To make the most effective use of the last four years of schooling, and to ensure proper credits and records for college admissions, an overall plan of action should be developed. During the planning phase the basic areas to consider should include the following: curriculum credits, extra curricular activities, record keeping for a high school transcript, test preparation and test taking.
The first area to include in your plan should be your curriculum. Beginning in grade 9 and continuing through grade 12, your curriculum should follow the general guidelines accepted by most Kentucky public and private institutions and most out-of-state institutions. The recommendations for a pre-college curriculum include the following:
ENGLISH: Four years or more. One year credit each for English 9, English 10, English 11, English 12.
MATHEMATICS: Three years or more. One year credit each for Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry is required. Extra course work could include Trigonometry, Calculus, other math beyond Algebra II, or Computer Math/Science.
SOCIAL SCIENCES: Two years or more. One year credit each for American History and World History. Extra course work could include American Government, Economics, Geography, Psychology, or other History (European, State, etc.).
NATURAL SCIENCES: Three years or more (currently one of these courses must include a lab). One year credit each for Earth/ Space Science or Physics; Biology, and Chemistry. Extra course work could include General Science or a second year of one of the required sciences.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Two or more years of the same foreign language.
VISUAL/PERFORMING ARTS: One year. One year credit each for Visual Arts , Performing Arts or Arts Appreciation.
It is important to remember that these are minimum requirements. Highly competitive universities are looking for students who have taken several extra, more difficult courses than the minimum requirements listed above, and students hoping to receive academic scholarships will need to show extra difficult course work also. Most state universities will gladly admit students who have only met the minimum requirements.
The second area for consideration in your overall plan should be non-academic activities. Colleges usually look beyond academics – particularly in home school applicants. They will be looking for evidence of competent social skills, leadership ability, and other special skills or abilities. Some of these could lead to scholarships. The student should participate in a variety of clubs and organizations, hold offices whenever possible, compete, and show any honors received or records.
4H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Church Clubs…
SPECIAL INTEREST ACTIVITIES:
Drama groups, musical choirs, private music lessons, orchestras, bands, dance groups, or other performing groups, debate clubs, art classes…
Join a private school team, form your own local home school-parent coached team, YMCA teams, or local parks and recreation league…
Classes (may receive college credit) at a local Community College or Vocational-Technical school…
CONTESTS or COMPETITIONS:
Poetry contests (4H, newspaper, etc.), Writing contests, Essay contests, Spelling Competition, Music Competitions, Local Talent Competitions…
The third area for your pre-college plan is record keeping. Beginning in grade 9 through graduation, keep a record of all courses taken, the grade point average (GPA), and the texts used. Also, begin keeping a record of special activities, skills, and leadership to be included in a college application. If accurate records are kept, it will be easy to produce an acceptable format for your high school transcript. The transcript should be either computer generated or at least typed, and preferably stamped by a notary public.
All of the planning and preparation should prepare the student to do well in the last area of the four year plan — testing. College bound students across the nation take one or both of the following tests: the ACT and SAT I. Both tests are used to determine ‘a student’s proficiency on a national scale. For home schoolers these test scores are of extreme importance -- more so than any other factor.
The ACT is a national test written by The College Board, and is used extensively in Kentucky for college admissions. Kentucky colleges rely more heavily on ACT scores than on the student’s transcript. The ACT includes separate tests of 35 to 50 minute tests for English, math, reading and science reasoning. The skills measured include, but are not limited to: solving problems, drawing conclusions from reading, interpreting charts or graphs, and making corrections on a draft form of an essay. They do not require recalling specific facts, dates or definitions. Scores are based on a scale of 1 to 36.
Generally, the ACT test should be taken during the Junior year for early college admissions, but can actually be retaken as many times as needed to achieve the highest score possible. It is offered about five times a year. Colleges will generally look at the first two or three scores, but beyond that they would consider the first more heavily. The student does not have to specify that his scores be sent to specific schools. By using the 969-999 code on the ACT registration you will be acknowledged as a home school student and the results will be sent directly to the test taker. This prevents colleges from seeing any previous scores. At the time of college application, you can request to have the best overall test score sent to the college of your choice for a small fee.
Contact your local high school guidance counselor for the test dates for each year and where they may be taken. They also can provide you with practice test materials. There is a $26 basic fee which includes three score reports to send to colleges. You can get more information about the ACT at www.act.org.
The SAT I is the other national test which a home school student should consider taking, since some colleges (especially in the western US) prefer this test for admissions and/or scholarships. It is given six times per year and a student may take it any time from the end of their junior year to graduation. The SAT I may be retaken in order to achieve the highest possible score to send to scholarship programs and colleges.
The test consists of a three-hour exam divided into three verbal and three math sections. In the verbal section, a student will find questions on critical reading, sentence completions, vocabulary and analogies. The math sections include standard multiple-choice, quantitative comparisons, and calculator proficiency problems. There is a basic $28.50 registration fee; registration packets can be obtained through a guidance counselor. The home school registration code for both the PSAT, SAT I and SAT II is 970000.
Since colleges and universities rely so heavily on these national test scores, it is imperative for a student to prepare for testing. A plan should be developed using test preparation books published by the test producers. A number of other publishers have their own version of preparation plans, but the most reliable are the ones with actual retired tests included.
Beginning in the 10th grade the student should begin studying vocabulary and reviewing the types of math questions on which they will be tested. This can prove to be an invaluable aid as the student is actually studying the appropriate material. Also, by taking actual retired exams, a student becomes accustomed to the format. develops the endurance required for test day, and becomes basically familiar with the types of questions asked. You can get more information about the SAT 1 and PSAT at www.collegeboard.com.
The PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholastic Qualifying Test) is the first step in entering the National Merit Scholarship Program competition. To qualify for scholarships available through this program, a student must obtain scores in at least the 97 percentile range. Since colleges do not use this score for admissions, a student can take the PSAT as a practice test. This optional test usually is taken in the junior year, and is given only once a year in October during school hours at your local high school (check with local guidance counselor for the date). Actually, is also possible to take the PSAT during the Sophomore year, using the test session as a practice for the PSAT/NMSQT. Cost: less than $10.
EARNING COLLEGE CREDIT WHILE IN HIGH SCHOOL (www.collegeboard.com)
CLEP and SAT II
Lastly, there is another type of test to also consider for college credit. The College Level Entrance Examination Program (CLEP) and the SAT II test, both given by the The College Board are proficiency exams taken to receive college credit based upon the student’s knowledge of particular subjects.
It will be important to check with the admissions offices of each college you are interested in attending to determine which test scores they will accept. Check with the guidance counselors of your local high school for test registration packets and for any planned “College Fairs”.
Home school students are able to take the Advanced Placement (AP) Test from The College Board. High School students who score well on one of these subject tests, can receive college credit for the course work they did in high school. It is important to note that the students preparing for this test need to undertake a college-level course of study. This involves more time and study than a normal high school course, but a student who does well on this test can save a large sum of tuition money. Information about registration, coursework, and approved textbooks is available at www.collegeboard.com.
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR KENTUCKY HOME SCHOOL STUDENTS
Most colleges and universities are willing to consider home school students for academic, athletic, or other types of scholarships. The burden of finding out about scholarships available at the school of choice and applying for those scholarships rests squarely on the shoulders of the home school applicant. However, in most cases, these scholarships go to students who have show excellence in a specific area. That excellence needs to be demonstrated objectively. If a student wants an academic scholarship, then they must take extra, difficult courses in order to objectively show their understanding of the subject matter. If a student hopes to receive an athletic scholarship, they will need to show training and competition/experience in the activity involved. Once again, record keeping and scholastic testing are the key to communicating the student’s worthiness to receive a scholarship..
However, all Kentucky students are eligible to receive scholarship money through a state government fund called KEES. Students who have attend public school or a school “certified” by the Commonwealth can receive scholarship money based on the number of semesters which they attended at that that school(s). Obviously, home schoolers who have never attended such a school are not eligible for that portion of the KEES money, but there is another type of KEES money we all can receive. The second part of the KEES scholarship money, supplemental awards, is based solely on the student’s ACT or SAT score. The higher you score, the more money you get. Students who score 15 or above on the ACT can earn a one-time scholarship from $36-$500. For info about receiving KEES money, go to www.kheaa.com/kees
With a little forethought and planning, a high school/home school student should be confident of successfully completing the requirements for college entrance. It will be well worth the time investment to make a four-year plan that covers the four basic areas of curriculum credits, record keeping, outside activities, and the all important college entrance tests.
— Rebecca Beach, Somerset, and Connie Laffin, Bowling Green.
Good sources for more information about pre-college planning: