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What Homeschool Families Need to Know About the Common Application

The Common Application can be the cause of anxiety for many homeschool families. You get into it and invariably there are questions that you have, as a homeschooler, that might not be as clear as if you were filling it out for a public school student. No worries. I can help you navigate the Common Application.

New for the Common Application in 2020 

 Recently, the Common Application has added a new essay prompt that may be useful in this challenging time. This is the question that applicants will see:

"Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces. Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you."

The question will be optional and will appear in the 'Additional Information' section of the application. The response length will be limited to 250 words.

The Common Application company provided this explanation on why they have added this COVID-19 question on the 2020-2021 Common App. "Students deserve a dedicated space on the Common App to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their lives, both personally and educationally. Our goal is to reduce anxiety for applicants affected by these events and provide them with a way to share their experience with colleges and universities." And they also added, "Counselors will also find space in their Common App counselor forms to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their school communities.' 

You can read more about it here.

Common Questions about the Common Application 

I get parents asking me questions about the Common App all the time. Here are a couple of the most common questions.

The Common Application asks for you to included recommendations for your child, as their counselor. This stresses many parents out simply because they don't know what to write. 
Many college specify that they do not want a parent to write the recommendation, so be sure they want that. Instead, it might be best to ask someone else to do the letter of recommendation. It doesn't have to be a teacher, just someone who knows your child is smart. ​If they ASK you for a letter of recommendation from a parent, then give it to them. It's preferable, however, to have that recommendation be from someone else​. If you do request a letter of recommendation from someone else, then give them the transcript and activity list or resume, so they know something about your child - that is accepted practice. You can also give them the links below, so they will know how a letter of recommendation looks - they may not know any more than you do.

Counselor Recommendation Tips from the Collegeboard
Getting a Great Letter of Recommendation

I have an article on recommendation letters that will help. Remember that even though the concept makes you feel anxious, at least you know your child! Lots of teachers have to give letters of recommendation for students they don't even know!

Every homeschool parent tends to answer the homeschool supplement differently, so there is no set answer. I will say, however, that don't stress about it too much. The transcript is much more important. The supplement may be very short, just a short paragraph, telling information about homeschooling that you might give an interested stranger. Other parents choose to make it a page-long essay. Either way seems to work! Some things that you may want to include:

1. Why did you begin to homeschool
2. What benefits have you see from homeschooling
3. What is your homeschool style: unschooling, classical, literature-based, lifestyle of education, etc. I would avoid the word "eclectic" because I think that word is only common in homeschool circles.
4. I think I would mention that you teach for mastery - that can explain a high GPA
5. It may be helpful to directly address myths of homeschooling. "His socialization has improved since homeschooling" or "She regularly interacts with large groups of friends at swim team."
6. That may be the time to address anything really unusual: debilitating car accident that might explain poor math scores, that sort of thing.

How to Answer Those Tricky Questions on the Common Application (as a Homeschooler) 

As you begin to go through the Common Application, you'll find that there are some questions that, as a homeschooler, you will raise your eyebrows at. Homeschool families don't exactly fit the mold of a public school student. You won't fit the mold here either. That's ok. Here's how you answer some of the questions that I get the most concern over.

What is your title?
Guidance Counselor, Home Educator, or Homeschool Parent. Any of those are acceptable.

Graduating class size
1, N/A, Not Applicable. They know  you are a homeschool student. It's ok to answer in any of these ways.

Are classes taken on a block schedule?
No, N/A, Not Applicable. Many public schools use this. If you don't know what a block schedule is, don't worry about it. 

Graduation date
Insert May or June of your child's senior year.

Do you use AP® curriculum?
Yes (If your curriculum is approved as an AP® curriculum by the Collegeboard)
No (If your curriculum is not approved by the Collegeboard, however they will still accept AP scores) You can read more about AP® tests and scores here.

Do you provide applicant's academic rating?

Transcript Affirmation? Communication?
You'll want to check this box confirming that you affirm their transcript and the communication about their grades.

Class Rank
1 out of 1, Not ranked, None

Do you report GPA?
Yes (You can find more about calculating GPA here.)

Cumulative GPA
Insert your child's transcript GPA through their 11th grade year

Please indicate the most recent grades
Insert your child's final junior year grades

I recommend this student
Recommend your student enthusiastically and with the highest recommendation!

Provide any information on the homeschool experience
Insert more information about your homeschool here. If you've already written a homeschool profile letter, you can insert that here, as well.

Please indicate grading scale
A (Excellent) 90-100%
B (Very Good) 80-89%
C (Average) 70-79%
D (Poor) 60-69%
F (Failing) <60%

If course was taken outside the home
This section is optional. If there were courses that were taken outside of the home (ie dual enrollment) feel free to explain that here.

Are you a member of a homeschool association?
This is also optional. Many homeschoolers are a member of their homeschool association or HSLDA. You can indicate that if you wish.

Keep in mind ... when in doubt for many questions the answer is simply, N/A, Not Applicable, See Attached. 

For more detailed information, read this article:
One Common Application - One Uncommonly Challenging Struggle

Have you completed the Common Application yet? Please leave your tips in the comments! I'd love to hear your experience, and glean more tips to share! 

AP® is a trademark owned by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this blog post or The HomeScholar, LLC. 

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