Navigating College Acceptance Letters

a book, read, college student-4126481.jpg
a book, read, college student-4126481.jpg

Navigating College Acceptance Letters

It’s that exciting time of year when college acceptance letters are starting to arrive! These letters hold the power to bring immense joy or disappointment to your homeschooler’s life. Remember, no matter what the outcome may be, your unwavering support is what truly matters.

To help you navigate the emotional roller coaster that comes with this process, we have some tips to make this journey more manageable for both you and your child.

Embrace Your Emotions, Stay Positive

As a parent, it’s natural to want the best for your child. Receiving a rejection letter can be tough on both you and your homeschooler. But remember, this is not a reflection of the job you did or their worth. Focus on your child’s needs and emotions, providing them with the support they need, regardless of the college acceptance letter’s contents.

Allow Your Child to Express Their Feelings

This is a significant moment in your child’s life, and they will experience a range of emotions, whether the news is positive or negative. Encourage them to express their feelings openly and honestly. By being there for them, you provide a safe space for them to work through their emotions and grow stronger.

Even exceptional students with impressive achievements may face rejection from highly selective schools. If your child is accustomed to academic success, a rejection might come as a surprise. Help them see beyond this setback, reminding them that there are other great options awaiting their response.

Similarly, if your child receives an acceptance letter from their dream university, they might feel both elated and apprehensive. Support them in embracing their happiness while addressing any anxiety or doubt that arises. Transitioning to college is a big step for anyone, and it’s natural to feel some nervousness and jitters.

Sensitive handling of the news is crucial, regardless of the outcome. Many students share their college application plans with friends, driven by the initial excitement. However, once the results arrive, it’s important to handle the information delicately.

If your child doesn’t get accepted into their dream school, remember that facing the rejection publicly can be challenging for them. Offer your support, as they might find it difficult to confront the reality that their envisioned future didn’t align with the current situation. This support extends to family members and friends.

If your child is admitted to their first-choice college, encourage them to handle the news with grace. While celebrating their achievement is wonderful, it’s important to avoid excessive flaunting on social media or insensitive conversations. Other students who haven’t received their desired acceptance may feel resentment, and it’s essential to be mindful of their emotions. Remind your child about the importance of tactful communication and discourage them from bragging openly. Remember, there are still many high school students waiting for their own college news, and this can increase their anxiety or frustration.

Create a Plan Together

Both acceptance and rejection call for a plan of action. If your child receives rejections from certain schools but is still awaiting responses from others, review the timelines associated with those institutions. This will help you determine whether it’s time to explore alternative options or wait for further news.

If there are no pending applications, it’s time to explore alternative colleges or universities that offer programs your child is interested in. Even though it may be challenging for them, encourage them to stay positive and keep moving forward.

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For cases where your child is accepted by a school but has yet to hear from their top choice, carefully review the acceptance packet for important deadlines and required documentation. Make note of these dates and be prepared to complete the necessary paperwork promptly if the other school does not accept them.

If your child is admitted to their dream college, it’s time to get that paperwork started! Dive into the acceptance packet together and begin completing all the required forms and tasks. Some aspects, like dorm preferences, may be on a first-come, first-served basis, so prompt action is important. By getting this work done efficiently, you can free up time for other exciting preparations.

Prepare Financially

Now that you know where your child will be attending college, it’s time to start thinking about tuition. While the financial aid package might not be finalized yet, there are steps you can take to supplement their college funds. Explore various scholarships and grants that are still accepting applications. 

The Ultimate Scholarship updated twice per year. It has several thousand scholarship listings, and the opening chapters are gold for the advice they give. There are 13 indexes in the back so you can search by race, major and disability status separately. Get all the CASH to pay for College! $$

This is a perfect opportunity to support your child in pursuing additional financial assistance.

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Reach out to fellow homeschooling parents and join online communities. Together, you can create a supportive network that encourages and uplifts each other during this momentous time.

Celebrate the Achievements

Throughout this process, take moments to celebrate your child’s accomplishments. Whether they receive acceptances or face rejections, remind them of their unique strengths, talents, and potential. College admissions can be unpredictable, but what truly matters is the person your child has become through their homeschooling journey.

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Encourage them to embrace every opportunity, to continue pursuing their passions, and to remain resilient in the face of challenges. Their path to success is not defined by a single college acceptance letter, but by the knowledge, skills, and character they have developed over the years.

You have played an integral role in their education, and your dedication and support have prepared them well for the next chapter of their lives. Embrace this moment with encouragement, knowing that their future is bright and full of endless possibilities.

Congratulations to you and your homeschooler on this incredible milestone!

036. Applying to Colleges and Finding Scholarships

College Applications and Scholarships

Applying to Colleges and Finding Scholarships

College isn’t cheap and transitioning from homeschool to a four-year university may seem overwhelming and you probably have a lot of questions but don’t worry! We’re going to walk you through the application process and the best way to get some extra cash to pay for it all!

-How do I choose colleges to apply to?
-How do I begin the application process?
-Where do I find scholarships?

Episode 036:

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Show Notes

We’ve talked a lot already about designing your 4-year plan and mapping out future goals. Your teenager may be opting for a future in the military, trade school, entrepreneurship, or the workforce and maybe college is not part of their plan.  Or maybe they are considering going to community college and then transferring to a university which can often be a huge savings for families choosing this route.

They may even be considering a gap year. Several students we know chose this pathway.  For some, it was because of the pandemic, for others, their students possibly needed time to save up money for future schooling. Others chose service programs like Americorps. Another student friend is doing a foreign language program abroad.  There are so many options. But for those who are college bound, thinking ahead to college can be an overwhelming prospect.  

How many applications?

While there is no exact formula or a perfect number of schools to submit your applications to, most students apply to 4-8 universities.

Safety School (2-3)

Sometimes called “back-up schools,” are schools you’re practically guaranteed admission. In general, safety schools have high acceptance rates. 

If you are new to homeschooling, be sure to check out our Getting Started Page where we step you through the entire process.

Target School (2-3)

Sometimes called ”match school” your grades and test scores should fall into the accepted range of the school’s most recently admitted class. While acceptance isn’t guaranteed, you should have a 40-60% chance of getting accepted.

Reach School (1-3)

If your grades and academic credentials fall in the lower range or below a school’s average from the previous year’s accepted students, then that school would be considered a “reach school” (also called a Dream School).

How do I choose colleges to apply to? (6:46)

Choosing a college to apply to can be really exciting for your teen but it can also be a challenging decision. It’s important to remember that this is their path, and they are the ones that are ultimately making the decision. Your job is to guide them and help them through this process. So, talk to them and have open discussions and dialogue. To help you through this process, we’ve put together some steps to help narrow this down for them. 

  1. Identify priorities: you’re going to be making a list of your priorities to guide your decision-making. Think about what factors are important to them in choosing a college. Consider things like academic programs, location (maybe they want to live in a sunny, warm state?), campus culture, extracurricular activities, size, cost (obviously, this is a big one for a lot of families!), and any other criteria that matter to you in a college. 
  2. Research colleges: Look for colleges that are going to align with the priorities you laid out. You’ll want to consider factors like academic reputation, majors and programs offered, faculty expertise, campus facilities, student organizations. Books like Fiske Guide to Colleges and the Princeton Review: The Best 388 Colleges are a great way to see ratings and criteria. Scroll down to view our list of college websites and resources.
Fiske Guide to Colleges
The Princeton Review: The Best 388 Colleges
  1. Tour some campuses: If it’s feasible, try to tour the campuses of the colleges you’re interested in. Visiting a campus will provide insights into the atmosphere, campus life, facilities, and overall vibe of the institution. Many offer information sessions so take advantage of those. You can take the official campus tour, and talk to current students and faculty, and just explore the surrounding area. Often the tour guides and people working in the visitor center are students themselves and love to share about their experiences.If you don’t know where to start with this, visit a few of the college campuses that are closest to you, even if your kiddo is pretty sure they don’t want to go there.  You definitely want them to have an idea of what to expect and be able to have a baseline for that. Even though you can do some of these tours online, it pales in comparison to being on campus and taking it all in.
  2. Seek guidance and advice: Talk to friends, family members and homeschool parents who can offer insights into the college selection process. They may have recommendations based on your academic strengths, interests, and career goals. You can get advice from people you know who may have attended or have knowledge about different colleges or a college on your list.  Reach out to current students or alumni of the colleges you’re interested in. Ask questions about their experiences, campus life, academic rigor, and career outcomes. Their perspectives can provide valuable insights that might not be available through official sources. Many out of state schools have local or regional representatives or alumni groups.  We met with a traveling advisor about one school, and we attended an alumni event for another school and it’s a great way to get a great vibe. You can also join the school’s social media pages for information.  Look at what kinds of clubs and activities they offer.
  3. Consider financial factors: College can be a significant investment, so it’s essential to consider the financial implications. Evaluate the cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses. Research scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities offered by each college. Consider your financial situation and weigh the affordability of each institution. Have an honest heart to heart with your children about yours/their financial situation so they understand from the get-go what their options truly are.
  4. Review admission requirements: it’s essential to meet the admission requirements for each college you’re considering. We talked about this in a couple of our other high school series episodes. Specifically checking with the college admissions to ensure that your 4-year high school plan will meet those. Check the necessary standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, and others.), GPA requirements, prerequisite courses, and any other criteria. It’s also important to have a realistic understanding of your chances of admission to each institution. Definitely look to see if they have special requirements for homeschoolers.  Also consider whether you have a solid chance at this school.  Many schools charge to apply and that adds up quickly.  An average student might not want to waste time applying to a college with a 7% acceptance rate.
  5. Consider your long-term goals: Think about your future career aspirations and how each college can contribute to your academic and professional growth. Look for colleges with strong programs and resources in your area of interest. Consider internship opportunities, research facilities, and alumni networks that can help you advance your career. If your child knows what they want to major in already, you can research what schools are ranked highly for that.  
  6. Trust your instincts: After conducting thorough research and gathering information, trust your instincts and listen to your gut feeling. Reflect on which college resonates with you the most and aligns with your goals, values, and aspirations.

Remember that the college application process often involves applying to multiple institutions to increase your options. Be sure to meet application deadlines, submit required documents, and give yourself enough time to complete the process for each college you choose. Good luck!

How do I begin the application process? (16:56)

The college application process can be stressful with numerous tasks and decisions involved. However, with some planning, you can navigate the process more smoothly. We’ve laid out some strategies and tips to help you manage everything, including your stress level during this time:

  1. Start Early: Begin your preparations well in advance. Give yourself ample time to research colleges, understand all those admission requirements, and gather all the necessary documents. Our high school documents episode in this series lays all that out for you. Starting early will allow you to spread out the workload and avoid that last-minute stress. Many people recommend things like using essay prompts for writing assignments during the summer or late junior year so that you already have things prepared for application season.  You can also get on Common App a couple years before you actually need to. 
  1. Break It Down: Divide the application process into smaller, manageable tasks. Create a timeline or checklist with specific deadlines for each task, such as researching schools, writing essays, gathering recommendation letters, and completing all the forms. Breaking down the process will make it feel less overwhelming. Make a spreadsheet with all the schools and all of their dates so we could figure out which things need to go where.  There’s a lot of information in a lot of places so it can get really overwhelming. Keep all your application materials, deadlines, and important documents well-organized. And definitely utilize those digital tools, like Trello. Staying organized is going to give you a sense of control and reduce anxiety.

TRELLO is a free app that keeps me organized:

  1. Practice Self-Care: Make sure to take care of your physical and mental well-being during this period. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and engage in regular exercise or activities that help you relax and unwind. Taking breaks and pursuing hobbies or interests can help alleviate stress and maintain a healthy balance. 
  1.  Manage Expectations: Remember that the college application process is competitive, and rejection is a possibility. While it’s essential to aim high and work hard, it’s also important to be realistic and have backup options. This is one of the reasons that we recommend applying to safety, target, and reach schools. Keep in mind that there are SO MANY colleges where you can receive an excellent education and have a fulfilling college experience. 
  1. Seek Support: Reach out to parents or homeschooling forums for guidance and support. They can provide valuable advice, or review your application materials, and help you stay organized. Sometimes, simply sharing your thoughts and worries can provide relief.  This is where we all really feel the stress because it all reflects on us as the homeschool parent.  If they were in school and somehow everything went downhill, we can blame that, but the pressure and focus is 100% on us!  (It isn’t really, but it sure feels like it!) Remember, you are not alone in this process, and many others, including both of us, have successfully navigated college applications. Reach out for support when needed, and stay organized. 

How do I pay for college? (25:43)

There are several ways people pay for college, and the methods can vary depending on personal circumstances and the country’s education system. Here are some common ways people finance their college education:

It’s worth noting that the availability and specific details of these options can vary by country, educational institution, and individual circumstances. It’s advisable to research and consult with financial aid offices or student advisors at each specific college or university for more detailed information about financing options.

The first place people typically look to help with college is through scholarships and the biggest are often offered through the schools themselves. It’s important to know that VERY few graduates get full ride scholarships. The National Center for Education Statistics study entitled National Postsecondary Student Aid Study found that even though 70% of undergraduates received some financial aid, only .2% received $25,000 or more. 

  1. Personal savings: Some individuals or families save money specifically for college expenses. This could involve setting aside a portion of their income or making long-term investments like a 529 to fund their education.
  2. Scholarships: Scholarships are financial awards given to students based on various criteria such as academic achievements, athletic abilities, or specific talents.
  3. Grants: Grants are similar but are usually need-based. These do not need to be repaid, making them highly desirable sources of funding. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is completed by current and prospective college students in the US to determine their eligibility for aid. The FAFSA is different from the CSS Profile, which is also required by some colleges. 

Federal Pell Grants:

  1. Student loans: Many students rely on loans to cover their college expenses. These loans can be obtained from government organizations or private lenders. Students are required to repay these loans after completing their education, typically with interest.
  2. Work-study programs: Some colleges and universities offer work-study programs that provide part-time employment opportunities to students. Through these programs, students can earn money to help cover their educational costs. So many of these opportunities keep the college running and at the same time help students pay for their education.
  3. Parental support: Some parents (or other family members) financially support their children’s college education by covering some, or all, of the expenses. This can be through savings, income, or borrowing on behalf of their child.
  4. Financial aid: Colleges and universities may offer financial aid packages that include a combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. Financial aid is typically determined based on factors like family income, assets, and the cost of attendance.
  5. Employer assistance: Some companies or organizations provide tuition reimbursement or educational assistance programs to their employees. This benefit allows individuals to pursue higher education while working and reduces the financial burden.
  6. Military Grants & Scholarships: There are several paths to financing college that come from previous service in the military or from a parent or siblings service.

Military Grants and Scholarships

If you’re an active servicemember, Veteran or if you’re a child of a military family, there are several financial scholarships and grants available to support you in covering your college expenses. These opportunities are designed to assist you in pursuing higher education and achieving your academic goals.

These are federal government programs, like the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, that can provide assistance. Additionally, nonprofit veterans’ service organizations, such as the Pat Tillman Foundation, offer scholarships and grants tailored to support individuals like yourself. Some educational institutions also offer direct financial aid options.

Scholarship Scams

Unfortunately, there are numerous scams making the rounds seeking to take advantage of unsuspecting students. Fraudsters prey on needy scholarship applicants and attempt to steal money, banking details, personal information, and more. Thankfully, there are ways to spot these schemes so you can avoid wasting your time and use it to focus on real scholarship applications. 

Here are 8 tips on spotting and avoiding scholarship scams:
  1. Question if it’s too good to be true
  2. Be wary of a sense of urgency
  3. The promise of exclusive information should be a red flag
  4. Question money-back guarantees
  5. Ignore claims of unclaimed funds
  6. Watch out for claims of affiliation with a reputable organization
  7. Learn to spot phishing emails and websites
  8. Don’t hand over personal or banking information

Where do I find college scholarships?

It’s important not to miss the joys of homeschooling during the high school years because you’re so stressed about scholarships. Finding scholarships for college can be a time-consuming but worthwhile endeavor.

Scholarships in Summary

We have listed some websites below for reference, but we highly recommend you don’t waste too much time but instead get this book: the Ultimate Scholarship Book. It’s updated twice per year. It has several thousand scholarship listings, and the opening chapters are gold for the advice they give. There are 13 indexes in the back so you can search by race, major and disability status separately.

Ultimate Scholarship Book
The Ultimate Scholarship Book

For local scholarships, I recommend that you look up your community foundation. Most are titled (your city/region) community foundation. Most have a scholarship portal where you can do a general app.

Professional organizations are also a good way to go. Many will probably be in the book, but you can google for them

Law firms also provide scholarships. No, you don’t have to be a law student to apply. Most just want you to write an essay on a topic that is relevant to their practice (i.e. importance of not drinking and driving)

See if your college of choice financial aid department has a scholarship portal.

Note: As a best practice, keep a copy of all the essays you write and reuse them for later. You would be amazed at how many prompts are the same/similar.

  1. Check with the College: Start by exploring scholarship opportunities offered directly by the colleges or universities you’re considering. Many institutions have their own scholarships, grants, or financial aid programs available to incoming students. Visit their financial aid office or check their website for information on scholarships specific to their institution.
  2. Use Scholarship Search Engines: Online scholarship search engines can be valuable resources for finding scholarships that match your profile. Websites like Fastweb,, and College Board’s Scholarship Search offer comprehensive databases where you can search for scholarships based on your interests, background, field of study, or other criteria.
  1. Research Local Scholarships: Investigate scholarships offered by local organizations, community foundations, businesses, or nonprofit groups in your area. These scholarships may be less competitive than national ones, as they are often limited to students from specific regions or schools. Community organizations are great resources. For example, 4H and even our local orthodontist have a great scholarship! Local libraries are usually a great resource for information on these opportunities.
  2. Explore Professional Organizations: Many professional associations, industry-specific organizations, and trade groups offer scholarships to students pursuing careers in their respective fields. Research organizations related to your intended major or career path and check their websites for scholarship opportunities.
  3. Utilize Social Networks: Inform your network of family, friends, and mentors that you’re seeking scholarships for college. They may be aware of specific opportunities or connections that could assist you in your search. Additionally, consider joining online forums, groups, or communities focused on college scholarships to connect with others who can share resources or advice.
  4. Employer Programs: If your teenager has a job, check with their employer or parent’s employer and inquire whether your employer or parent’s employer provides scholarships for employees or their children. Many companies offer scholarships as part of their benefits packages or corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  5. Research National Scholarships: Look for national scholarships that are open to students across the country. Organizations like the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, or the National Merit Scholarship Program offer prestigious scholarships to deserving students. Research their eligibility criteria and application processes.

The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program, now known as the Gates Scholarship, is a prestigious scholarship program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The program provides scholarships to outstanding minority students pursuing undergraduate degrees. The website serves as the platform for the application process and provides information about the scholarship.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is widely recognized for its prestigious scholarship program and the significant financial support it provides to selected scholars. The scholarship covers a substantial portion of educational expenses, including tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a prestigious scholarship program that recognizes and awards scholarships to high-performing students based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores. The website has information about the program, scholarship opportunities, and the selection process. It provides comprehensive details on eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and steps for becoming a National Merit Scholar.

  1. Scholarship Books: Check with scholarship directories and books. My favorite “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” provides extensive lists and details on various scholarship opportunities. This book is so thorough! 

Favorite College Website and Apps

College Board Big Future

Big Future is an online platform provided by College Board, offering resources and tools to help students explore and plan for their college education. It provides information on colleges, majors, scholarships, and financial aid, allowing students to search for schools based on their preferences and compare them. Additionally, it offers career exploration tools and guidance for test preparation, making it a comprehensive resource for college-bound students.


Cappex is a reputable platform that offers college and scholarship search services for students, including new graduates. It provides a comprehensive database of colleges and universities, as well as scholarship opportunities.

College Navigator

College Navigator, provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), is a widely regarded and reliable platform for exploring colleges and universities in the United States. It offers comprehensive data on institutions, including information on programs, admissions, financial aid, and more. The best part is that College Navigator is completely free to use, making it an excellent resource for students, parents, and educators seeking detailed information about colleges without any associated costs.


Unigo is a popular platform that provides college reviews, scholarship information, and resources for students exploring higher education options. While Unigo offers free access to a range of college-related content, they also have a premium subscription service.


RaiseMe is an online platform that allows high school students to earn micro-scholarships from participating colleges based on their achievements and activities. It can be a helpful tool for students looking to earn scholarships and explore college options.

Scholly Search

Scholly Search is a popular scholarship search platform that helps students find relevant scholarship opportunities. It offers a user-friendly interface and personalized scholarship matches based on the student’s profile. While Scholly Search does have a subscription-based service called Scholly Premium, which provides additional features and benefits, the platform also offers a free version that allows users to access and apply for scholarships without any cost.


HBCU Hub is a comprehensive online platform that provides information and resources specifically tailored to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It offers a range of features, including college profiles, scholarship opportunities, virtual campus tours, and a community forum. HBCU Hub is free to use.

College Scholarship Calculator from College Raptor

The basic features of College Raptor are available for free, allowing students to access important information about colleges and estimated costs without any cost. However, College Raptor also offers a premium version called College Raptor Premium, which provides additional features and services at a cost. The free version can still be beneficial for many students. is a widely recognized and free search platform that provides access to a large database of scholarship opportunities for students. It offers a user-friendly interface and allows students to search for scholarships based on various criteria such as academic achievements, interests, demographics, and more.

Fastweb College Scholarships

Fastweb offers a comprehensive database of scholarships from different sources, including corporations, foundations, and educational institutions. Fastweb is free to use.


Niche provides a wide range of information and resources for students and families navigating the college search and selection process. It offers college rankings, reviews, and data on various aspects of colleges and universities, including academics, campus life, and student experiences. Niche is free to use but also offers some premium features for a cost.


CareerOneStop is a highly regarded website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. It offers a wealth of resources for career exploration, job search, training programs, and employment information. Completely free to use, it provides users with access to tools like career assessments, occupation profiles, salary data, job search resources, and training program information at no cost.

Things to know when evaluating financial aid offers

1) Make a spreadsheet so you can compare various aspects of the award. Scroll down to download the one we created for FREE!

2) How much grant money vs. loan money is each school offering?

3) Are the grants renewable in subsequent years?  If so, are there GPA requirements, major requirements, academic progress requirements?

4) Will the grants received be the same amount in subsequent years?  Be aware that some schools give the most grant money the first year with reduced amounts in years to follow.

5) What kind of loans are offered?  Subsidized are best.  Beware of parent plus loans, which require families to have good credit, and which can cost double the loan amount in interest.  

6) If a student or parent is considering taking out loans, what will repayment look like?  You can estimate this by using the Loan Simulator at

7) If work study is listed, be aware that work study is dependent on the student finding an acceptable on-campus job that fits their schedule.  A work study job is not guaranteed.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a crucial resource for students seeking financial assistance for higher education. It is a form that students must complete to determine their eligibility for federal and state financial aid programs, including grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. FAFSA helps assess a student’s financial need and enables colleges and universities to determine their financial aid package. It is important because it provides access to various forms of financial aid, making college more affordable and accessible for millions of students each year. FAFSA deadlines vary, so be sure to submit the application as early as possible to maximize aid opportunities.

Remember to carefully review the eligibility requirements, deadlines, and application processes for each scholarship you consider. Pay attention to any essays, recommendations, or additional materials required, and make sure to submit your applications on time. Keep track of the scholarships you apply for and maintain a calendar to stay organized throughout the process. Lastly, be persistent and try not to get discouraged if you don’t receive every scholarship you apply for. Scholarships are really competitive, but the more you apply to, you increase your chances of securing financial assistance.

This Week’s Freebie:

032. College Entrance Exams

College Exams Homeschool

College Entrance Exams

What is the TSI and Accuplacer?
What’s the difference between the PSAT, SAT, and ACT?
How do I prepare my child for entrance exams?

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!
College Exams Homeschool

Episode 032:

Homeschool Podcast

Show Notes

There are often misconceptions surrounding homeschoolers and their performance on College Entrance Exams. People tend to believe that homeschoolers lack the necessary structure and resources to excel in these exams but that’s far from the truth! Homeschoolers are rocking these exams. It’s time to shatter those stereotypes and uncover the unique strengths of homeschoolers that make them stand out in the admissions process. But why?

If you are brand new to homeschooling, be sure to visit the Getting Started Page

Here are the top 5 reasons homeschoolers are performing so well on these exams:
  1. Personalized learning: Homeschoolers tailor their education to their strengths and interests, focusing on subjects they’re passionate about.
  2. Independent thinking: Homeschooling fosters critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities which gives them an edge on the challenges of these exams.
  3. Freedom to explore: Homeschoolers are not bound by a standardized curriculum, allowing them to go beyond the basics and develop a deeper understanding of subjects.
  4. Individualized attention: With one-on-one instruction or small groups, homeschoolers receive personalized feedback and guidance to address their weaknesses and improve.
  5. Genuine love for learning: Homeschooling encourages a love for learning, making the study process more enjoyable and resulting in a deeper understanding of the material.

In a world that’s obsessed with multiple-choice exams and bubble sheets, homeschoolers really do have the opportunity to break free from the shackles of standardized testing and embark on a truly personalized learning journey. They have the luxury of learning at their own pace.

One of the biggest benefits to homeschooling is not being subject to standardized tests and assessments.  Of course, as you get into the high school years, and college looms in the future, standardized testing becomes a reality. For many homeschoolers, this may be their very first standardized test.   As a homeschool parent, you should carefully plan your college testing strategy based on your student’s needs and their academic goals. No matter which one(s) your family chooses, it is important to prepare your student for them, in order to help them achieve the best results possible and to eliminate the stress involved. Testing can be very stressful for some students and adequately preparing them for them is a key to success. Scoring well on these tests can open the door to scholarships and entering your programs of choice in many colleges.

Homeschoolers often utilize a variety of resources and strategies to tackle these exams. They can take advantage of online courses, tutoring services, or study groups – there are even 

some specifically designed for homeschoolers. Additionally, many homeschooling families encourage their children to engage in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and internships – and these are going to provide valuable real-life experiences that enhance their overall knowledge and aptitude.

It’s important to note that colleges and universities are increasingly recognizing the unique qualities and strengths that homeschoolers bring to their campuses. Admission officers are looking beyond traditional measures of success and embracing the diversity of educational backgrounds. They understand that homeschoolers often possess remarkable qualities such as self-motivation, independent thinking, and a strong sense of responsibility.

What is the TSI/Accuplacer test? (9:58)

So, you may have heard about the TSI and Accuplacer Tests. The TSI (Texas Success Initiative) is a placement test used by colleges and universities in Texas to assess students’ readiness for college-level courses. (We live in Texas, so this is the exam our kids take.) The TSI covers three main areas: reading, writing, and math. It helps determine if you’re ready to jump right into college-level classes or if you might need some extra support in certain areas. 

The Accuplacer is another common placement test used by many colleges and universities across the US. Similar to the TSI, the Accuplacer assesses your skills in reading, writing, and math. It helps colleges determine which courses are the best fit for you based on your skill level.  Both the TSI and Accuplacer are usually taken before starting college to ensure you’re placed in appropriate courses. They’re not something to stress too much about. They’re designed to help colleges provide the right support and resources to set you up for success in your academic journey. 

Sections of the Accuplacer test can be used for the TSI (Texas Success Initiative). The TSI test assesses students’ readiness for college-level courses in Texas, and it may include sections from the Accuplacer test. The specific sections used for the TSI can vary depending on the institution and their requirements. So, when preparing for the TSI, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the content and format of the Accuplacer test, as the TSI may include similar sections. By practicing and reviewing material related to reading, writing, and math covered in the Accuplacer, you can better prepare yourself for the TSI and increase your chances of success.

For both of these tests, if you don’t score high enough in certain areas, you might have to take “pre” (not for college credit) classes in reading, writing or math before you can enroll in the college level classes (or you can go home and study a little more and retake the test until you get a high enough score).   Dual credit students aren’t often eligible for Pre or remedial courses, so sometimes not passing a section of this test may not limit you from school entry, but may mean you can’t take all available classes.  The Accuplacer and TSI can be taken as many times as you like, though there may be a charge.    

One cool thing about the TSI  is you don’t have to take every part at the same time. You have the flexibility to take each section separately and this can be beneficial especially for younger students wanting to start dual enrollment courses so they’re not overwhelmed with the one big long exam. 

Often in the public schools, students take this sometime during the spring or summer of their sophomore year so they can start dual enrollment classes during their junior years. But many homeschoolers are taking this exam younger and younger.  Some students take this exam following graduation if they don’t want to do dual enrollment in high school or if they plan to enter community college after they graduate. We talk about dual enrollment in depth in our last high school series episode so check that out if you want to find out more information about that.

Cost is minimal (Somewhere around $15 per section or $29, depending on the testing center).  Some offer it for free.  Some charge an additional $25 reservation fee.  Check with your institution’s  testing center for the particular school for which you’re taking the test.

Where to Find More Information and Practice Links:

What’s the difference between the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and CLT? (15:26)

One aspect of applying for college is submitting a college entrance exam score. A college entrance exam measures your achievement in core academic areas important for your college and career success. In addition to giving you an indication of your college readiness, your score can help match your interests with different majors and allow more educational and financial opportunities. These tests can be a very important part of the admissions process and can open the door to more educational and financial opportunities. Often time scholarships and merit aid are attached to test scores.  While many schools have transitioned to test optional admission, especially during Covid, that might not always apply to homeschooled students.

Let’s start with the PSAT. The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test is a good preparation for the SAT and can sometimes yield college scholarships for top scorers.  The exam comes in 3 forms- the PSAT 8/9, the PSAT/NMSQT and the PSAT 10.  The latter 2 are actually the same test, they are just taken at different times of the year.  The PSAT 8/9 acts as a baseline for college readiness, while the other two are more progress based.

PSAT 8/9, 10

If you’re a homeschooler in the 8th, 9th, or 10th grade, consider registering for the PSAT 8/9 or PSAT 10. Check with local schools or test centers to find out about registration procedures and test dates in your area. 


The PSAT (Preliminary SAT) //NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is like a warm-up for the big SAT exam. It’s a test that high schoolers usually take in their sophomore or junior year. Think of it as a practice round to get you ready for the real deal. But here’s the cool part: the PSAT/NMSQT also gives you a shot at the National Merit Scholarship Program. If you do really well on the test, you might just qualify for some awesome scholarships. So, it’s not just a practice run, it’s also a chance to score some serious cash for college.

The test is about 2 hours and 45 minutes long and covers reading, writing, language, and math. It’s a great opportunity to see where you stand and what areas you need to work on. Plus, you’ll get valuable feedback to help you improve for the SAT.

Homeschoolers can usually participate in the PSAT/NMSQT by reaching out to local schools or testing centers. They are sometimes legally obligated to accommodate homeschool students but can be tricky, so don’t hesitate to inquire about available test dates and registration procedures. You may also want to find out from other local homeschoolers if there is a preferred method for this- I know some of our friends have had better luck working through local private schools for this. Colleges do not see these scores, so they are just for students to gain testing experience and identify what areas they need to work on before they take the SAT. 

Cost: The cost of the PSAT/NMSQT varies, so it’s best to contact the school where you plan to take the exam to get accurate fee information.  It typically runs in the $18 range, but since you must order through a school, it may depend on the overall cost the school is incurring. They have to order the test for you. 

Test Dates: The PSAT/NMSQT is typically administered once a year in October. However, it’s essential to confirm the exact test dates and registration deadlines with the school where you are taking it.

Scoring: Scoring range is between 320 and 1520

More Info: For more comprehensive information, check out the College Board’s PSAT/NMSQT page. They offer detailed insights into the exam and related resources.

The Parents Guide to PSAT/NMSQT

National Merit Scholarship Program

How Does the National Merit Scholarship Program Work?

National Merit Scholarship Program: The PSAT/NMSQT serves as the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program. If you achieve exceptional scores, you can be considered for prestigious scholarships.  The program recognizes students who have demonstrated outstanding academic ability and potential. If you’re among the top scorers in your state, you’ll earn the prestigious title of National Merit Semifinalist. As a Semifinalist, you’ll have the opportunity to move forward and compete for the Finalist status. This involves submitting additional information, such as your academic record, extracurricular activities, and an essay. Then from the pool of Finalists, around 7,500 students are selected as National Merit Scholarship winners. These winners receive scholarship awards that can be used toward their college education. The scholarship amounts vary, but they can range from a one-time payment to renewable awards covering multiple years. 

Test takers who score in the top 1% of the PSAT become Semifinalists, a significant accomplishment. Each year the NMSC awards semi finalist status to around 16,000 high school students. So some homeschool advisors do recommend taking an honest assessment here though- if you think your child has a great chance to do well on the test, go for it.  If, on the other hand, you are fairly certain your kiddo is not going to score that high, you may be better off forgoing this test, and putting some time and money into solid test prep for the SAT/ACT later.  

Visit the National Merit website to learn more about eligibility criteria, benefits, and the selection process.


Most college-bound students take either the SAT or the ACT. Both the SAT and ACT exams are important for college admissions, and some students choose to take both to have more options. They have their own unique formats and scoring systems, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the specific requirements of the colleges you’re interested in. Remember, these exams are just one part of your college application. They give colleges a snapshot of your academic abilities, but they don’t define your worth or potential.  We talked a lot in our record keeping episode about other things that go into your college documents.

SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)

The SAT runs around 3 hours and features three subject areas – Math, Reading, and Writing. Each of the three sections is scored on a scale from 200-800. The test may include an optional 30-minute essay. SAT registration for homeschoolers is available online at the college board website.  SATs are offered on school day testing and Saturday testing. Starting in the Spring of 2023 the SAT will be moving to digital format.

Unlike the accuplacer/TSI, the SAT has to be taken all at once, and in a fairly strict, monitored and stressful environment.   It can be taken multiple times.  Most colleges consider a student’s best section scores across all administration dates (a process called superscoring). Some may require you to send all scores; others may ask for just one. Be sure to visit the website of the college that’s right for your student and check their score policy.

When: Usually taken spring of your junior year in high school or in the fall of your senior year.   We like to start in the junior year to give our students time to retake the test if they want to improve their grades, 

Cost:  $60 with the essay (many colleges want to see the essay- you can check and see if it is required).  

How to Sign-up:  You sign up for the SAT through the College Board website.   The test is only given on certain dates, and in certain locations (usually at a local high school), and there are registration deadlines a couple of weeks in advance of the test. 

Where to Find More Information and Practice Links:  the College Board website.  

ACT-American College Testing

The ACT (American College Testing) is a standardized exam that covers four main sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. The ACT exam does have an optional writing section, which includes an essay. While the essay is not a mandatory part of the ACT, some colleges and universities may require or recommend it as part of their admissions process. So, it’s worth checking the requirements of the colleges you’re interested in to see if they require the ACT essay.

Each section is designed to assess different skills. In the English section, you’ll tackle grammar, punctuation, and writing style. Math will put your problem-solving and mathematical reasoning to the test. The Reading section involves comprehending passages and answering related questions. And the Science section examines your ability to analyze and interpret scientific data.

Now, here’s the cool part: you don’t lose points for wrong answers! So, even if you’re not sure about a question, it’s worth taking a guess. 

Test Dates: The ACT exam is administered multiple times throughout the year. Check the official ACT website ( for upcoming test dates.

When: Typically taken during their junior or senior year. It’s advisable to plan ahead and consider your college application timeline. Many students choose to take the ACT in the spring of their junior year to allow for potential retakes if desired.

Where: ACT exams are held at designated test centers across the United States and in various international locations. You can find a nearby test center by using the test center search tool on the ACT website.

Duration: The ACT exam typically takes approximately 3 hours and 35 minutes to complete, including the optional Writing section.

Scoring: Scoring range is between 1 and 36

Cost: The basic registration fee for the ACT without the optional Writing section is $66. If you choose to include the Writing section, the fee increases to $91. However, keep in mind that costs may vary, so it’s best to refer to the ACT website for the most up-to-date pricing information.

Traditionally, the ACT exam has been administered on paper. The test booklet and answer sheet are provided to students, and they fill in their responses on the answer sheet using a pencil. However, starting in September 2020, the ACT introduced an online version of the exam called the “ACT Online.” This online version allows students to take the test on a computer at designated test centers. This online version provides an alternative for test takers who prefer or require a digital format. 

For more detailed information: registration instructions and resources to prepare for the ACT, visit the official ACT website. 

The Princeton Review- What is the ACT?

Comparing Both Exams

SAT and ACT remain the preferred testing choices by most colleges, but how do you decide which one to take? The SAT had long been seen as more of an aptitude test whereas the ACT has been more closely associated with testing students on their understanding of their high school curriculum. While some students take both tests, experts say that isn’t always necessary, and preparing for both presents a challenge due to the differences in each test. Each requires different strategies, and it’s best to become well-versed in one instead of going back and forth between the two. To help students make their decision, you can begin by taking a full-length practice test for each exam and see which is best suited for them.

It’s easy to say take both and see what you score better on but what I would say is take both and see what you prefer.  The two exams may appeal to different types of students, experts say, though it’s important students understand possible misconceptions. Because the ACT includes a science section, some say that typically leads students who excel in science and math to favor that test. The science section, however, is a combination of reading comprehension and data interpretation, experts say, adding that similar questions are embedded in other sections on the SAT. So your reading still has to be pretty high for you to understand the science in that section. One test may not be stronger for one set of kids versus another. 

Also, for both tests, some students avoid the writing test, because they do not think that they are adequate writers. The reality of applying to colleges is that providing a personal writing sample will occur at some point. Even if they don’t require the writing portion of the test, colleges may require a writing test during new student orientation, or somewhere along the college application process.


  1.  More time per question

    (170 questions, 3 hours and 20 minutes)

  1.  May have tricky questions
  2.  Nine short sections, plus essay
  3.  Experimental section
  4. No trigonometry
  5.  No science section
  6.  Vocabulary questions
  7.  Guessing penalty
  8. The SAT tests critical thinking

          and problem solving skills


  1. Less time per question

      (215 questions, 2 hours and 55 minutes)

  1.  Straightforward questions
  2.  Four long sections, plus essay
  3. No experimental section
  4.  Trigonometry questions
  5. Science section
  6.  No vocabulary questions
  7.  No guessing penalty
  8. The ACT is a content-based test

CLT-Classic Learning Test 

The CLT is a relatively new college entrance exam that’s gaining some buzz. The CLT is designed to assess a student’s critical thinking, logic, and reading comprehension skills. It takes a unique approach to testing, focusing on classical literature, history, and philosophy rather than the traditional content covered in other exams. The CLT is gaining popularity among homeschoolers and students who appreciate a more classical approach to education. It’s a great option if you have a strong foundation in liberal arts and want to showcase your critical thinking abilities to colleges that recognize the CLT.

CLT8, CLT10, and CLT

The CLT8, CLT10, and CLT exams are tailored to different grade levels, with the content becoming more advanced as students progress through school. If your student is in 8th grade, the CLT8 tests your skills at a level suitable for the age and grade. For 10th graders, there’s the CLT10, which is a bit more challenging to match progress in high school. The standard CLT exam is for 11th and 12th graders, covering a wide range of subjects and assessing readiness for college.

The CLT is entirely computer-based, which means they will be taking the test online. This can be a good option for students that prefer digital interfaces and typing over traditional paper and pencil exams. The CLT exam consists of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Grammar/Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning. There are passages to read, questions to answer, and even some essay writing. It’s a comprehensive test that challenges your student’s ability to think critically and articulate your thoughts effectively.

When: Typically taken in junior and senior years. However, it can also be taken by motivated students in lower grades who wish to challenge themselves with CLT8 and CLT10.

Test Dates: Offered multiple times throughout the year. You can check the official CLT website for upcoming test dates and registration deadlines.

Location: Designated test centers across the United States and select international locations. Visit the CLT website to find a test center near you.

Duration: The CLT exam consists of multiple sections, and the total testing time varies based on the level of the exam. Generally, it takes around 2-3 hours to complete.

Scoring: The CLT exam scoring ranges from 0 to 120. The scores are percentile-based, meaning they reflect how you performed in comparison to other test takers.

Cost: The CLT cost $54, the CLT 10 costs $44, and the CLT8 costs $34. 

Sign-up: To sign up for the CLT exam, visit the official CLT website and create an account to select desired test date and location, complete the registration process, and pay the exam fee.

Visit the official website for information about upcoming test dates, registration fees, and test preparation resources. 

How do I prepare my child for exams? (37:54)


You might be wondering about the best way to study and when to start studying for a college readiness assessment. There are four things you should consider doing when it comes to studying for a college readiness assessment. These practices will help you build confidence leading up to the test and prevent cramming or burnout.

  1. Take a practice test—Taking a practice test allows you to familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions asked. After you take a practice test, note your strengths but, more importantly, identify areas for improvement.
  1. Plan your practice and study time—Set aside small amounts of time for studying over an extended period. Keep a calendar of your schedule, but make sure to keep it flexible for surprise homework assignments, extracurricular activities, and fun.
  2. Keep a positive attitude—Practice positive thinking: imagine yourself sitting in the quiet test room, bubbling your answers on the scantron, meeting the challenge of the exam.
  3. Take a look at test prep options—They can help you become more familiar with the test format, gain confidence, and be ready on test day.


Helping your child practice for the specific test they will be taking is a great way to help them improve their test scores. There are many resources available to help your student prepare. There are a lot of tests available, each with their own test dates and necessary prep. 

All of the tests we have mentioned today have corresponding test study guides and books with practice tests.  Khan Academy has free test prep.  There are also a wide variety of test prep companies and tutors out there that can help provide services to teach your student strategies to use for the tests. 

One of the best ways to help your student feel confident on test day is to make sure that they know what to expect for the test. Different tests are organized in different ways, so students need to understand the structure of the test they will be taking. 

Khan Academy Test Prep

Number 2 Online

What is an Adaptive Test?

Students should also be aware of whether or not the test they will be taking is an adaptive test. Adaptive tests are customized for each student with questions that get easier or harder depending on whether or not the student is answering the questions correctly.

Adaptive tests can seem very difficult, even when students are doing very well. Students need to be prepared for this, so they don’t get frustrated by the more difficult questions on an adaptive test.

Pricing can range from free for some of the prep to being quite expensive. Don’t be intimidated if you have a small budget, you can get test prep books from the library, or even pick up these used books. 


Homeschool parents can help their students learn study skills and strategies for success on the specific test that they will be taking.

Crash Course has an entire “Study Skills” playlist:


To help your student be successful on testing day, there are a few things they should keep in mind.

BE PREPARED – Make sure you know exactly where the test center is located and how to get there before test day. You may need to arrive early, so make sure you leave enough time for unexpected delays.

SLEEP – Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before test day, so you are well-rested and energized during the test.

BREAKFAST – Eat a good breakfast before the test. This ensures that your brain is receiving all the nutrients it needs to function properly when test-taking. Eating something with protein like peanut butter is the best way to help you stay full and think clearly during the test.

CLOTHING – Choose your clothes carefully for test day. You want to make sure your clothes are comfortable and won’t be distracting. Wear layers so that you can adjust to the temperature of the room.

SUPPLIES – Make sure you bring all the supplies that you will need. Copy of registration, ID, permitted calculator, watch, pencils, snacks or drink.  Bring a sharpened No. 2 pencil with a good eraser.

HYDRATE – Bring a water bottle. This can be helpful if you get thirsty during testing. If the test doesn’t allow for easy access to water bottles, make sure to take frequent water breaks anyway, as staying hydrated is important.

NO RUSHING – When test day comes, get to the test center early and take some deep breaths to relax before the test begins. Once you are on the test, Pace yourself—don’t spend too much time on a single question. Eliminate as many incorrect answers as you can, then make an educated guess.  Remain calm and confident- you’ve prepared for this!

We hope we’ve given you some helpful tips and information about all the different test options out there and how to prepare your student.  

It’s a step towards building confidence, evaluating your progress, and preparing for future college entrance exams.

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