Dr. Kuni Beasley wrote a valuable article called, "12 Things Homeschool Parents Need to Know About College" which was published in Practical Homeschooling #108 (April/May/June 2013). Dr. Beasley's website is http://www.beasleycollegeprep.com/. I am not able to find this article online to share with you, so I will summarize the 12 points here.
1 - Start now! He recommends starting college prep in the 6th grade.
2 - Get professional advice. (such as from Dr. Beasley himself)
3 - Take the PSAT, SAT, and ACT early and often. He recommends in grades 6-8 to take the PSAT, ACT, and SAT once per year. In grades 9 and 10, take the PSAT in October and the SAT and ACT once per semester. Study a formal test prep program in the spring of 10th grade or before beginning 11th grade. Take the PSAT in October of 11th grade to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Take as many as six SAT/ACT tests in the junior year, with the goal of achieving the best score by June of that year. Also, you can take the SAT unlimited times and the ACT up to 12 times.
4 - High School Curriculum vs. College-Prep programs - These are not the same. An AP course is not college prep. Real college prep curriculum includes the following: College essentials, such as counseling, test prep, applications, and scholarship search; Learning strategies that explain how to read, study, test, and write at the college level; Academic strategies; Self-management skills; and setting up a support team.
5 - 88% of college is online. Learn to use Microsoft Office. Learn internet discipline in high school.
6 - Hazards of CLEP/Dual Credit. Not all colleges accept CLEP. Too many CLEP or dual-enrolled courses can disqualify you from freshman scholarships, since you could earn enough to be a sophomore.
7 - Don't Worry About Majors. More than 80% of students change their major after entering college.
8 - What Colleges Look for in Homeschoolers. Colleges consider five things for admissions: Grades, Rank, Experiences, Activities, Test Scores. Colleges will accept homeschool transcripts, but these are often partly discounted. However, that isn't really important anyway. Rank in class doesn't matter for homeschoolers, who will nearly always be 1 of 1. Experiences such as jobs, community service, and travel are considered, as are activities, which could include athletics, clubs, etc. But TEST SCORES are what will determine a student's "viability for admissions and scholarships." According to Dr. Beasley, many colleges award scholarships based only on test scores.
9 - Types of Colleges include Competitive (Harvard, Stanford, etc... which consider Experiences, Activities, and test scores), Conventional (state schools, some private colleges which mainly consider test scores), Community/Junior Colleges (which take anyone with a diploma or GED, using test scores to waive developmental courses), and Creative Colleges (Thomas Edison, Excelsior, etc.... which probably only require a transcript).
10 - Start Early - Use 9th and 10th grade to build skills and content knowledge, as well as to practice test taking skills. Use the junior year to choose 20-30 colleges and narrow it down to 12 by summer (4 that will be a challenge, 4 you will probably get into, and 4 you are sure to get into). Finish your application material before senior year begins - recommendations, essays, scholarship search.
11 - Attract Scholarships - These are available to "any motivated, well-prepared, and properly managed homeschooler."
12 - Avoid "vanity colleges." No college education is worth $100,000 or more of debt.
Note from Lisa: Before you panic, please remember that this advice is just that - advice. Take what you can use and leave the rest. I did very little of this with my oldest (though maybe I should have) and he is safely ensconced at the college of his choice studying mechanical engineering on scholarship. He was accepted at all the colleges he applied at. If we had worked harder earlier, he may have been able to attend a more prestigious school, but he is happy where he is at. So, if some of this advice helps you, please follow it. But if you are thinking, "Well, it's already too late for me and my senior," be assured that it's NOT too late! Just do what you can!
For those of you with children in grades 6-10, though, I think it's prudent to consider this information carefully and choose your path rather than letting the years slip by with no thought to college plans.