing. That’s part of the reason for starting this blog. Also a good reason you and your students should write a blog, it will help get your ideas out there and provide a forum to practice your writing skills.

So, a few quick tips for essay writing for college admissions applications and scholarships.

  • Be original, show who you really are. If you’re a naturally humorous person, then let it show, but don’t try to force it.
  • Make the story you tell interesting. Avoid generic topics; write about what you know.
  • Write from the heart and let your personality show through. Create an emotional bond with your readers.
  • Take risks and be creative. It will entertain, and everyone loves to be entertained.

If you want more tips on improving your student’s essay writing skills, check out Just Colleges for free tips and sample essays. For a more expensive option, Cambridge Essay Service has some great resources.

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Writing Resource

We all know how important writing skills are, not to mention that most college applications require an essay. This being the case, a good writing resource for your homeschooled students is Write Guide.com, a small, family-owned and operated business that serves homeschool families, providing them with their own private writing teachers. Although it’s somewhat pricey, it might be just the thing for your aspiring young writer.

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Website of the Day

My goal for the Home School College Counselor is to provide the best information and resources available. This may come in the way of stories from my own homeschooling background, personal college counseling experience, quality websites, tips, tricks, etc. Please feel free to leave comments if you have questions you’d like an answer to, or if there is a topic you’d like to see covered.

Today’s website of the day is The Home Scholar. Lee Binz, a former homeschooling mother who successfully home taught her two sons for eight years through highschool graduation, now regularly speaks on homeschooling high school students and preparing them for college. Although she does charge for her courses and speaking engagements, her blog has some quality tips and info.

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