Homeschoolers have a lot of advantages in the college search. They have more time to work on special projects, more freedom to choose interesting classes, more time and freedom to find opportunities for leadership and community service. Even the most highly selective colleges are happy to accept homeschoolers in large numbers. In fact, in 2014 Stanford University accepted 27% of the homeschoolers who applied, vs 5% of the conventionally-schooled students.
But homeschoolers do have a big disadvantage: their "school" experience is so outside the norm, they need to find a way to communicate all that they are to Admissions officers. Colleges who are unable to see that you are ready for higher education and capable of doing the work will not admit you. Traditionally, this explanation has been done via physical portfolio. It still is, but there's a much easier way to create and share all this information.
Creating a website
For those who have not done this before, the very idea is intimidating. "I don't know how to code! What is HTML? Don't people do this for a living?" New free hosting sites like Weebly and Wix take all that scary coding stuff and replace it with easy to use templates and drag-and-drop functionality. I'm going to focus on Weebly because that's the site I used to build the sample portfolio website, but the same thing can be done with Wix or Wordpress. (Another option is a Linked In resume, but I find having a website is more easily customizable and less unwieldy.)
Homeschooled teens are very attractive candidates for admission to the colleges of their dreams. A portfolio website is the easiest way to get there.
1) Picking a site name and template are the first things you have to do. Keep the name simple and professional--the student's name, for example. Whatever you pick will be added to ".weebly.com" if you choose a free site, so you want to keep it easy to type.
Templates come in a multitude of colors and styles. You should be able to find one to fit your personality. If, after working with the site for awhile, you decide you don't like it, you can easily pick another, and all the content you've added will stay where you put it.
Your site should be clean and well organized, so Admissions officers and scholarship judges can easily find what they're looking for. In the detail below, you can see that the About Me tab links to a personal statement page, it also shows a drop down menu of specific pages for grades and for honors and awards. In addition, there's a button on the home page that goes directly to the transcript page because the transcript is likely the first thing Admissions officers will look for.
2) Colleges want to see some specific things from an applicant. The three most important things to include in a homeschooler's portfolio, as distinct from a traditional school student's portfolio, are the transcript, the standardized test scores and the work samples.
A note about the transcript webpage: You'll notice the header uses a different picture of the student from the home page. The template I'm using was designed for a yoga studio and had yoga pictures preloaded as headers. These templates are fully customizable, so you can change everything that doesn't fit the image you're trying to project. Try to find a header image that fits the subject of the page.
You may notice the picture at the top of this page is a professional image that I was able to download and use royalty-free from Hubspot. Unsplash.com is another good source for royalty-free images. If you choose to use commercial images on your site, please follow the rules for crediting them (Creative Commons, etc.). Please don't steal images.
3) The following sections will be similar for homeschoolers and traditionally-educated students.
Candid and other personal photos are great at telling your story. However, if there are other people in them, please let them know you will be publishing their photo on your website. Be especially careful with photos of small children. Images can get stolen, cropped and used for all kinds of purposes you may not have intended. Ask when you take the picture, "Do you mind if I put this on my website?"
Speaking of extracurriculars, any project your student has done that is particularly important may rate its own tab. This student spent a year training for and walking a series of marathons to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Although this is arguably community service, I chose to break this information out to its own page to show its importance to him as a person. Text interspersed with photos tells the story. I encourage you to find your own particularly meaningful story to showcase. Think of it as a photoessay for college.
Although it takes some time, creating a portfolio website will save your student a lot of time and hassle when applying to colleges and scholarships. No papers to copy, snail mail addresses to track down or concerns about how to get certificates, Word documents and memorabilia into a single file. Creating their own website is also a great project for your student to demonstrate his or her 21st Century skills. Homeschooled teens are very attractive candidates for admission to the colleges of their dreams. A portfolio website is the easiest way to get there.
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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