Q: Our daughter is being home-schooled, so we have a couple of questions about getting her ready for college. Are there AP programs available for home-schooled children or would college classes be an acceptable alternative? Is there a list of scholarships and grants that we can go through to help her financially? Last, are there specific curricula or electives that would aid her in her acceptance or transition into college?
A: Admissions officers ask the same questions about home-schooled students that they ask about students in traditional schools, that is:
1) Can this student handle the academic work at our college or university?
2) What might this student contribute to the life of our college or university?
There are all different kinds of home-schools, just as there are traditional schools. While you do not state what curriculum you are using, you will need to make this clear when your daughter applies to college. AP examinations are administered through schools, so contact the College Board about whether—and where—she can take them. Certainly, presenting very good scores on several AP exams would demonstrate her mastery of each subject, but you would have to follow the AP curriculum to help prepare her. Taking a couple of college-level courses would be good for two reasons: This would show your daughter's academic mastery, and also expose her to the atmosphere of give-and-take discussion that takes place in the classroom. This would be a definite plus in preparing for the transition to college. If there is a small college or community college in your locale, see whether your daughter might enroll for one class each semester of her junior and senior years.
Another thing your daughter might do is take more than the required number of SAT Subject Tests to demonstrate her proficiency in specific areas. Colleges cannot require her to take more than the SAT or ACT if that is what they ask of all applicants. But being proactive with several scores—say, in a second language, a science, a history and mathematics—would show her capability in these subjects. These tests are objective and impartial. Frankly, if the home-school transcript is created by the people who are doing the home-schooling, college admissions readers tend to be a bit skeptical. You daughter can reassure them that she does know her material by volunteering these scores.
In terms of extra-curricular involvement, is your daughter a member of any community organizations, such as an orchestra or band, the Girl Scouts or a volunteer group? Anything she can show that will demonstrate her skills and contributions to the community will strengthen her application.
In terms of scholarships, grants, and affordability: I don't know whether there are specific scholarships for home-schooled students, but you should definitely consult the College Board's directory of scholarships and financial aid. They publish a new, updated version each year. Scholarships are listed by category, region, and subject interest, so there might be some very helpful information available. And if affordability is an issue, please consider several branches of your state university, where excellent education is offered at a cost far lower than that of private colleges.
Following these suggestions, plus arranging for campus interviews later, ought to be helpful in preparing your daughter for college entry!