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The College Search for LGBTQ Homeschoolers

The College Search for LGBTQ Homeschoolers

Having a highly flexible schedule can take so much awkwardness and fear out of the equation for LGBTQ homeschoolers. However, it can make choosing the right college much more challenging. While all parents fear that their child will no longer be as safe and as protected in college as they are at home, the fear is heightened for parents of LGBTQ homeschoolers. When your child is gender-creative, experimenting with their identity, and at the cusp of adulthood, they are ready to also experiment with so much more than just how they look and who they hang out with. Teens who are transitioning and identifying as non-binary or transgender might be constantly worrying about how to present themselves in their new environments. Whether to be open or go stealth will affect college housing decisions and a multitude of other things like healthcare and budget plus choice of clothes and accessories.

The truth is we cannot always protect our kids but we can support and encourage them to protect themselves. If you have not already, now is the time to begin thoughtful discussions with your LGBTQ homeschooler about what college life might look like.

 

Starting the college search process

LGBTQ homeschoolers look for the same things that straight and/or cisgender students do in their college search. They want a rigorous program, good faculty, excellent research opportunities, meaningful general education requirements, great student life, and affordability among other factors.

The questions I ask these kids however, are slightly different. Primarily, we will try to tease out how well a college is set up to support the student’s needs and how comfortable the student will be if the college is not designed for that. I might start by encouraging the student to ask questions like:

  • Will you announce your gender identity (and sexuality if applicable) when applying to this college? What might that look like or how might that read in an essay?
  • Does this college have an LGBTQ resource center to find others like you when you feel anxious or lonely? What can you do if your favorite college does not?
  • Will people at this college respect your preferred pronoun use? What can you do if they don’t?
  • Does this college have gender-neutral restrooms? What might happen if you use the restroom for your preferred identity?

There is rarely a right or wrong answer. What’s important is the student discovering angles they might not have considered and making informed decisions as a result.

If a gender-expansive student has started transitioning or will start transitioning while in college, I will ask questions like:

  • How will you continue with hormone treatments at college?
  • How might dressing and presenting yourself as your preferred identity at this campus look and feel like given what you know about this college?
  • Will you get support from your academic advisor if you need to take fewer academic units for a particular semester to help you cope with the physical and emotional changes you are going through?

In some cases, it might be obvious that the student needs to stay closer to home to better avail themselves of loved ones’ support. In other cases, students might want to go as far away from home as they can.

The following are in-a-nutshell suggestions to help you get started in this process.

 

How parents can help

College searching for LGBTQ homeschoolers can feel very, very new even if you have already sent another child to college. Stay open, as open as you can to what your teen is thinking, feeling and wanting to do. It can be very difficult to stay on the sidelines when you are anxious about the whole process.

For starters, parents of LGBTQ homeschoolers:

  • Can never be too supportive. There is however, risk in being too eager with the college application, coming out, and transitioning processes. Keep an eye on the terrain if you must but let your teen take the steering wheel on this one.
  • Should encourage and finance college tours to the extent possible. While college tours might not be necessary for every applicant, touring the 4-5 top colleges on your teen’s list can be extremely important for them to get the best feel possible about campus culture.
  • Should come up with backup plans if something that the college promises falls through.

 

How to prepare for the experience

  • College tours and/or searching online for student-created campus videos are some good ways to efficiently investigate campus culture. When visiting colleges, ask to speak to someone well-versed with the school’s LGBTQ policies.
  • Attend college fairs and speak to admission officers about LGBTQ resources at their school.
  • Use sites like CampusPride.org, LGBTCampus.org, and LGBTCenters.org to research resources and meeting places for students within campuses and in their surrounding communities.
  • Books like The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students and The Gay and Lesbian Guide to College Life provide more information on how to navigate college life as LGBTQ students.
  • Start looking for LGBTQ scholarships, for example, see Point Foundation.

 

This infographic and shortlist provide some guidance on what to look out for. Infographic for college search for LGBTQ homeschoolers

A welcoming campus will usually have:

  • A list of out faculty and staff.
  • Gender-neutral restrooms.
  • LGBTQ clubs and student events.
  • Courses on gender and queer theory with syllabi that includes queer writers.
  • Respectful pronoun-use policies.
  • LGBTQ-friendly academic counseling.
  • Queer-friendly athletic facilities and locker rooms.
  • Gender-inclusive housing.
  • LGBTQ counseling and safe spaces.

For a more extensive list, please see this amazing link on CollegeChoice.net.

Please reach out if you need more ideas and college application help!

 

This article is written by Suji Rajagopal.

Homeschool Schedule…A Math Story

Homeschool Schedule…A Math Story

I homeschooled an only child, whom I will call kiddo. For my child, homeschooling was a fantastic opportunity to go deeper into math. And by deeper, I don’t mean working on lots of math contests or curriculum. Homeschooling allowed time. A flexible homeschool schedule gave kiddo oodles of opportunities to discover a passion that school would not have provided time for. It is quite ironic because kiddo’s passion is a very academic subject.

From about 4 years old, kiddo started to love codes and ciphers and chose to do that for large swaths of time. At that age, it wasn’t completely obvious to me just yet and it was only later that I realized math for kiddo is a journey of discovering intricate patterns. Kiddo wanted time to immerse himself in math, thinking about it, observing how numbers behave and how to find relationships between them, and how, using those very pretty and colorful 1-inch math manipulative tiles, you can create sequences where no two tiles of the same color or vertices were touching. It was not always about solving a puzzle but about the journey getting there.

When it came to enrolling kiddo in kindergarten, every school we explored at that time had rigid schedules for lessons and taught math in just one period a day. It also seemed as if every single school expected math-loving kids to automatically also be contest-loving kids. It was not that my child hated problem solving. Kiddo wanted more time to think about problems rather than being timed while solving them. Timing a math activity created an artificial rule that seemed so out of place for kiddo–it was too incongruous a rule for my even usually compliant child to follow.

 

A Creative Homeschool Schedule

When we started homeschooling, I slowly realized through trial and error (i.e. frequently frustrated mom, frequently frustrated kid) that we could use time creatively, such as with a block homeschool schedule for other subjects, in order to set time aside for math. At kiddo’s urging, we split up math into different sessions throughout the day and from year to year, these sessions slowly grew longer in duration. I set aside a lot of time to watch math videos and read mass market math books written by mathematicians. As kiddo grew older, these sessions included reading from textbooks as well as Googling for math ideas, research, and unsolved problems.

Here’s what a math day-in-the-life might have looked like in elementary school:

9.00am – 9.30am: Math practice lesson for the day with a whiteboard and favorite curriculum of that week (we mixed and matched from various popular ones). I chose 2 easy practice problems, 2-3 medium level problems, and 4-5 hard problems for kiddo to complete every day. Anything not finished was carried over to the next day.

9.30am – 11.00am: I wrote a checklist of things I wanted kiddo to learn every week for writing, science, and history and we chose 1-2 of these topics without worrying too much about which subject it was.

After lunch: We read aloud from math and science living books. We had lots of conversations, exchanged hugs, ate ice cream, looked up unfamiliar ideas on the laptop, pretended to talk in different voices as we read aloud, and played with math manipulatives or math games on the computer.

2.00pm – 6.00pm: We participated in various outside activities or did free reading, cooking, and had quiet time and playdates.

6.00pm – 7.00pm: We held dinner table conversations about anything that interested us. We used a world map table cloth and played pass-the-salt from country X to country Y. That also became a discussion on distance, weather patterns, geological formations, history, important landmarks, and political systems! This was our general education/geography/current events lesson of the day for years!

After dinner: A math video, usually a documentary, and more conversations. We wrote down anything mentioned in the video on our larger wall-mounted whiteboard to explore and research later. Over the years, these notes evolved into harder problems for kiddo to solve and lists of biographies for kiddo to read.

 

What Bedtime? Hey, We’re Homeschooling!

Once kiddo was a little less fidgety from around age 7, we were able to take time to attend lectures that local universities organized for the public and to participate in collaborative math club projects kiddo would not have had time for if following a traditional school schedule. These lectures and math get-togethers were usually in the evenings and kiddo could stay up as late as needed and wake up late the next day. Kiddo also signed up for local math circles. Life was sometimes difficult for us around then and we did not worry too much about attending every single session…we did what we could, hoping for consistency over the long term.

I sometimes wonder if as concerned parents, we let worries about what our kids will do in high school or for college get so much in the way that we don’t allow ourselves to break away from routine in the younger years. I know that I did have that worry in the back of my head but kiddo’s insistence on spending as much time as possible on math dictated our days. We were able to make learning into a lifestyle rather than as a strictly scheduled activity. I am so grateful we homeschooled.

 

Leaps Of Faith

It was harder to follow a more relaxed pathway when it was time for high school. In 9th and 10th grade, my kiddo had a very math-heavy transcript with very few other credits and that often worried me no end. Every day, we are bombarded with advice to make sure that we have well-rounded kids. When you are homeschooling, the pressure to do that might feel even higher because so much of that responsibility is on the parent.

It was hard to have faith that things will eventually balance out. It finally happened when kiddo started to realize what needed to be done to apply to college. Some kids don’t feel that need till much later and that ends up being a personal pathway. There are ways to work with it. Parents need to know that there are options and a spiky or lopsided transcript can be a good thing too.

When I started homeschooling, I did not want my child to fear math as much as I did. While I was homeschooling, I often felt pulled into opposing directions…should I allow more time for passions? How would we balance the needs of other subjects? I am so glad that I decided to go with my gut instinct to allow my child a homeschool schedule that allowed the deepest interests. This gave my child much more ownership over learning.

 

 

This article is written by Suji Rajagopal and initially appeared in Simplify4You.com

Homeschooling to Caltech?

Homeschooling to Caltech?

This article is based on an interview I conducted with Caltech in Spring 2018.

 

Caltech’s admission requirements

These refer to both homeschooled and traditionally schooled applicants:

You must have either completed the following courses or be enrolled in them at the time of your application. Students who have not completed these courses will not be properly prepared for Caltech’s core curriculum.

  • 4 years of math (including calculus)
  • 1 year of physics
  • 1 year of chemistry
  • 3 years of English (4 years recommended)
  • 1 year of U.S. history/government (waived for students in schools outside the U.S.)

Caltech does not automatically grant credit for AP, IB, A Level, Pre-U, or college courses taken prior to enrollment. Each student accepted to Caltech will take a math and physics placement exam prior to enrolling. Based on the results of these exams, you may place out of courses and be granted credit for those courses.

See Source.

 

Caltech is best for…

…students who love STEM. If you and your homeschooled high schooler are interested in Caltech, it’s very important to note that Caltech is unequivocal about being a STEM school.

 

The Caltech Interview

 

Q: What are Caltech’s highest priorities when deciding whom to admit?

A: Every year, we are looking at admitting a class of about 235-245 freshmen. Caltech is a small, and intimate campus. With those numbers in mind, we have no particular priority other than admitting students who are highly interested in STEM.

 

Q: How does Caltech assess homeschooled applicants? For example, are homeschooled students’ applications placed in a different application pile? And are the officers who read homeschooled students’ applications familiar with homeschooling?

A: Every member of our admissions office goes through training to understand the background of students from different regions. They are also trained to know what the homeschooling guidelines are for that region. Therefore, our officers are familiar with the homeschooling process. We don’t read homeschool applications differently although we know that some components of a homeschooled student’s application can be different from that of a student from a high school. With our homeschooled applicants, we do ask that they or their homeschool program director, which in many cases is a parent, submit details of their curriculum with the application through the same application portal.

 

Q: How much weight does a student’s grades contribute towards admission decisions?

A: Caltech practices a holistic review process. We don’t assign any component of the application a higher percentage of attention. We also don’t conduct applicant interviews. We like to see applicants work hard on every component of their application. We look at letters of recommendation, essays, and so on in the same way.

 

Q: How do you figure out a student’s GPA in relation to other students when different schools use different methods of calculating GPA?

A: We don’t use a standard GPA system to admit students. Instead, we compare students based on the high school that they are from and we look at how they compare within that same high school. We do this because we know that different schools follow different systems and sometimes, with international students, they might not even have a reported GPA. For homeschooled students, we look at how the grades and GPA are reported. We look at what the student’s program director says regarding how they calculate GPA.

 

Q: With the students who do report GPA, is there any preference at all to see a weighted GPA?

A: We don’t have any preference. We do ask that students or the homeschool program director make it clear that a reported GPA is either weighted or unweighted. They can explain how they calculate the GPA, for example, and provide us any other details we should know. We get both weighted and unweighted GPAs because everyone does this differently. I wouldn’t worry too much about this. And again, all of our counselors are quite well-versed in the requirements in the different regions. If someone in our office has questions, they will reach out to the school or to the applicant.

 

Q: Does Caltech like to see GPA from all four years of high school?

A: We want to see GPA from all four years of high school.

 

Q: Does the holistic review process mean that you also don’t place special weight on standardized test scores?

A: Yes, we don’t weigh the test scores more than the essay, for example, but we do require either the ACT or SAT with writing. We require the SAT Math Level 2 subject test and another SAT subject test in a STEM subject of which there are four (Biology Ecological, Biology Molecular, Chemistry, and Physics). If students take more than two subject tests we superscore and look at the highest scores.

 

Q: What if a student took a SAT subject test in the humanities?

A: We are a STEM school and very interested in how a student comes across as being STEM-passionate. It’s up to the students to challenge themselves in the humanities but it’s not a requirement.

 

Q: How important are Advanced Placement scores and AP/honors classes on the transcript?

A: We ask students to challenge themselves because Caltech is a challenging place. We are not looking specifically for AP and honors classes because we know that not all schools offer them. Some schools offer their own separate, challenging curriculum too. Our advice is that whatever it is you are taking, make sure you are challenging yourself with it.

 

Q: How do you perceive lower grades obtained in AP, college dual-enrollment, or honors classes vs higher grades obtained in regular classes?

A: Additional info in the application is always helpful. They should explain why they received the lower grade in the rigorous class. For example, they could say that the grade is lower because they chose to take a rigorous class and it is more challenging than other classes provided in their high school. I would encourage every student to provide us as much context as they can.

 

Q: Putting challenging academics aside for a moment, what other attributes would make an applicant compelling to Caltech? For example, what makes you smile and take note of a student when reading their application?

A: Caltech is a STEM institute so we are very keen to see a student’s interest in STEM. Our goal is to admit students who will be truly happy and enjoy their time with us. Caltech is such a small, intimate community and it’s important for students to be very passionate and STEM- focused. This might not be the best school for students who are only interested in sociology for example (although we offer such courses here). But it might be a good place for a student interested in sociology but with STEM as the main focus. As for what makes me smile (laughs), everyone brings different qualities to the application, and I like to see a student’s own voice and thoughts in the application. It becomes very clear when an essay has been edited by a parent or counselor or if someone else is writing it. I urge students to be true to themselves when applying to Caltech.

 

Q: I know Caltech is a school that asks applicants to report math competition scores if students have them. Is that an advantage in some way?

A: We ask for that but it’s not because it’s advantageous. Our applicants do participate in competitions and olympiads by virtue of loving STEM. But that’s not the only way to show interest in STEM. You can show interest in different ways for example, writing about your interest, fixing appliances at home, and so on, and the interest does not necessarily need to look like an internship or research. What we want to know is the way you are engaging with STEM. We also know that homeschooled students or even some high school students might not have access to well-stocked labs or even science clubs so we understand that each student’s background is different.

 

Q: Do you like students to submit portfolios or samples or links to their special interests?

A: We don’t look at samples for music or art for example, but if they have photos of something they have created that’s STEM-focused or if they have written research papers, then yes, they can show them to us. Once they complete the application, they will be given to the Caltech portal and they can send attachments there. If they are missing anything in the application, that’s also the place to submit edits and explanations.

 

Q: Does Caltech like to see their applicants demonstrate interest in the college?

A: No, we do not take demonstrated interest into account. We do encourage students to sign up for our mailing list. Through that list they will hear announcements about regional info sessions and reminders about applications. Apart from that, demonstrated interest does not play a role in our admissions process. Students will demonstrate interest by applying to Caltech.

 

Talk to me.

Interested in learning more about applying to Caltech? Consult The Homeschoolist.

 

Homeschooling to …? is a regular column where I will interview a college admissions officer to better  understand what colleges seek in homeschooled students. This article is written by Suji Rajagopal and initially appeared in Simplify4You.com

Commuter Student or College Dorm?

Commuter Student or College Dorm?

By Ajay Kumar Raja

 

After the elation of being accepted to college subsides, practical concerns can arise. For some, living in dorms is the obvious (and perhaps even compulsory) choice but not everyone will find college dorms to their taste. Today, there are so many residential choices for students, from dorms to apartments off-campus to living and traveling from home or a relative’s pad. Many times, the final decision on whether or not to be a commuter student will depend on financial and socio-emotional situations.

For me, being a commuter student was the more viable option but it isn’t without its cons:

 

Pros:

  • Reduced cost: if you already live near your college’s campus and can travel from home, then you needn’t pay the additional cost of living in dorms.
  • Safety: College dorms are often rife with drinking, drugs, and disease. It can be safer to live at home or in a less-heavily populated building.
  • Age: for students like myself who are under 16 and going to a very urban, high-crime area campus, it is often a good idea to stay off-campus. As long as there is a reliable source of transport to and from campus, younger commuter students can enjoy a sense of safety and security by living at home or with a relative.

 

Cons:

  • Difficulty with social integration: Commuter students, especially those who live by themselves or with parents, often have difficulty making friends on campus. It can be harder to connect with your fellow students if you do not live, work, and eat with them day in and out.
  • Special events: Many events are often held in or around the campus in the evenings or weekends, so commuter students may have to miss them. Also, commuter students may have to leave campus immediately after their classes to catch a ride home, making it harder to attend these events.
  • Transportation: If commuting between the residence and campus is difficult or costly, if the weather is unpredictable, if parking is unsafe or ridiculously expensive, or you don’t drive and the thought of lugging all your books and materials daily is overwhelming, it may make practical sense to live on campus instead.

 

The choice on whether or not to commute to campus may be difficult to make and it’s wise to spend some time identifying the arguments for and against. Once you have decided, it helps to know that you will be able to revisit the choice every semester or at least every year.

Should you stay in dorms or commute? Reach out to The Homeschoolist for ideas.

 


Ajay is a fully homeschooled math lover who is currently, a rising sophomore at a top research university, majoring in pure mathematics. Learn more about Ajay at astutelearning.weebly.com

 

How to Write Your School Profile

How to Write Your School Profile

If you are completing the Common Application counselor portion, you will come across a request to include a School Profile. I strongly recommend that you do. Apart from the official high school transcript, Course Descriptions, and the counselor recommendation letter that you write as the homeschool parent, the School Profile offers one more valuable opportunity to showcase how you homeschool.

The School Profile is a document that provides important background about your school. It will outline the student body (a size of one, three or eight, depending on how many children you homeschool per grade level), curriculum offered, grading scale and education providers, as well as test scores and demographics of the school district within which you are located.

Unless you are explaining extraordinary circumstances, a School Profile is best kept short and factual, within 3-4 pages.

 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to include:

Step 1: Contact information

You’ll want to ensure that you provide:

  • Your student’s name.
  • Your homeschool name.
  • Homeschool address.
  • Phone number and email address.
  • Names of school officials (parents’ names and if you like, titles such as director or principal of school).
  • Some homeschoolers like to include the school officials’ (parents’) academic and professional qualifications to lend the document some authority.

 

Step 2: Your local community

Go to the National Center for Education Statistics website to search for your local school district’s demographic information. This provides a helpful snapshot of your community’s socioeconomic circumstances such as education and income level. You can also visit sites like Niche to uncover average standardized testing scores in your neighborhood. Admissions committees are often interested in analyzing a student’s background and community before making a decision.

 

Step 3: Homeschool Philosophy, Curriculum, and Providers

  • Explain why you homeschool — keep it simple, providing at most one or two examples. Avoid ranting about the local public schools. Instead, focus on some of the positive effects of homeschooling.
  • Describe non-traditional homeschooling materials you might have used.
  • List Advanced Placement or college-level curriculum used, including college dual-enrollment if any.
  • Include in-person learning experiences from other avenues such as shop classes, working farms, internships, and so on.
  • List your homeschool’s high school graduation requirements. In my School Profile, I stated that we required X number of credits in Math, English, Science, Social Studies, Foreign Languages, and Electives, and that we aimed to meet or exceed the high school graduation requirements of our school district.
  • Include a list of any class providers you have used (such as online tutors and college professors) and if you have them, their academic and professional qualifications to show why you selected these providers.

 

Step 4: Grading Scale, Weighting, and Test Scores

  • Explain how grades are awarded. E.g. decide if you want to use the A+/A/A- system that a course provider uses, or if you prefer a simple A, B, or C, and include what range of percentiles are awarded an A, B, C, and so on.
  • Decide how many grade points to award each letter grade. If you grant 4 points to an A, decide if you will weight grades from honors, Advanced Placement, and college-level classes by adding another point value.
  • Calculate and include your senior’s grade point average (GPA).
  • If you have standardized test scores available, report these too.

 

How to write a school profile infomgraphic by The Homeschoolist

Step 5: Achievements and Extraordinary Circumstances

  • The School Profile is a good place to include a brief list of extracurriculars pursued and awards (if any) that your student received over his/her high school career.
  • It is also the perfect document to explain any unique, noteworthy, or life changing experiences that your student has lived through, especially if this is the reason why you homeschool, or if this is a significant reason for some unusual trends in your student’s grades.

 

Step 6: Proofread and Format For Legibility

  • As with the Course Descriptions, use easy-to-read font. Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, and Times New Roman are all common choices. Size 11 or 12 might be best.
  • Use generous line spacing. Too much text on a page will sap the reader’s interest.
  • Include page numbers.
  • Save the document every time you make content and format edits.
  • Once you have checked carefully, upload the document in Adobe pdf format to the Common Application portal.

For many parents, the School Profile is a much shorter document than the course descriptions and can usually be finished in a day or two as long as you are not feeling compelled to overthink it. It should be kept factual and not be emotional or long-winded. Most adcomms will not have hours to devote to these documents and will simply glance through to understand the most important features of your student’s application and to gain quick insight about your homeschool.

Good luck!

See my Course Descriptions How To.

 

This article is written by Suji Rajagopal and initially appeared in Simplify4You.com

How to Write Your Course Descriptions

How to Write Your Course Descriptions

Homeschool course descriptions are simply, descriptions of the courses taught in your homeschool. It is a document that lists and describes all the courses your homeschooled high schooler took (or will take) from 9th to 12th grade. Course descriptions give admissions committees very helpful insight into your child’s homeschool journey and academic preparation for college.

Take some time to prepare this time-consuming but valuable* counselor document and you’ll have both a detailed counselor document for colleges as well as a memorable record of homeschooling for you.

 

Step 1: Will you even need them?

Homeschoolers often have to jump through additional hoops during college applications. Always check college websites for what they look for in homeschooled applicants. Many college websites now feature homeschool-specific information. If they don’t (or even if they do) we always suggest contacting the colleges for details.

Unless the college vehemently insists that you don’t send them, or unless the college is like the University of California schools who don’t ask for any counselor documents until your student is accepted, submit course descriptions anyway. Many application portals will have a dedicated space for uploading the document. Some schools might ask that you mail or email the document directly to an admissions officer.

 

Step 2: Start early.

I recommend drafting your homeschooler’s course descriptions starting in 9th grade or the year that you first start homeschooling high school, whichever is earlier. My young teen isn’t even thinking about college, you say? Write it anyway. If you wait to write them only in senior year, you risk adding to your and your senior’s already very full plate during applications season. Not only that, you could have also forgotten a lot of the work you accomplished together in the earlier high school years.

Don’t let it worry you too much. The trick is to start writing them for just a few minutes at a time. Once you have a draft, you can spend the summer of junior year editing and polishing details.

 

Step 3: Just start typing.

  • Open your trusty word processing software.
  • Start a new document.
  • Give it a title (Course Descriptions for Your Child’s Name).

Voila! Depending on how you homeschool–by semester, quarter, trimester, or by year–write the courses that your high schooler completed. Save the document in an easily accessible folder.

 

How to write course descriptions infographic by The Homeschoolist

Step 4: What do I write?

  • List all the subjects your student learned in high school. For many homeschoolers, these would be English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Foreign Languages, and Electives (choose your preferred order with languages and electives usually going last).
  • Organize yearly classes under each subject title.
  • Some homeschoolers choose to categorize descriptions under high school years instead of subjects. There’s no hard and fast rule. Follow the same example as your homeschool transcript for easy reference.
  • Choose descriptive course titles for your course descriptions. English 9 is completely fine but it does not describe the absolutely amazing medieval literature study your freshman might have completed. Call it Intro to Medieval Literature and you have saved the admissions committee precious time! You can edit the name later, before you submit it through the application portal.
  • List key and supplementary resources (textbooks, novels, reference books, videos, etc.) used.
  • List topics/content covered. If outsourced, you can copy and paste the provider’s description (with edits if needed). Or type out and summarize the textbook’s table of contents.
  • Include the class provider’s name if the course was outsourced. If it was a self-created class, you can call it homeschooled or independent study.
  • Include grade received and how many credits the course is worth (if dual-enrolled in a college class, include college credit hours too).
  • Include any other relevant notes but keep them brief.
  • If you are writing these course descriptions for your senior, include courses in progress as well as courses planned for the spring (if you know what they are).
  • In junior or senior year, include the finalized grading scale, and if you like, an annotated list of books/materials your child read in their free time or used in addition to assigned resources (just choose the best ones). This gives the admission committee some insight into your homeschooler’s love of learning!

 

Step 5: Formatting course descriptions

Any document is only helpful if it is clear, readable and well-organized.

  • Use easy-to-read font. Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, Times New Roman are all common choices. Size 11 or 12 might be best.
  • Some descriptions will be longer than others; just go with the flow!
  • Use generous line spacing. Too much text on a page will sap the reader’s interest.
  • Include page numbers.
  • Save the document every time you make content and format edits.
  • Once you have checked carefully, upload the document in Adobe pdf format to the Common Application portal.
  • Course descriptions can range anywhere from 1-40 pages. Ask me if concerned!

 

Step 6: Ask friends for course description samples.

Even veteran homeschoolers could do with inspiration. Here are two samples:

Mathematics

Geometry, Mrs. Math Tutor
Text: Geometry by Ray C. Jurgensen, Richard G. Brown, and John W. Jurgensen (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). ISBN: 039577120X.
Topics: Euclidean geometry including definitions, postulates, theorems, angles, parallel lines, congruent and similar triangles, polygons, circles and arcs, and area and volume. Note: In addition to standard homework load, the student was assigned the most difficult, proof-based, problem sets.
Grade: A; Credit: 1

English

ENGLISH-123 The Short Story, ABC Community College
Texts:
• “Death and the Compass”, “The Dead Man”, and misc. poetry by Jorge L. Borges
• Twilight and Other Stories by Shulamith Hareven
• Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros
• Dubliners by James Joyce
• The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories by Tolstoy
Topics: Introduction to the elements of short fiction, critical approaches and critical theory about short fiction. Close reading and advanced composition skills.
Grade: A; Credit: 1; College Credit: 3

 

This is a lot of information but if you start early, you have time to make as many edits as you need. The trick really is to space out the effort so that you won’t feel burned out. If you are starting late, just before college applications are due, please don’t panic! Reach out and I’ll provide hand-holding and even formatting help.

Good luck!

See my School Profile How To.

* valuable because while transcripts list classes by name, course descriptions are where the meat of what was learned is captured. How else would anyone unfamiliar with your homeschool know and understand how hard your child worked?

 

This article is written by Suji Rajagopal and initially appeared in Simplify4You.com