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My Advice and Experiences With Home Schooling

travelinspacetravelinspace Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
Hi! I've been home schooled since second grade and I am currently a graduating senior. I will be attending Carnegie Mellon University this fall for Electrical and Computer Engineering. I know how difficult it can be to navigate college admissions as a home schooled student (or parent!), so I'd like to offer up my perspective and experiences. If you're not interested in details about my education but still want advice, I've bolded the Advice header so you can find it easily. Thank you!

First of all, about me:

SAT Score: 2330 Composite
770 M, 760 CR, 800 W

SAT II Scores:
Math 2: 790
Biology E: 760
Chemistry: 730
English Language: 730
US History: 720
Unweighted GPA (out of 4.0): 4.0

AP Scores:
AP Human Geography: 4
AP Biology: 4
AP English Literature: 5
AP USH: 5
AP English Lang: 5
AP Macroeconomics: TBD
AP Physics C MEM: TBD
AP Calculus BC: TBD
AP Environmental Science: TBD

I took online classes intermittently from second grade to eighth grade, and I was part of the CTY (Center for Talented Youth) Program. Starting in ninth grade, I took almost all of my classes online because I was taking AP courses. I started attending a charter school part-time at the beginning of my junior year, and I'm taking 2 classes there again this year.

I won't go in-depth on my academics in middle school because they're not very important! However, my advice is to enroll in advanced programs like CTY so you can build up the skills you need to succeed in high school. It's difficult to jump from a D student to an A student if you haven't been working at an A level all along.

My freshman year was interesting because I had really no idea what I was planning to do! I knew I had to take AP classes to get into a good college, but I found it easy to get caught up in distractions. I ended up applying for an internship with a local senator, and I was hired shortly. It was an unpaid internship, but it really helped me gain life skills and confidence in my abilities. I had to present in front of many officials, and I was working in a legislative office with professionals. Look for internships that you can start building your resume with. (More tips on this later, as this internship actually just landed in my lap more or less!)

As a home schooled student, your resume is everything. You don't have teachers to lobby for your success (besides your parents!), and you don't have official grades (most of the time) to back up your knowledge. Getting experience and making connections is extremely important!

After freshman year I attended a CTY summer camp, which I received credit for. I also organized, raised money for, and hosted my own benefit concert. I raised over $3,000, which I then donated. If you're planning on doing a leadership project, I would highly recommend waiting until later in high school. As much work as my concert was, I didn't really talk about it in my college applications at all because it had happened so long ago. That being said, don't completely slack off suring your first two years of high school! You need to look impressive all the way through, but save major projects until later.

I started at a charter school for my junior year, and I really enjoyed the structure that was provided. I know many home schooled students are very self-motivated and can work on their own, but I really need structure, so changing up the pace and working with actual teachers really helped me grow as a person. Achieving certified grades was an INCREDIBLE asset to my college applications, and I highly recommend taking online classes or working with a charter school if you are planning on attending higher education. I actually have a home schooled friend who, while very smart, was rejected from almost every school he applied to - even though he had good grades and moderate scores! Colleges had no way to prove his scores, so they simply rejected him. Don't let colleges look at you and say, "Oh, their mom probably gave them that A+." You need proof of your education (more below on this).

I started working on my college applications in the summer before my senior year because I ended up applying to 16 schools. :) I was too worried that I would get rejected from all of them, so I overcompensated! In addition, I found an internship at a university near my house, and I also found another internship that was specific to engineering. To find my engineering internship, I emailed company after company from the yellow pages. Only two responded, but one offered me an unpaid position! All businesses love and appreciate unpaid volunteers/interns. The best way to get experience is just to offer to work for free, and you may have to ask many companies! I emailed a short customized message, and always attached my resume.

I was accepted to Rice University, Wellesley College, Olin College of Engineering, USC, UCLA, Carnegie Mellon University, UCSB, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. I was wait listed at Washington University, UCBerkeley, and Princeton.

(I included all these details because I always loved reading the SPECIFICS of each person on CC, sorry if it's too long!)

ADVICE:

One thing I've noticed from the home schooling community is that very few home schoolers attempt to tackle math and science. The ones that do almost always excel, but home schoolers tend to lean more towards English and humanities. DO NOT FORGET TO PURSUE ALL SUBJECTS! You really don't want to close any doors for yourself later, and the jobs in STEM fields pay the best later. Online classes are a good way to keep up with challenging math courses.

Don't forget to get official grades or scores. Colleges are not going to accept your word alone on your GPA. In fact, your GPA barely matters (although it will matter if it's bad, don't get low grades!) because it's almost a matter of opinion in home schooling. Instead, take SAT II subject tests, and take as many as you can. I only needed to submit about 2 subject tests to a few select universities, but taking more will not hurt you. That being said, try to get good scores on these tests, because they matter more for you than for other applicants. Your SAT scores should also be as good as possible, because colleges place more weight on standardized tests for home schooled applicants. AP scores are also very helpful, and you will need to justify your reasons for not taking them (expense, etc) if you want to apply to a great university. You can always self study for the tests, so not taking AP tests as a home schooled student makes it look like the rigor of the coursework has been neglected.

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Replies to: My Advice and Experiences With Home Schooling

  • sheepishlysheepishly Registered User Posts: 24 New Member
    Thanks for taking the time to do this. It means a lot. :D
  • LKnomadLKnomad Registered User Posts: 1,255 Senior Member
    As a parent about the enroll their 8th grade child in homeschool for the first time, I appreciate the detailed info. Getting him into a good college is one of my concerns.

    I am enrolling him in a public charter with a home based rather than an online program, but will be enrolling him in online courses.

    @travelinspace Do you have any suggestions for favorite online courses you have taken over the years. Maybe favorite companies like Apex or Thinkwell? Would love your opinion on courses that would keep my son excited about learning.

    Good luck on your next step in life!
  • bookreaderbookreader Registered User Posts: 1,965 Senior Member
    Please understand that a public charter, even an online program, is not really homeschooling because you will be very hobbled by the school's requirements. With true homeschooling, you have much greater freedom. And colleges are very happy to accept homeschoolers, so you do not have to keep worrying about that.
  • LKnomadLKnomad Registered User Posts: 1,255 Senior Member
    @bookreader I feel like I need the help of their special education department and the funding is nice. I suppose I will find out soon enough! Perhaps if my son didn't have special needs it would be easier to have a true homeschooling freedom.
  • LKnomadLKnomad Registered User Posts: 1,255 Senior Member
    @bookreader Thanks will check it out.
  • sbjdorlosbjdorlo Registered User Posts: 5,066 Senior Member
    @bookreader, congratulations for coming to the end of your journey! It must feel so good to be where you are.

    I have homeschooled for 16 years and have another 8 years to go with son number three. I'm in California and have always filed my own Private School Affidavit.

    My oldest is a junior at MIT. My middle son is a high school senior and will be attending the University of Pennsylvania after a gap year. He has some definite special needs.

    My youngest has even more special needs and will not follow his brothers into highly selective colleges, I am certain.

    Each one was radically different than the other. It's been quite a journey and I've a long way to go.

    OP, congratulations on CMU! :-)
  • raregrooveraregroove Registered User Posts: 76 Junior Member
    Congratulations and thanks for taking the time to write such a great detailed post !!

    CMU is an awesome accomplishment !!
  • bookreaderbookreader Registered User Posts: 1,965 Senior Member
    @sbjdorlo - I can definitely relate to the 'radically different' part of your story. :)

    Oldest has 2 masters degrees and is in public relations at a university. #2 is a nurse in the emergency dept. #3 has a degree in accounting and today finished her MBA. She will spend the summer studying for the CPA exam. My baby is going military. He'll be starting at the United States Military Academy at West Point this summer and plans to study civil engineering. Could they be any more different in their interests?!

    But the important part is that homeschooling worked very well for each of them and left them well prepared for adult life.
  • MonmorkMonmork Registered User Posts: 42 Junior Member
    Thanks for sharing the info.....!
  • matalinomatalino Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    You are awesome!!! As a parent I often second guess myself. May I know which curriculum did you use for middle school science, math, language. Which online courses did you take for HS. Thank you so much,
    [email protected]
  • travelinspacetravelinspace Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    edited July 2015
    @LKnomad Sorry for the late reply! I just remembered to check my post!

    My favorite online classes have been through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers. The classes are very rigorous but they keep you on a schedule. I also took online classes through CTY, but I prefer the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers classes because they are NOT at your own pace. For me, if a class is self-paced, I tend to procrastinate it and learn less. Look for online classes that keep you on a schedule!

    @matalino, thanks for the private message. :) I sent you a detailed response!
  • CemtangCemtang Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Thanks for sharing your homeschooling experience! It really helps!
    Which online school(s) did you register? or anyone has any suggestion for the program?
  • travelinspacetravelinspace Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    @Cemtang I worked through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, they are a very good online school to take classes from, especially if you're looking for AP classes.
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