Wednesday, April 20, 2011

College Bound

Our homeschool support group had a great meeting a few Monday nights ago.  We invited an admissions officer from the local state university to talk to us about high school transcripts.  Although Ben is only in sixth grade, I'm acutely aware that:

1.  time flies and high school will be here in, like, 4 days; and
2.  too much information too soon is not a problem when it comes to planning for high school and The Great Beyond.

So, as we continue to work through middle school material, I wanted to know ahead of time how to prepare for college.

In our homeschool, the ultimate educational goal is to have equipped our children for whatever God may call them to do after they finish here, be that college, a gap year, work, military, missions/ministry.  Attending college has always seemed the most reliant on documentation, so I've figured that if our ducks are in a row for college applications (in terms of transcripts, testing, letters of recommendation), then we'll likely have the supporting requirements for any other option.

What a blessing that the university our speaker represented uses The Common Application, as do 400 other institutions in the US (including both dh's and my undergraduate alma maters)!

Here's some points that I came away with:
  • Applicants from both public and private high schools have transcripts that run the gamut in levels of clarity.  Admission officers (AO) have to look at each transcript individually to sort out how the school awards credit and determines GPAs.  Our guest mentioned that some schools award 5 credits per class, whereas others award 1 credit per class (a full year class would get .5 credit per semester).  Apparently, high school transcripts come with information detailing that schools stats, which include how credit is awarded.  Like a high school transcript, a homeschool transcript will also need to define how credit is awarded at their "institution."  For example, the AO said some homeschool applicants have no grades reported, however the transcript will define that credit is given only for coursework completed with an A/B average.  
  • I believe most of us left with the feeling that AOs at this particular institution have had good experiences with homeschoolers and there is a level of trust that parents are reporting the truth and not inflating performance.  Homeschoolers have been successful at this particular institution in the past, so this trust has been earned over the years...
  • ....Which makes me grateful to those who've come before me on this homeschool journey.
  • ACT vs. SAT -- take your pick.  Not a biggie.  The ACT is more subject-based, the SAT is designed to assess thinking skills.  As the woman on this video says,  pick the one that makes your child look like a genius:
  • Along with the standardized testing issue, this particular institution (and so it appears, the others who use The Common Application) uses a technique some institutions call "super score."  if you take a standardized test multiple times, you will report your highest subtest score.  In this way, they are looking at your best performance across all attempts. 
  • APs and CLEPs can be valuable to verify a child' transcript.  For example, if you are reported a 3.6 GPA, but the ACT/SAT scores don't corroborate this level of accomplishment, good performance on APs and CLEPs may help.  But, if you are look to gain credit for work completed before high school, do your research ahead of time, as each institution deals with these differently.

I would say I walked away from the evening feeling much more comfortable with the idea of creating a transcript for each of my children when the time comes. My biggest question -- figuring credit -- was easily answered and isn't as scary as I first thought.  The whole transcript process is not rocket science and since I've applied to college twice as has my husband, I think we can figure this out when the time comes. 

1 comment:

Lore said...

Hi Alane,

Thank you for noting the highlights of the meeting for us. I'm sorry we missed it!

My daughter and I just took a loop trip through the Midwest to visit colleges--she wants to attend a Christian college that is strong in science, but has a good cross country/track program. This is what we found out about the ACT/SAT question. The test of preference in the Midwest is the ACT, whereas in the Northeast the SAT prevails. So they requested that she take both & submit them, especially since the ACT would be better in testing for science scholarship. It also makes it easier for them to compare her to the bulk of their students who do come from the Midwest. I'm sure for the Northeast, that would be the case for the SAT.

With APs too, not all colleges accept AP credit, or if they do you must find out what score is accepted for credit, you might need a 4 or higher. At some schools a 3 might equal 1 semester and a 4 or higher might equal 2 semesters of credit.

Concerning transcripts, we have sent our two oldest on to college and did handwritten ones telling what our grading philosophy was (mastery indicated by grade) and using curriculum that included tests so that a grade was easy to assess. In other cases, taking an SAT Subject Test was another way to assess a grade--our youngest took one in Chemistry. With the older 2, there was never any trouble with colleges accepting these transcripts, especially since, as you said, their SAT scores corresponded to the grades we gave them.

Onto the transcript be sure to include everything your student has ever done: achievements, clubs, tutoring others, music, sports, boy scouts, etc. Especially volunteer work. Colleges want to see well-rounded individuals, particularly when it comes to merit scholarships. Being able to indicate leadership qualities also rates very highly with them.

It's an exciting time in a young person's life and I would encourage anyone with middle school students never to forsake homeschooling through high school just because of the challenge of preparing their children for college. It is doable; God does provide.

One more note: I've seen senior year be a very demanding, stressful year for homeschoolers going through the college application process. I would highly recommend visiting colleges in the junior year to eliminate some of the stress of senior year. Overnight stays in the dorm can be arranged, giving a better sense of the college climate.