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Outside Validation - AP, DE, CLEP, etc

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My son is currently a freshman.  He takes the majority of his classes at WTMA, and I have been very impressed with them, however they do not offer any honors or AP classes.  A number of the classes he has taken (at WTMA and Lukeion) are classes that I would consider honors level classes, but I do not feel comfortable applying a label that the provider doesn't use.   I am happy to create honors classes for him, but then I am back to the same issue of grades issued by me.

The college counselors I have contacted have said that in order to apply to selective schools my son really needs "outside validation" in the form of duel enrollment, CLEP exams, or AP exams.

There seems to be no agreement which of these would be the most advantageous.  Please help.  I do not care if he qualifies for units once IN college, I am only concerned with making him an attractive candidate for competitive schools.

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2 hours ago, Caraway said:

My son is currently a freshman.  He takes the majority of his classes at WTMA, and I have been very impressed with them, however they do not offer any honors or AP classes.  A number of the classes he has taken (at WTMA and Lukeion) are classes that I would consider honors level classes, but I do not feel comfortable applying a label that the provider doesn't use.   I am happy to create honors classes for him, but then I am back to the same issue of grades issued by me.

The college counselors I have contacted have said that in order to apply to selective schools my son really needs "outside validation" in the form of duel enrollment, CLEP exams, or AP exams.

There seems to be no agreement which of these would be the most advantageous.  Please help.  I do not care if he qualifies for units once IN college, I am only concerned with making him an attractive candidate for competitive schools.

Which schools have said he has to have outside validation through DE, CLEP, or APs? That seems like a very odd mix of "outside validation" requirements. By far, the most "required" form of outside validation comes in the form of SAT subject tests that are often even required of all students, not just homeschooled ones. APs are not substitutes for subject tests at the most selective schools.

Homeschool students are accepted to selective schools. How or why individual homeschooled students are accepted is as far from a given formula as for kids in brick and mortar schools. Some may have a combo of APs and DE, but others may have the vast majority of their courses completed at home with mom as teacher and the giver of grades. Many schools have an admissions officer that works specially with non-traditional acceptances. If the people you are speaking to are just general adcoms, they might not be fully versed in how homeschoolers are admitted.

FWIW, my personal POV on admissions at the most selective schools is that the transcript's course provider is going to be far less of an issue than the courses themselves. The rigor of courses taken, SAT/ACT test scores, 2-4 subject tests, and the OTHER are what it takes. That "other" is often the very element that distinguishes students. If a student can demonstrate how they used the advantages of homeschooling to (the obvious) their advantage, that can be the other that sets them apart from the cookie cutter applicants that all blend identically together bc they all do the exact same thing lock-step with everyone else.

There is the advantage of the group mentality---everyone else is doing it, so it must be the right thing. But, then there is the outside of the box mentality that says, here I have the freedom to do this........so I did.  Both work for different students but they also work for those students for different reasons. The bigger question is why they work for one student and not the other.  It is really a paradox.

Regardless of course provider, admissions to a selective school is far from a given. Admissions can be brutal, so no single answer or provider or mix of options is going to give right the formula from the pre-admission's side of view. You only know if it worked after the admission season. 

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in my area, it seems every decent student is taking college classes, either at the CC or some course designated as “college” at their high school. I think”college” is becoming like “honors”—no one knows quite what it means. At least with AP, there’s a standardized test that everyone knows the scoring for.

Of course, if you have an exceptional student that’s nationally ranked in something or 10 grades above level you do what you want and none of the above applies. 😂

Edited by madteaparty
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11 hours ago, Caraway said:

There seems to be no agreement which of these would be the most advantageous.  Please help.  I do not care if he qualifies for units once IN college, I am only concerned with making him an attractive candidate for competitive schools.

 $2,500,000.00

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The first thing university admissions might look at is the Rigor of the courses the applicant has taken. Of the outside sources you mention, CLEP is the one I believe they would pay the least attention to.  That is based on something I read a month or two ago, probably on the web site of a university, that said they did not accept CLEP.  

This URL is for UNC but is probably typical.  https://www.collegedata.com/en/college-profile/1600/?tab=profile-admission-tab

In the "Examinations" section, it looks like SAT Subject tests might be helpful to validate

This URL is for Virginia:  https://www.collegedata.com/en/college-profile/1571/?tab=profile-admission-tab

Look at their High School Units Required or Recommended. That is tougher than normal. Look at their Recommended Units...

In Examinations, they do not show anything for SAT Subject Exams.

When we attended the School Fair in Bogota last May, there were reps there from 4 very selective universities. One of them mentioned Home Schoolers.   That rep, or another one, said something that made me believe that they are not very impressed with AP or DE, etc.   They are, as I tell my DD, "looking for a Tuba Player for their band".   

 

 

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I'd be wary of any college counselor that is insisting your son needs those tests to get into selective schools — especially with regard to CLEP. Many selective schools don't even accept CLEP, or only they accept a very few (like foreign language). CLEPs are generally easy to pass, but difficult to get a good score, because they are computer-based multiple choice tests that draw on a huge bank of questions, so you need to memorize an enormous amount of often trivial material (names, dates, numbers, statistics, etc); there is no higher order thinking or analysis. So those are not going to impress colleges. You're much better off taking SAT Subject tests for "validation" (and a few colleges still require them anyway).

I think AP carries a little more weight than DE, because APs are standardized so colleges know exactly what a score of 3/4/5 means, whereas an A can vary greatly from one CC to the next. You can do APs at home, with or without College Board approval, and there are plenty of online AP options for homeschoolers. On the other hand, a couple of DE classes can demonstrate that the student can function in a college environment. 

I have no personal experience with WTMA classes, but I know Lukeion classes are most definitely honors level, and I listed them as such on DS's transcript. Regan Barr wrote a letter of recommendation for DS, in which he specifically mentioned that they are honors level, so I would not hesitate to list them that way on your son's transcript. In fact, I think you'd be short-changing him if you don't. If he is taking language classes with Lukeion, then you will have the National Latin and/or Greek Exams as validation of those classes. DS's only "outside validation" involved 2 DE classes, 2 National Latin Exam scores, and 5 National Greek Exam scores — no APs. (He did CLEP after graduating, purely to knock out GE requirements.)

Edited by Corraleno
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56 minutes ago, madteaparty said:

in my area, it seems every decent student is taking college classes, either at the CC or some course designated as “college” at their high school. I think”college” is becoming like “honors”—no one knows quite what it means. At least with AP, there’s a standardized test that everyone knows the scoring for.

Of course, if you have an exceptional student that’s nationally ranked in something or 10 grades above level you do what you want and none of the above applies. 😂

In Texas, "college" means that your local CC will give you credit for the class and issue a transcript even if the class is taken at the local high school's campus. If you're not getting credit and a transcript, it's not really "college".

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It depends where you are applying but I think most schools like to see some outside validation/data.  Though if WTM classes issue grades that could be a potential data point for some schools.  Dual enrollment  or SAT-2 tests can be validation too (and we have come across a couple schools that REQUIRE them for homeschoolers).   CLEP is not accepted/used widely in my experience unless you're doing a CC to 4 year route and there is nothing wrong with that. I would check requirements for any particular schools of interest, many won't even care.  I would just do whatever is easiest for you where you are.  DE has been easiest for us and it's free in our state.  And then of course he has a strong ACT score.  I don't regret not doing AP (not well accessible for us), but I do kind of  wish we had done 2-3 SAT-2's as we had gone along for my oldest.  

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12 minutes ago, chiguirre said:

In Texas, "college" means that your local CC will give you credit for the class and issue a transcript even if the class is taken at the local high school's campus. If you're not getting credit and a transcript, it's not really "college".

I’m pretty sure that’s how it works here too. Credit and transcript for a class taken at the high school. I stand by my statement that it’s confusing what “college” means in that context. 

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6 minutes ago, madteaparty said:

I’m pretty sure that’s how it works here too. Credit and transcript for a class taken at the high school. I stand by my statement that it’s confusing what “college” means in that context. 

Here it means they have to follow the curricular standards that their local CC has for that course number. More broadly, they have to meet the curricular standards that Texas public universities and colleges have set for that course. In order to guarantee transferability, our community colleges and universities have minimum standards they must meet in order to give a course a TCCN (Texas Common Course Number). If they don't meet the standard, they don't get to call the course ENGL 1301 or MATH 2413. 

The system works well in Texas. Here, private schools (SMU, Baylor, Trinity U to name some selective ones) accept CC credits as do our flagships (UT Austin and TAMU). The only exception is Rice (a highly selective school) which says that it considers credit on an individual basis. Of course, every state is different. Some have strong CC systems and some really don't. It depends on where you live.

Edited by chiguirre
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2 minutes ago, chiguirre said:

Here it means they have to follow the curricular standards that their local CC has for that course number. More broadly, they have to meet the curricular standards that Texas public universities and colleges have set for that course. In order to guarantee transferability, our community colleges and universities have minimum standards they must meet in order to give a course a TCCN (Texas Common Course Number). If they don't meet the standard, they don't get to call the course ENGL 1301 or MATH 2413. 

The system works well in Texas. Here, private schools (SMU, Baylor, Trinity U to name some selective ones) accept CC credits as do our flagships (UT Austin and TAMU). The only exception is Rice (a highly selective school) which says that it considers credit on an individual basis. Of course, every state is different. Some have strong CC systems and some really don't. It depends on where you live.

And I’m just curious, who is checking that the standards set are actually being followed? Versus just copying a syllabus and doing 1/3rd of the work or some such?

I still think, personally, that even a syllabus followed to a T doesn’t make that a college class, but it doesn’t matter what I think 😉 

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10 minutes ago, madteaparty said:

I’m pretty sure that’s how it works here too. Credit and transcript for a class taken at the high school. I stand by my statement that it’s confusing what “college” means in that context. 

Yes, and some colleges explicitly state that they will not give credit for any CC courses taken at a high school, even if the CC gives college credit for them.

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3 minutes ago, madteaparty said:

And I’m just curious, who is checking that the standards set are actually being followed? Versus just copying a syllabus and doing 1/3rd of the work or some such?

I still think, personally, that even a syllabus followed to a T doesn’t make that a college class, but it doesn’t matter what I think 😉 

The college itself and its regional accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

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OP, keep in mind that there's absolutely no need to "validate" every class, you just need enough that adcoms can feel confident the student is at the level they claim to be. In many ways, they have exactly the same issue with PS students — unless they happen to be familiar with the level of rigor at that specific HS, they have no more knowledge of what an "A" means at that school than they know what it means for a homeschooler. That's exactly why some colleges require SAT2s in 2-3 different subjects.

Also keep in mind that for every course you do that can be "validated" with a standardized test, you are giving up the freedom to follow the student's own interests and provide interesting and unusual courses that are far more likely to pique the interest of adcoms than yet another test score. Having a transcript full of the usual PS course titles, with lots of APs, DEs, and SAT2s is not going to make your student stand out as much as a transcript with unique courses and just enough tests or DEs that adcoms can be confident this kid is working at a high level.

To give you an example, DS had 1 DE class each in history and science, multiple top scores on the NLE/NGE, and ACT scores to validate English and math, so he had some kind of validation in each of the 5 core areas. No adcom is going to look at a transcript with courses like Epic & Saga in World Literature and Ancient Greek Literature, with ACT 36s in English and Reading, and think this kid would have been more competitive if he'd taken English Comp 101 at the local CC. No one is going to look at a transcript with Greek, Latin, Old Norse, and Turkish on it, and think he'd have been better off with AP Spanish. 

Don't give up the biggest advantage homeschoolers have in the mistaken belief that having a lot of "outside validation" is the most important thing for college admissions. 

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I agree with @Corraleno but wanted to point out that it does not take those levels of accomplishments for schools to accept a homeschool transcript. Our Dd did not have a 36 in anything. She only had math and Latin subject test scores.  Her only DE class was a stats class spring semester of her sr yr (so no grades). Her only outsourced class was Russian (where she did win numerous awards). She also met with a Francophone to read and converse in French  (but she was not a teacher, more like an adopted grandma). Other than that everything else she did at home with me. 

She was accepted to every school she applied to with high $$ competitive merit awards.

Equally, I have kids with way less in terms of accomplishments have no problems being accepted to the colleges of their choice. 

I am unclear as to what you mean by selective Us, though. CLEP and DE make wonder. Tippy top competitive schools won't have much value for either one and admissions is dependent on so much more than just courses.

 

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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Just my $.02 which is likely not even worth that because I haven’t put kids in competitive colleges...

I have been reading about and participating in college admissions as a participant with dc applying to moderately selective schools and as a peer to folks who do go for the competitive schools and my opinion is that I think the critical outside verification is the ACT/SAT score and the SAT 2 if required by the school. I love the de option but I can’t believe it means much to a selective college. APs are easily recognizable but if you are talking super competitive schools, they are as common as taking geometry. Believe it or not, to those selective schools, kids with 5s on AP tests are a dime a dozen. 

Kids with 34 ACTs and 10+ AP tests still get rejected from those schools in large numbers. If I had a kid interested in that kind of school I would design and support a high school experience that was enriching to the student and made an interesting applicant and let the chips fall where they fall. Chasing AP scores is no guarantee for selective admissions and no way to spend high school if the interests lay elsewhere. No sense in making your application look exactly like everyone else’s for a school that rejects 90% of its applicants.

My vote is that ACT/SAT scores and strong transcript (in content- not necessarily AP or de) is the only verification necessary. 

 

Edited by teachermom2834
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27 minutes ago, teachermom2834 said:

Just my $.02 which is likely not even worth that because I haven’t put kids in competitive colleges...

I have been reading about and participating in college admissions as a participant with dc applying to moderately selective schools and as a peer to folks who do go for the competitive schools and my opinion is that I think the critical outside verification is the ACT/SAT score and the SAT 2 if required by the school. I love the de option but I can’t believe it means much to a selective college. APs are easily recognizable but if you are talking super competitive schools, they are as common as taking geometry. Believe it or not, to those selective schools, kids with 5s on AP tests are a dime a dozen. 

Kids with 34 ACTs and 10+ AP tests still get rejected from those schools in large numbers. If I had a kid interested in that kind of school I would design and support a high school experience that was enriching to the student and made an interesting applicant and let the chips fall where they fall. Chasing AP scores is no guarantee for selective admissions and no way to spend high school if the interests lay elsewhere. No sense in making your application look exactly like everyone else’s for a school that rejects 90% of its applicants.

My vote is that ACT/SAT scores and strong transcript (in content- not necessarily AP or de) is the only verification necessary. 

 

I agree completely.

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17 hours ago, Caraway said:

My son... akes the majority of his classes at WTMA, and I have been very impressed with them, however they do not offer any honors or AP classes...


Grades awarded by an outside course provider, especially a provider with a reputation for rigorous, quality courses (WTMA, Lukeion), will be validation of home-directed courses and the grades awards.

If wanting AP, Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Online offers some high quality AP courses, and you simply arrange with a local testing site for your student to take the matching AP test afterwards. (Note: AP tests are given in May. The previous early autumn (Aug/Sept/Oct) you'll need to research to find a test location (high school) in your area that will accept a homeschooler, as the school test locations now must order their tests by November, and to guarantee a seat for your student, you need to have made arrangements with the school/testing site prior to that deadline.)
 

17 hours ago, Caraway said:

The college counselors I have contacted have said that in order to apply to selective schools my son really needs "outside validation" in the form of duel enrollment, CLEP exams, or AP exams... There seems to be no agreement which of these would be the most advantageous.  Please help.  I do not care if he qualifies for units once IN college, I am only concerned with making him an attractive candidate for competitive schools.


The form of outside validation of transcript grades that colleges look at first and foremost are SAT / ACT scores -- and then how those scores match up with the student's GPA:
SAT / GPA conversion chart
ACT / GPA conversion chart
As long as the GPA is not wildly out of line with the test score (i.e. -- an inflated GPA and much lower test score), you've cleared the most important hurdle for most colleges.

The next thing that top tier / competitive / selective admission offices will look at is a "rigorous progression" of courses -- in other words, the student completed Math up through Pre-Calculus, and even Calculus or Statistics; the student completed Sciences that included at least one Advanced Science; the student has 4+ credits of Foreign Language rather than just the minimum of 2 credits; etc. Also, advanced independent studies -- "home-grown" courses that show the student pursuing an academic passion and a "digging deep" into a subject or subjects will also show rigor AND really let the student stand out and shine amongst the competition for a top tier / competitive / selective school. And don't forget to encourage your student to pursue extracurricular activities of interest. Those activities "round out" a student and make a student interesting and show that the student may be a great match for the particular "campus culture" for a top tier / competitive / selective school -- those schools are NOT just looking for high academics, but also want interesting *people* as part of their student body.

A few colleges require or recommend SAT Subject test scores for validation of the student working at a solid high school level.

As far as AP vs. CLEP vs. Dual Enrollment for added competitiveness when applying to top tier / competitive / selective colleges... The rigorous progression of courses (mentioned above) will do that. If wanting to use other methods for outside validation: since CLEP scores are not accepted for credit by many top tier / competitive / selective colleges, CLEP scores would also be less meaningful to top tier / competitive / selective colleges. Both AP test scores and Dual Enrollment are done by students competing for top tier / competitive / selective schools, so doing either or both will go along with the "herd". Check and see what the policies are about AP and Dual Enrollment at the colleges of interest to decide if one or the other is more prized at those schools. Just be aware that there are TONS of students with perfect GPAs and near-perfect SAT/ACT scores who also have a truckload of AP tests with high scores, so doing AP (or Dual Enrollment) and many are rejected by those top tier / competitive / selective colleges, so doing AP and/or Dual Enrollment is no magic guarantee of getting in to a top tier / competitive / selective school.

I'd encourage you to spend a lot of time researching colleges, as you may find that a non-ivy league or non-selective/competitive school may be a MUCH better FIT for your student and offer a degree program and opportunities that those top schools *don't* have, and that would better help your student towards the student's career goals. AND, it may be a better financial fit -- being a "big fish in a smaller pond" tends to land large scholarships, compared to being one of many big fish in the giant lake that is a top tier / competitive / selective school. Just something to consider!

In the end, I would suggest focusing on your student's interests and lining up courses or creating courses that best help *this* student for developing passions/strengths, and prep for possible future career field. That may mean continuing to outsource to WTMA and Lukeion, plus some home-directed courses. That may mean  including some Dual Enrollment  or AP, or both, or none at all. I would also recommend including SAT/ACT test prep to score high on those critical tests. And I would encourage you to encourage your student to develop personal interests and extracurriculars, which can expose a student to potential future careers of high interest that the student never would have discovered otherwise, and which help the student be an interesting person for competitive colleges to consider.

Just my 2 cents worth. BEST of luck as you plan for high school and look ahead to college. Warmest regards, Lori D.


ETA -- I was typing while @teachermom2834 posted -- she succinctly said everything I was trying to say, so take her brief but wise post to heart!

Edited by Lori D.
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My opinion, and the way we approached selective college applications (we were chasing money) with my homeschooled second child, after learning some lessons from the experience with the first, is that some schools (most, probably) are going to need to see some indication that the applicant's transcript is indicative of the education received. As was evidenced by the recent college cheating scandal, there are plenty of people willing to overstate the extent of the student's accomplishments. While not completely necessary, some sort of nationally recognized testing/grading is going to simplify the process of determining that the student received the stated education. Acceptable scores on SAT/ACT, subject tests, AP exams, and perhaps CLEP exams, can give an indication of that mastery at first glance, that will lead schools (or scholarship programs) to look further at the typical unhooked student's other accomplishments. High scores are not the only way to accomplish that, but it's a way. It lets first line college admissions personnel, some of whom are young and inexperienced (having talked to a couple 🙂 ) have a quick way of comparing apples to oranges.

Of course there are other ways to get that second glance from a selective school or scholarship program...awards, standout abilities in a particular area, certain personal characteristics (my daughter probably benefited from our location and her academic interest.)

Writing skills are useful as well, though I tend to think essays come into play in a bigger way after the initial glance at applications. Keep in mind, some of these schools are going through thousands of applications and need effective ways of making cuts quickly, especially at the beginning.

Editing to add that, though I know many homeschoolers like dual enrollment, it's not my first choice for validating an education. Too many variables with instructors, and a potential impact on GPA that can follow the student to grad school. It can be useful if it's the most sensible way to get a course. Don't get me wrong, both my olders used the method, and there were advantages, but I don't consider it necessarily superior to a homeschooled course.

Edited by GoodGrief1
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23 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Which schools have said he has to have outside validation through DE, CLEP, or APs? That seems like a very odd mix of "outside validation" requirements. By far, the most "required" form of outside validation comes in the form of SAT subject tests that are often even required of all students, not just homeschooled ones. APs are not substitutes for subject tests at the most selective schools.

Homeschool students are accepted to selective schools. How or why individual homeschooled students are accepted is as far from a given formula as for kids in brick and mortar schools. Some may have a combo of APs and DE, but others may have the vast majority of their courses completed at home with mom as teacher and the giver of grades. Many schools have an admissions officer that works specially with non-traditional acceptances. If the people you are speaking to are just general adcoms, they might not be fully versed in how homeschoolers are admitted.

FWIW, my personal POV on admissions at the most selective schools is that the transcript's course provider is going to be far less of an issue than the courses themselves. The rigor of courses taken, SAT/ACT test scores, 2-4 subject tests, and the OTHER are what it takes. That "other" is often the very element that distinguishes students. If a student can demonstrate how they used the advantages of homeschooling to (the obvious) their advantage, that can be the other that sets them apart from the cookie cutter applicants that all blend identically together bc they all do the exact same thing lock-step with everyone else.

There is the advantage of the group mentality---everyone else is doing it, so it must be the right thing. But, then there is the outside of the box mentality that says, here I have the freedom to do this........so I did.  Both work for different students but they also work for those students for different reasons. The bigger question is why they work for one student and not the other.  It is really a paradox.

Regardless of course provider, admissions to a selective school is far from a given. Admissions can be brutal, so no single answer or provider or mix of options is going to give right the formula from the pre-admission's side of view. You only know if it worked after the admission season. 

 

 I am aggregating from a variety of conversations I have had with college counselors.  I think you have taken me back to my initial belief that my son should be taking the SAT subject tests "as he goes" in case he needs them in the future.  I don't think I can really quote within a quote here, but I should just have this tattooed on my arm:

"There is the advantage of the group mentality---everyone else is doing it, so it must be the right thing. But, then there is the outside of the box mentality that says, here I have the freedom to do this........so I did."

Thanks for the reminder! 

14 hours ago, Lanny said:

The first thing university admissions might look at is the Rigor of the courses the applicant has taken. Of the outside sources you mention, CLEP is the one I believe they would pay the least attention to.  That is based on something I read a month or two ago, probably on the web site of a university, that said they did not accept CLEP.  

This URL is for UNC but is probably typical.  https://www.collegedata.com/en/college-profile/1600/?tab=profile-admission-tab

In the "Examinations" section, it looks like SAT Subject tests might be helpful to validate

This URL is for Virginia:  https://www.collegedata.com/en/college-profile/1571/?tab=profile-admission-tab

Look at their High School Units Required or Recommended. That is tougher than normal. Look at their Recommended Units...

In Examinations, they do not show anything for SAT Subject Exams.

When we attended the School Fair in Bogota last May, there were reps there from 4 very selective universities. One of them mentioned Home Schoolers.   That rep, or another one, said something that made me believe that they are not very impressed with AP or DE, etc.   They are, as I tell my DD, "looking for a Tuba Player for their band".   

 

 

 

The random tuba factor drives me crazy.

13 hours ago, Corraleno said:

I'd be wary of any college counselor that is insisting your son needs those tests to get into selective schools — especially with regard to CLEP. Many selective schools don't even accept CLEP, or only they accept a very few (like foreign language). CLEPs are generally easy to pass, but difficult to get a good score, because they are computer-based multiple choice tests that draw on a huge bank of questions, so you need to memorize an enormous amount of often trivial material (names, dates, numbers, statistics, etc); there is no higher order thinking or analysis. So those are not going to impress colleges. You're much better off taking SAT Subject tests for "validation" (and a few colleges still require them anyway).

I think AP carries a little more weight than DE, because APs are standardized so colleges know exactly what a score of 3/4/5 means, whereas an A can vary greatly from one CC to the next. You can do APs at home, with or without College Board approval, and there are plenty of online AP options for homeschoolers. On the other hand, a couple of DE classes can demonstrate that the student can function in a college environment. 

I have no personal experience with WTMA classes, but I know Lukeion classes are most definitely honors level, and I listed them as such on DS's transcript. Regan Barr wrote a letter of recommendation for DS, in which he specifically mentioned that they are honors level, so I would not hesitate to list them that way on your son's transcript. In fact, I think you'd be short-changing him if you don't. If he is taking language classes with Lukeion, then you will have the National Latin and/or Greek Exams as validation of those classes. DS's only "outside validation" involved 2 DE classes, 2 National Latin Exam scores, and 5 National Greek Exam scores — no APs. (He did CLEP after graduating, purely to knock out GE requirements.)

 

This is good info on the CLEP - thanks!  

 

12 hours ago, Corraleno said:

OP, keep in mind that there's absolutely no need to "validate" every class, you just need enough that adcoms can feel confident the student is at the level they claim to be. In many ways, they have exactly the same issue with PS students — unless they happen to be familiar with the level of rigor at that specific HS, they have no more knowledge of what an "A" means at that school than they know what it means for a homeschooler. That's exactly why some colleges require SAT2s in 2-3 different subjects.

Also keep in mind that for every course you do that can be "validated" with a standardized test, you are giving up the freedom to follow the student's own interests and provide interesting and unusual courses that are far more likely to pique the interest of adcoms than yet another test score. Having a transcript full of the usual PS course titles, with lots of APs, DEs, and SAT2s is not going to make your student stand out as much as a transcript with unique courses and just enough tests or DEs that adcoms can be confident this kid is working at a high level.

To give you an example, DS had 1 DE class each in history and science, multiple top scores on the NLE/NGE, and ACT scores to validate English and math, so he had some kind of validation in each of the 5 core areas. No adcom is going to look at a transcript with courses like Epic & Saga in World Literature and Ancient Greek Literature, with ACT 36s in English and Reading, and think this kid would have been more competitive if he'd taken English Comp 101 at the local CC. No one is going to look at a transcript with Greek, Latin, Old Norse, and Turkish on it, and think he'd have been better off with AP Spanish. 

Don't give up the biggest advantage homeschoolers have in the mistaken belief that having a lot of "outside validation" is the most important thing for college admissions. 

 

Can I come learn at your house?  Again this is something that I need to repeat to myself:  "Don't give up the biggest advantage homeschoolers have in the mistaken belief that having a lot of "outside validation" is the most important thing for college admissions. "  I think I am just buckling a bit under the fact that I feel like the entire homeschooling experiment is "on me" and I need to pull some big flourish at the end to prove that I did it correctly.

 

10 hours ago, teachermom2834 said:

Just my $.02 which is likely not even worth that because I haven’t put kids in competitive colleges...

I have been reading about and participating in college admissions as a participant with dc applying to moderately selective schools and as a peer to folks who do go for the competitive schools and my opinion is that I think the critical outside verification is the ACT/SAT score and the SAT 2 if required by the school. I love the de option but I can’t believe it means much to a selective college. APs are easily recognizable but if you are talking super competitive schools, they are as common as taking geometry. Believe it or not, to those selective schools, kids with 5s on AP tests are a dime a dozen. 

Kids with 34 ACTs and 10+ AP tests still get rejected from those schools in large numbers. If I had a kid interested in that kind of school I would design and support a high school experience that was enriching to the student and made an interesting applicant and let the chips fall where they fall. Chasing AP scores is no guarantee for selective admissions and no way to spend high school if the interests lay elsewhere. No sense in making your application look exactly like everyone else’s for a school that rejects 90% of its applicants.

My vote is that ACT/SAT scores and strong transcript (in content- not necessarily AP or de) is the only verification necessary. 

 

 

Yeah, we live in a very competitive area, and I grew up in a VERY competitive area, and APs are/were the "minimum".  I was feeling okay with my alternative homeschooling route, but I don't want to shortchange my kiddo because of my own ... issues.

 

9 hours ago, Lori D. said:


Grades awarded by an outside course provider, especially a provider with a reputation for rigorous, quality courses (WTMA, Lukeion), will be validation of home-directed courses and the grades awards.

If wanting AP, Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Online offers some high quality AP courses, and you simply arrange with a local testing site for your student to take the matching AP test afterwards. (Note: AP tests are given in May. The previous early autumn (Aug/Sept/Oct) you'll need to research to find a test location (high school) in your area that will accept a homeschooler, as the school test locations now must order their tests by November, and to guarantee a seat for your student, you need to have made arrangements with the school/testing site prior to that deadline.)
 


The form of outside validation of transcript grades that colleges look at first and foremost are SAT / ACT scores -- and then how those scores match up with the student's GPA:
SAT / GPA conversion chart
ACT / GPA conversion chart
As long as the GPA is not wildly out of line with the test score (i.e. -- an inflated GPA and much lower test score), you've cleared the most important hurdle for most colleges.

The next thing that top tier / competitive / selective admission offices will look at is a "rigorous progression" of courses -- in other words, the student completed Math up through Pre-Calculus, and even Calculus or Statistics; the student completed Sciences that included at least one Advanced Science; the student has 4+ credits of Foreign Language rather than just the minimum of 2 credits; etc. Also, advanced independent studies -- "home-grown" courses that show the student pursuing an academic passion and a "digging deep" into a subject or subjects will also show rigor AND really let the student stand out and shine amongst the competition for a top tier / competitive / selective school. And don't forget to encourage your student to pursue extracurricular activities of interest. Those activities "round out" a student and make a student interesting and show that the student may be a great match for the particular "campus culture" for a top tier / competitive / selective school -- those schools are NOT just looking for high academics, but also want interesting *people* as part of their student body.

A few colleges require or recommend SAT Subject test scores for validation of the student working at a solid high school level.

As far as AP vs. CLEP vs. Dual Enrollment for added competitiveness when applying to top tier / competitive / selective colleges... The rigorous progression of courses (mentioned above) will do that. If wanting to use other methods for outside validation: since CLEP scores are not accepted for credit by many top tier / competitive / selective colleges, CLEP scores would also be less meaningful to top tier / competitive / selective colleges. Both AP test scores and Dual Enrollment are done by students competing for top tier / competitive / selective schools, so doing either or both will go along with the "herd". Check and see what the policies are about AP and Dual Enrollment at the colleges of interest to decide if one or the other is more prized at those schools. Just be aware that there are TONS of students with perfect GPAs and near-perfect SAT/ACT scores who also have a truckload of AP tests with high scores, so doing AP (or Dual Enrollment) and many are rejected by those top tier / competitive / selective colleges, so doing AP and/or Dual Enrollment is no magic guarantee of getting in to a top tier / competitive / selective school.

I'd encourage you to spend a lot of time researching colleges, as you may find that a non-ivy league or non-selective/competitive school may be a MUCH better FIT for your student and offer a degree program and opportunities that those top schools *don't* have, and that would better help your student towards the student's career goals. AND, it may be a better financial fit -- being a "big fish in a smaller pond" tends to land large scholarships, compared to being one of many big fish in the giant lake that is a top tier / competitive / selective school. Just something to consider!

In the end, I would suggest focusing on your student's interests and lining up courses or creating courses that best help *this* student for developing passions/strengths, and prep for possible future career field. That may mean continuing to outsource to WTMA and Lukeion, plus some home-directed courses. That may mean  including some Dual Enrollment  or AP, or both, or none at all. I would also recommend including SAT/ACT test prep to score high on those critical tests. And I would encourage you to encourage your student to develop personal interests and extracurriculars, which can expose a student to potential future careers of high interest that the student never would have discovered otherwise, and which help the student be an interesting person for competitive colleges to consider.

Just my 2 cents worth. BEST of luck as you plan for high school and look ahead to college. Warmest regards, Lori D.


ETA -- I was typing while @teachermom2834 posted -- she succinctly said everything I was trying to say, so take her brief but wise post to heart!

 

I assume that no one is going to know WTMA or Lukeion.  The digging deep comment is both exactly what I need to hear and the very thing that makes me grind my teeth.  I can remember being an 8th grader and the pressure to find the amazing thing that was going to make me special.  Back then we were also being directed to pursue a job we would love.  The idea that I had to find a thing, and be deep and amazing, and love it, and ultimately use it to support myself - as a kid it just totally shut me down.  I can see that with my son.  Idk.  Clearly college prep is bringing up all of MY old wounds.  Thank you for all of the other information.  I'm slowing wading through all of the suggestions on this thread.

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If it helps, I had a conversation with Davidson College's admissions people about 4 years ago and asked whether DE or AP was preferred. Davidson is listed as "most selective" in the US News rankings and not known to be very homeschool-friendly. In our case, DE is taught at the cc with regular students and tuition is free. In order to get AP, we'd have had to pay something along the lines of $600-$900 per class plus books and AP fee for an online class, so DE was a lot more affordable and gave in-class experience. The admissions person said that the important thing was to explain in the application why the choice between the two was made. They don't accept CLEP at all. My daughter didn't end up applying there, so I can't give a report of how she would have fared. 

 

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2 hours ago, Caraway said:

 

 

I assume that no one is going to know WTMA or Lukeion.  The digging deep comment is both exactly what I need to hear and the very thing that makes me grind my teeth.  I can remember being an 8th grader and the pressure to find the amazing thing that was going to make me special.  Back then we were also being directed to pursue a job we would love.  The idea that I had to find a thing, and be deep and amazing, and love it, and ultimately use it to support myself - as a kid it just totally shut me down.  I can see that with my son.  Idk.  Clearly college prep is bringing up all of MY old wounds.  Thank you for all of the other information.  I'm slowing wading through all of the suggestions on this thread.

 

You know, you'd be surprised.  If you apply to a college where they have one reader dedicated to homeschoolers, they may very well have.  I have heard that the readers at Harvard are familiar with PAH for example.  

I agree that "finding your passion" is completely unacceptable.  I strongly recommend Cal Newport's books for high school students who are applying to competitive colleges.  He completely does away with the mythology of "finding your passion"  and provides practical ways to become an interesting person, live a nice life, and coincidentally become attractive to colleges.  

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What has been interesting for me as an outsider reading on College Confidential this year is seeing how the "selective colleges" discriminate against (or for) high schools depending on their "relationship" with the school. If the high school has a good relationship, admit rates could be crazy good (double or triple normal admit) or crazy bad (0% admit last 3 years) if the high school previously got a reputation for not sending admitted students there (yield protection).

I guess I'm thankful we aren't chasing prestige (because we just plain can't afford to) but also that, as homeschoolers, the school theoretically looks at us as our own data point.

On a different note, I never would have guessed where my oldest would be at this point senior year in terms of her "passions", extra curriculars, or planned major four, three or even two years ago. I have no idea what things will look like when she is this close to graduating college, just that anything is possible. So don't stress so much now. Plan, hope, and buckle in for the ride. It can be wild at times.

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55 minutes ago, RootAnn said:

What has been interesting for me as an outsider reading on College Confidential this year is seeing how the "selective colleges" discriminate against (or for) high schools depending on their "relationship" with the school. If the high school has a good relationship, admit rates could be crazy good (double or triple normal admit) or crazy bad (0% admit last 3 years) if the high school previously got a reputation for not sending admitted students there (yield protection).

 

Yes, it is very interesting.  My friend's kids go to a fancy private school that has close ties to Harvard.  Her son went to Harvard but was rejected from some other schools with higher admit rates.

 

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1 hour ago, RootAnn said:

.On a different note, I never would have guessed where my oldest would be at this point senior year in terms of her "passions", extra curriculars, or planned major four, three or even two years ago. I have no idea what things will look like when she is this close to graduating college, just that anything is possible. So don't stress so much now. Plan, hope, and buckle in for the ride. It can be wild at times.

So, so, so much this. With my oldest, he knew he wanted to be an engineer I think from the time he drew his first breath, but that is definitely not how the rest of my kids have been.

  • My oldest Dd was a ping pong ball changing ideas with the wind. She didn't finally settle on what she wanted to pursue until the summer after high school.  She absolutely loves her career, so she made the right decision.
  • My ds fell in love with physics in 8th grade. He didn't "do" anything that stood out in 9th grade other than being advanced in math. He was taking precal in 9th. But, he was only taking chemistry and was still struggling with being an incredibly slow reader due to severe dyslexia. Over the next 3 yrs, he latched on to physics and astronomy out of pure love for the subject. By the time he graduated from high school, he had taken 5 in-major physics courses at our local university. Now he is a grad student at Berkeley studying theoretical cosmology. I'd never have guessed that ever when he was younger!
  • My Dd who loves languages didn't even take her first Russian course until 9th grade. She represent the US in an international,Olympiad when she was in 11th. I didn't even know that was a thing.  She just loved Russian and would walk around the house doing things perfecting her pronunciation while she was doing them. As a college student, she is only a sophomore and has changed her major 3 times!!!  Ironically, she didn't enter as a Russian major after spending her entire college search only looking at schools offering Russian. (She started off as a French and international business major.) It only took her 3 times, but she is now majoring in Russian.
  • My current Jr is completely nonchalant, almost apathetic, about her future. She thinks she wants to major in computer programming but she is completely unmotivated toward thinking about college. She refuses to consider any U other than the local one she can commute to while living at home. She'll find her feet; it is just taking her longer like her older sisters to consider options.

Same family. Same ability to do things that they want. It really comes down to personality and internal motivation.  Some figure it out sooner than others.

On a completely different note, you only mention selective Us in your posts, but I am going to share our experience with completely avg Us. Our kids have very small college budgets, so either they have to live at home and commute or attend on merit. (The reason our Jr has taken that position. She doesn't want to put in the effort to pursue the merit path.) 

Kids do not have to attend selective schools to have stellar options after graduation. Our oldest ds attended a very avg state tech U and has an amazing career. Our ds who is a grad student at Berkeley attended UG at the University of Alabama (definitely NOT an physics powerhouse. ;)) Dd is attenidng USCarolina as a Top Scholar and loves it.  (Scholarships dictated their attendance. Ds attended Bama for free. We only pay a couple of thousand a semester for Dd.) 

Zero regrets for not seeking selective schools for UG. 

 

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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1 hour ago, RootAnn said:

What has been interesting for me as an outsider reading on College Confidential this year is seeing how the "selective colleges" discriminate against (or for) high schools depending on their "relationship" with the school. If the high school has a good relationship, admit rates could be crazy good (double or triple normal admit) or crazy bad (0% admit last 3 years) if the high school previously got a reputation for not sending admitted students there (yield protection).

I don’t wade into college confidential but this matches, to a T, a bundle of anecdotes I hear from my nearest urban area. 

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10 hours ago, KarenNC said:

If it helps, I had a conversation with Davidson College's admissions people about 4 years ago and asked whether DE or AP was preferred. Davidson is listed as "most selective" in the US News rankings and not known to be very homeschool-friendly. In our case, DE is taught at the cc with regular students and tuition is free. In order to get AP, we'd have had to pay something along the lines of $600-$900 per class plus books and AP fee for an online class, so DE was a lot more affordable and gave in-class experience. The admissions person said that the important thing was to explain in the application why the choice between the two was made. They don't accept CLEP at all. My daughter didn't end up applying there, so I can't give a report of how she would have fared. 

 

 

This is very interesting and helpful.  

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9 hours ago, daijobu said:

 

You know, you'd be surprised.  If you apply to a college where they have one reader dedicated to homeschoolers, they may very well have.  I have heard that the readers at Harvard are familiar with PAH for example.  

I agree that "finding your passion" is completely unacceptable.  I strongly recommend Cal Newport's books for high school students who are applying to competitive colleges.  He completely does away with the mythology of "finding your passion"  and provides practical ways to become an interesting person, live a nice life, and coincidentally become attractive to colleges.  

 

Off to look these books up.  I was totally undone by the idea that I had to pick something I was good at, could achieve, and then on top of it all I had to love it?!?!  Personally I would have gone much farther with a discussion of the lifestyle I hoped to lead as an adult, and then a listing of jobs that would support that lifestyle.  

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5 hours ago, RootAnn said:

What has been interesting for me as an outsider reading on College Confidential this year is seeing how the "selective colleges" discriminate against (or for) high schools depending on their "relationship" with the school. If the high school has a good relationship, admit rates could be crazy good (double or triple normal admit) or crazy bad (0% admit last 3 years) if the high school previously got a reputation for not sending admitted students there (yield protection).

I guess I'm thankful we aren't chasing prestige (because we just plain can't afford to) but also that, as homeschoolers, the school theoretically looks at us as our own data point.

On a different note, I never would have guessed where my oldest would be at this point senior year in terms of her "passions", extra curriculars, or planned major four, three or even two years ago. I have no idea what things will look like when she is this close to graduating college, just that anything is possible. So don't stress so much now. Plan, hope, and buckle in for the ride. It can be wild at times.

 

I don't know that I'm chasing prestige.  My son thinks he wants to pursue a particular activity in college, and the best programs are at some pretty selective schools.  I don't want to thwart his dreams because of bad planning or misconceptions on my part.   I am also happy to be my own data point. 😊

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4 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

So, so, so much this. With my oldest, he knew he wanted to be an engineer I think from the time he drew his first breath, but that is definitely not how the rest of my kids have been.

  • My oldest Dd was a ping pong ball changing ideas with the wind. She didn't finally settle on what she wanted to pursue until the summer after high school.  She absolutely loves her career, so she made the right decision.
  • My ds fell in love with physics in 8th grade. He didn't "do" anything that stood out in 9th grade other than being advanced in math. He was taking precal in 9th. But, he was only taking chemistry and was still struggling with being an incredibly slow reader due to severe dyslexia. Over the next 3 yrs, he latched on to physics and astronomy out of pure love for the subject. By the time he graduated from high school, he had taken 5 in-major physics courses at our local university. Now he is a grad student at Berkeley studying theoretical cosmology. I'd never have guessed that ever when he was younger!
  • My Dd who loves languages didn't even take her first Russian course until 9th grade. She represent the US in an international,Olympiad when she was in 11th. I didn't even know that was a thing.  She just loved Russian and would walk around the house doing things perfecting her pronunciation while she was doing them. As a college student, she is only a sophomore and has changed her major 3 times!!!  Ironically, she didn't enter as a Russian major after spending her entire college search only looking at schools offering Russian. (She started off as a French and international business major.) It only took her 3 times, but she is now majoring in Russian.
  • My current Jr is completely nonchalant, almost apathetic, about her future. She thinks she wants to major in computer programming but she is completely unmotivated toward thinking about college. She refuses to consider any U other than the local one she can commute to while living at home. She'll find her feet; it is just taking her longer like her older sisters to consider options.

Same family. Same ability to do things that they want. It really comes down to personality and internal motivation.  Some figure it out sooner than others.

On a completely different note, you only mention selective Us in your posts, but I am going to share our experience with completely avg Us. Our kids have very small college budgets, so either they have to live at home and commute or attend on merit. (The reason our Jr has taken that position. She doesn't want to put in the effort to pursue the merit path.) 

Kids do not have to attend selective schools to have stellar options after graduation. Our oldest ds attended a very avg state tech U and has an amazing career. Our ds who is a grad student at Berkeley attended UG at the University of Alabama (definitely NOT an physics powerhouse. ;)) Dd is attenidng USCarolina as a Top Scholar and loves it.  (Scholarships dictated their attendance. Ds attended Bama for free. We only pay a couple of thousand a semester for Dd.) 

Zero regrets for not seeking selective schools for UG. 

 

 

I am not necessarily even pushing my child towards a selective school, but I assume that if I aim at the highest/hardest other less selective schools will also be in target.  I will say though, as a person who attended a UC school for undergrad and a selective school for grad school, I wish that I had made a better undergrad decision.  I think that had I attended a better school I would have graduated with a more appropriate plan for employment and would have not needed to attend grad school in the way I did.  I compare my experience to my husband's and wish that I had made better choices as an undergrad.

Edited by Caraway
Additional thoughts :)

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4 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

So, so, so much this. With my oldest, he knew he wanted to be an engineer I think from the time he drew his first breath, but that is definitely not how the rest of my kids have been.

  • My oldest Dd was a ping pong ball changing ideas with the wind. She didn't finally settle on what she wanted to pursue until the summer after high school.  She absolutely loves her career, so she made the right decision.
  • My ds fell in love with physics in 8th grade. He didn't "do" anything that stood out in 9th grade other than being advanced in math. He was taking precal in 9th. But, he was only taking chemistry and was still struggling with being an incredibly slow reader due to severe dyslexia. Over the next 3 yrs, he latched on to physics and astronomy out of pure love for the subject. By the time he graduated from high school, he had taken 5 in-major physics courses at our local university. Now he is a grad student at Berkeley studying theoretical cosmology. I'd never have guessed that ever when he was younger!
  • My Dd who loves languages didn't even take her first Russian course until 9th grade. She represent the US in an international,Olympiad when she was in 11th. I didn't even know that was a thing.  She just loved Russian and would walk around the house doing things perfecting her pronunciation while she was doing them. As a college student, she is only a sophomore and has changed her major 3 times!!!  Ironically, she didn't enter as a Russian major after spending her entire college search only looking at schools offering Russian. (She started off as a French and international business major.) It only took her 3 times, but she is now majoring in Russian.
  • My current Jr is completely nonchalant, almost apathetic, about her future. She thinks she wants to major in computer programming but she is completely unmotivated toward thinking about college. She refuses to consider any U other than the local one she can commute to while living at home. She'll find her feet; it is just taking her longer like her older sisters to consider options.

Same family. Same ability to do things that they want. It really comes down to personality and internal motivation.  Some figure it out sooner than others.

On a completely different note, you only mention selective Us in your posts, but I am going to share our experience with completely avg Us. Our kids have very small college budgets, so either they have to live at home and commute or attend on merit. (The reason our Jr has taken that position. She doesn't want to put in the effort to pursue the merit path.) 

Kids do not have to attend selective schools to have stellar options after graduation. Our oldest ds attended a very avg state tech U and has an amazing career. Our ds who is a grad student at Berkeley attended UG at the University of Alabama (definitely NOT an physics powerhouse. ;)) Dd is attenidng USCarolina as a Top Scholar and loves it.  (Scholarships dictated their attendance. Ds attended Bama for free. We only pay a couple of thousand a semester for Dd.) 

Zero regrets for not seeking selective schools for UG. 

 

 

This gives me hope for my middle child.  😊

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3 hours ago, Caraway said:

 

I don't know that I'm chasing prestige.  My son thinks he wants to pursue a particular activity in college, and the best programs are at some pretty selective schools.  I don't want to thwart his dreams because of bad planning or misconceptions on my part.   I am also happy to be my own data point. 

Edited by madteaparty

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3 hours ago, Caraway said:

 

Off to look these books up.  I was totally undone by the idea that I had to pick something I was good at, could achieve, and then on top of it all I had to love it?!?!  Personally I would have gone much farther with a discussion of the lifestyle I hoped to lead as an adult, and then a listing of jobs that would support that lifestyle.  

 

Just to be clear, this is about steps your student can take to cultivate a relaxed yet interesting lifestyle.  It's about slowing down a bit, and being smart about course selection and extracurriculars so that you aren't busting your butt to be good at everything, and coming off as a typical grind.  It isn't really about career planning, though he has some book related to that too.  The book I'm thinking about specifically is How to Be a High School Superstar, but I've read his other books about high school and college and I really liked what I read.  He's really all about living an interesting life.  

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My approach was to do just enough external validation to prove the rigor of the complete transcript, and then to focus on creating a unique program of study for my ds. 

His external validation: top marks in SAT, SAT2s, four AP equivalents; two DE courses (plus Music performance diploma and math competitions) 

Basically, he topped the test for every single external thing he did.  This demonstrated that he was a top student.  But notice that only a small subset of his high school courses were validated by external grades. The rest we did on our own and were very creative.  Why take Economics with a textbook, when you can read Picketty's Capital? That course was called "the economics of inequality." Why memorize a textbook for AP Biology, when you can focus on statistical analysis of ecology data, study genetic engineering, and read Scientific American on a breadth of current topics? We were creative, and I made sure they knew that through my counselor's letter and course descriptions.

You simply cannot stand out with a ton of APs.  Plus APs are so rote. He wanted more from his education. He wanted to dig deep into things he was passionate about. He did a 50 hour research paper on the chemistry of Fracking. It was amazing.  There was no way he could have had time to do it if he was working his way through the set curriculum of the AP world. And we also found that attending the local university was so time consuming - going up there 3 times a week - it just dug into his study time.  Plus, he could do higher level work on his own. I discussed this in my counselor letter.

Homeschooling allows you to stand out. Use it to your advantage.

Ruth in NZ

 

Edited by lewelma
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Without quoting, I do want to add for the parents whose kids don't necessarily want super creative courses (and I had one child with that sort of program), that it's fine to have a standard program of advanced coursework and stand out in other ways. My second daughter's coursework was not particularly unique and her curricula was often quite basic (Apologia physics and chemistry; Teaching Textbooks through Algebra 2, then Derek Owens; some PAH, including a World History course through them that she simply audited; Thinkwell US Gov). No academic competitions (well, one local Chinese event). Honestly, she wasn't even a big reader apart from her academic coursework, simply for lack of time.

She got into a few highly selective schools and was selected for highly competitive scholarships. She did do a number of AP courses, but because the topics made sense for what she needed. And like others said, external validation is certainly not necessary for every course. My daughter was STEM , so she did test in the major branches of science, but also wanted to show competency in language arts, history, and music. She truly enjoyed the courses and even the tests; for her that sort of thing was not drudgery.

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Ruth, are the AP equivalents to which you refer the NZ national exams?  And your son was also on the national math team, correct?  

I would love to not get bogged down in too many AP courses/exams, but I am not keen on DE (for a variety of reasons) and I very much share the OP's concerns about not shortchanging my rising high schooler by failing to do enough outside validation.  It is just very difficult to figure out how much is 'enough."

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1 hour ago, JennyD said:

Ruth, are the AP equivalents to which you refer the NZ national exams?  And your son was also on the national math team, correct?  

Yes and Yes. The NZ national exams, in contrast to APs, are a series of 4-5 essay-style exams for each subject during the year. He earned 'excellences' on each one. Excellence = top 10%.  The exams he took are for a 2nd year of the course, so like AP in that regard.

Edited by lewelma
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I think, however, that the essays are critically important.  DS did the common app essay first, but then learned so much about himself after writing all the other essays over the period of 5 months.  His story came out over time through self reflection.  He and I knew that he needed to rewrite the common app essay, but he simply ran out of time.  He did not get into the elite schools that read his common app essay. MIT doesn't use it, and their essay prompts really helped him share his story.

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21 hours ago, lewelma said:

I think, however, that the essays are critically important.  DS did the common app essay first, but then learned so much about himself after writing all the other essays over the period of 5 months.  His story came out over time through self reflection.  He and I knew that he needed to rewrite the common app essay, but he simply ran out of time.  He did not get into the elite schools that read his common app essay. MIT doesn't use it, and their essay prompts really helped him share his story.

I've been amazed by how much influence that common app essay has. I mean, it makes sense, because it's about all they have to make your kid stand out as a real person....but, at least at smaller schools, everyone seems to know what was in DS's essay and see him through that lens. Based on that, I think it absolutely can make the difference between an acceptance and waitlist/rejection at very selective schools that are turning down tons of qualified applicants. 

We had kind of the opposite experience, though, in that DS's common app essay was pretty good and his personality came through well, whereas he was burned out and over it with some of the supplementals and had a really hard time finding his voice in them. 

I'll almost certainly get some kind of outside help for my next kid in getting through the essay writing process; I really struggled with how best to help him this time around.... 

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37 minutes ago, JazzyMom said:

@GoodGrief1  With a typical courseload, what do you think made your dd stand out from other applicants?

 

In my second daughter's case, I do believe that our geographic area placed her into a smaller group of applicants against which she was being considered. She was a female going into engineering, which was another plus. She did have exceptional test scores, and plenty of them (SAT, 4 SAT subject tests, and AP exams). She was (is) an innately driven person, and had moderate levels of achievement in a variety of areas: music, athletics, foreign language, and community service. She tended to pick activities and stick with them for years. Her essays were really good; the reader came away with a distinct sense of her humility and authenticity.

It should be noted that she was never a tippy top standout in any activity in which she participated, just a hard worker who became quite good at most things she did thanks to good old fashioned dedication. Her typical high school schedule had her up at 5 AM and on the go until 9 PM. Her college life is similar. She organizes her time well and uses all of it.

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6 hours ago, JazzyMom said:

Wow, she sounds exceptional.  Thanks for sharing!

 

Well, in some ways, but again, not tippy-tippy top in any one thing. I do like hearing the specifics of kids that get into various schools though. You come to realize that there is quite the wide variation of characteristics.

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I was thinking about my daughter's brother in law, who secretly applied to Yale last year and got in, much to my surprise. I had been helping him with apps. He needed significant money. I did not suggest Ivy at all because I did not think his chances were realistic.

He was/is a typical hard working kid as well, but not an athlete at all. Caucasian male. He was/is a fine musician, but no major accomplishments. Had a good bit of community service and some leadership there, but he wasn't curing cancer or anything. No major awards. GPA about 3.7 unweighted, so fine, but not tippy top. He had an excellent SAT score. He had 2 SAT subject tests with good scores and did four AP classes before senior year.  He is from our geographic area, so that helps, but for his school there are typically a number of competitive applicants from our state (oddly, his best friend from our state was accepted in the early round, which led to him applying, but probably somewhat decreased his chances, IMO. The kids are very similar in profile/stats.) His parents are not at all influential, but both have college degrees. I did not see his essays, but my guess is that those essays are what put him over the top.

All that to say that you don't necessarily need to be a superstar, and you just don't know how these things will play out sometimes. I do think being able to express oneself in the essay is probably quite significant.

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I read several of the most recent replies in this thread and the subject of Essays came up. After the admissions scandal broke, I read several blog posts about Essays.  A couple of them from  former Admissions Reps or Deans. One of them said that 90% of the Essays they read are poor and 5% are terrible. So, yes, the good ones stand out.

Other blog posts or articles, about people who Edit and/or Write Essays for university applicants.  IMO writing an essay for someone else or greatly influencing it should be illegal.  

Possibly the admissions people can detect a percentage of those Essays, when they read them and then when they read the transcript and the test scores and the information on the application things seem out of place.. 

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DE can sometimes allow more following interests, too-AP doesn’t allow Seismology, Biotechnology, Race and Gender studies, History and Culture of the Memphis Area, or lots of other interesting things that the local CC offers (and even more at the 4 year schools). Once you can place out of (or pass) English Comp and college algebra, it’s a buffet of options. 

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3 hours ago, dmmetler said:

DE can sometimes allow more following interests, too-AP doesn’t allow Seismology, Biotechnology, Race and Gender studies, History and Culture of the Memphis Area, or lots of other interesting things that the local CC offers (and even more at the 4 year schools). Once you can place out of (or pass) English Comp and college algebra, it’s a buffet of options. 

 

That is certainly true. However, based on our older daughter’s experience with a more creative/interesting transcript, I do think that there is value as far as college admissions/scholarships in demonstrating competency in some of the typical foundational high school subjects when one is going that route. That could be done via testing or awards/other activities. 

You also want to proceed with caution because grades earned in those classes will stick with the student throughout college, and come into play on grad school apps

Edited by GoodGrief1
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I would also add, that you need to do what is best for your student, regardless of what "everyone" is doing or saying. Yes, you need to look ahead - but be very careful to turn your student into a poster child for whatever is the best fill-in-the-blank

It was very popular here in my locale for a while to push early community college and early transfer.  Looking back, while it had its benefits, it's a good thing I realized it was not the best path for my son at the last second.  It cost him the ability to apply to our local big U's as a freshman, but he was able to apply out of state and private.Thank God we realized where he was really at emotionally and socially.  He was not ready to be a 17 year old junior at a competitive university and then to be a 18.5 year old Masters Student.  Too much, too soon, for him!  He also needed/wanted to live in freshman dorms, not autonomous upper classman apartments  

But my exact story doesn't really matter because the POINT of the story is that you have to look at your child and really think about what is best for him! My guess is that on the continuum of all AP classes or all Dual Enrollment, to all home-cooked with no AP or DE...there is something in the middle that IS ACTUALLY best for him, academically, socially and emotionally.  

And to answer your actual question- colleges are not impressed with CLEP and they like APs WITH 4 or 5 AP Scores slightly better than DE's because AP's are standardized across the entire country.  But either AP or DE will look great, and you only need*** to do a few.  That just shows them that your kid can function in a college or high pressure academic setting...  

*** The word "need" here is also misleading because, you don't NEED any for regular state colleges, as long as SAT scores are good and you keep good records.  And if your students has a special talent, or knocks the SAT's out of the water you really really don't NEED AP or DE to validate your student.   (But if it won't stress him out and he can do it, a few would be good...we personally found DE less stressful than AP and AP exams but depends on your students personality.)

My second child will graduate with probably no AP, and maybe one or two DE, or maybe none.  She will have no problem getting into the run of the mill state colleges, or the small privates because she has good college prep classes and her SAT scores are solid (for her chosen colleges we are speaking of)

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