Beginning homeschool high school with a strong plan for academics, extracurriculars, and testing will help keep your student’s options open for college. If you have a middle schooler or a student starting 9th grade, here are some things to consider.
Chart a Four Year Academic Plan
The single most important factor in college admissions is the student’s academic record. While it was common twenty or thirty years ago to take just two years of core academic courses, it is now much more often the expectation that students complete a full four years of core academic courses including math, English, science, social science, and foreign language. More selective colleges expect lab sciences and math through calculus.
Colleges want students who have taken challenging courses and done well in them. More competitive students will often have Advanced Placement or college courses. Sometimes parents are dismayed junior year to find out that their student is not on track for a selective college. If possible, as the student enters 9th grade, try to figure out a four year course plan that will help them be prepared for college. Our free printable four year guide is a good starting place.
Good Work Habits
The teenage years are a time for students to mature in their motivation, organization, and study skills. By the time students enter college and adult life they need to have developed these skills in order to be successful. 9th grade can be a huge time of transition, both because it hits at a particularly difficult age during adolescence and because high school expectations are higher than in middle school.
Especially during the 9th grade transition, help provide support by setting up a good study environment. One area where many students struggles is with developing self discipline with electronics habits. Studying mixed in with social media, texting, and YouTube videos is rarely productive. Don’t be afraid to provide the structure and support your student needs to be successful and develop good habits.
As homeschoolers know well, much of education happens outside of traditional academics. Involvement in extracurricular activities such as Scouts, debate, clubs, and volunteering are an important part of the teen years. They matter for college admission and scholarships, but even more essential to developing self-confidence and finding community. As a general rule, students benefit most from in-depth involvement that continues through high school.
Some homeschoolers worry that, that their kids can’t be involved in extracurriculars without access to the traditional public school activities like band or sports. In reality, these school based activities are just a narrow slice of what is available to teenagers. This article may help you think about extracurricular activities for homeschoolers more broadly and identify some opportunities of interest to your 9th grader.
Plan for Testing
Test scores take on additional importance for homeschool students. A review of homeschool college admissions policies finds that many colleges weigh test scores more heavily for homeschoolers than they do for public and private school students. Most students should expect to prepare for the SAT or ACT and to take these tests more than once. Homeschoolers should also understand the important role the PSAT plays in some major college scholarships which are tied to National Merit. Many homeschoolers also consider the AP or CLEP tests as an opportunity to demonstrate content mastery and possibly earn college credit during high school. SAT subject tests are also expected by many more highly selective colleges. This guide to tests for homeschoolers will help give you an overview of the different high school tests.
While it is important not to make students feel pressured about college admissions, it is a good idea to begin to explore informally. If you have a college in your area, think about stopping by to visit the art museum, library, or attend a cultural event. You may also choose walk through campuses you are near on a family vacation. These early contacts with college can help students develop a feel for different sizes and types of colleges. They can also act as a motivator to focus on academic goals during high school.
Look Long Term – Explore Career and Lifeskills
It is common, even for students entering college, to not know what they want to do for a career. Even though your 9th grader probably doesn’t know what they will do for a career, it is not too early to begin exploring different possibilities. Some options for learning more about careers include online resources, job shadowing family friends, internships, and career oriented summer camps. Early high school is also a good time to make sure your child is solid in their mastery of life skills such as laundry, cooking, and financial management.