My oldest daughter is a high school junior this year, and the discussions at the dinner table about higher education are becoming more specific and frequent. As both a mom and the Vice President for Enrollment at The King’s College, a Christian College located in NYC, I often get asked questions about the college selection and application process.
This year, 24% of the incoming class at The King’s College were homeschooled. Below is some advice from myself and our homeschool parents advisory council to help you navigate discussions with your family.
Your child can do this!
As a parent, you will be tempted to take over the college application process. Resist. Your child can do this! The whole process is a growth experience, not just a means to an end. As a homeschool parent, you will walk alongside your child during this amazing season. Start by asking your student to dream about their future and how they might get there. Discuss which colleges might best prepare them. Research potential college options with them, and be their biggest cheerleader.
Which Standardized Test should I take?
Many colleges (including The King’s College) now take the Classical Learning Test as an alternative to the ACT/SAT. (Especially) If your child has a classical education, you should check out this excellent standardized test.
ACT has a science section, but it's really reading comprehension.
I believe the SAT and ACT are now more similar since the SAT was revamped last year.
Good readers and writers should consider taking the ACT. The ACT is 25% math, while the SAT is 50% math and you do not have the calculator option on the SAT test. There is trigonometry on both the ACT and SAT, and the math is mostly algebra. Have your students take the tests when math and science are especially fresh on their minds.
When should I take the test?
The PSAT is offered in the fall (Google for local options.) The ACT, SAT or CLT should be taken in the Spring. You may want to take the tests earlier as to get scores back and register again if you want to retake and attempt to improve scores. After taking the test three times, there is rarely an improvement in scores because test fatigue sets in. Taking practice tests available online help a great deal, and sites like Khan Academy offer solid free test prep.
How important are standardized test scores?
60-70% of acceptance to college is based on GPA/transcript and the standardized test score. Often times, merit based aid is based on these standardized test scores.
Colleges want to see intellectual curiosity
Colleges want intellectual curiosity: Outside reading. Reading for Pleasure. Museums. TED Talks. Some colleges might ask about areas of interest outright on an essay.
Intellectual curiosity also comes out in a student’s personal statement. (Admissions counselors can quickly sniff out fake intellectual curiosity!)
Should my child take Summer Courses or Summer Programs?
It doesn't matter. But do have your child take advantage of learning the things they really, really love. (The King’s College has a great summer week long program for High School Students called The Summer Academy with tracks in journalism, political economy, business or leadership.)
Competitive summer programs often close in January.
Can my child work? What about Volunteering?
Yes! Because very few students these days actually work and earn money, this can stand out.
Colleges don't all want to see volunteer work if the student is not that kind of kid. Just because they don't have a ton of volunteer work doesn't mean they are a terrible kid.
Is college the best immediate next step?
Some of our best students at The King’s College did choose a gap year program like Impact 360 in GA, missions work, one year Bible programs, or art training. Feel free to explore different paths that fit your child’s talents, interest and calling.
Prepare the high school transcript
Use the transcript not only to demonstrate the student's grades but also to create a story about the student's personality and vision for the future. A college will take the transcript as seriously as you do. Take the time to make it look professional and include a brief summary about the student and the student's schooling.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that your child is, ultimately, God’s. He cherishes your child more than you do! We, as parents, must keep in mind that He has a unique plan for how He is going to work in your child’s life. That plan may not look like what you have in mind, and at times, it may seem impossible to recognize His hand at work. But as parents, we are constantly being called to trust God with our children. So when it comes time to say goodbye on drop-off day, the best thing you can do is pray and trust God that He is actively at work in your child’s life through college and beyond.
Kimberly Thornbury serves as VP for Enrollment, Marketing and Communications at The King’s College, a Christian liberal arts college located in NYC. She works alongside the homeschool parents advisory council to help provide the best experience for homeschool families connected with The King’s College. Her team also provides a quarterly newsletter for homeschool families. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.