Getting into A First Choice College

December 9, 2020
Written by:
Jamie Gaddy

Congratulations! You’ve been working hard and now the end of your high school journey is in sight.

It’s time to review your plan and make sure that what you’ve set in place will still carry you and your high schooler to his or her goals! Let’s review:

  • Always begin high school with the end in mind
  • Revisit the age-old question, “What do you want to do for a career?”
  • Are you sure your course of study will help you get there?
  • Are there alternative ways for you to arrive at your goal?
Getting in to My First Choice College
Click here to download the worksheet!

Take a minute to download the printable worksheet. This will help you and your teen work through these questions in a systematic way and give you a record to refer back to when you review and make plans.

Additionally, we have numerous resources to help support you and your teen through the high school years as homeschoolers. Make sure to download our free teen homeschool planner, and read through our free eBook guide for homeschooling high school. We also have a free career explorations course with very applicable information for narrowing down possible careers.

Here’s what we’ll discuss in this blog:

  • College Requirements and Planning
  • CLEP Testing Information
  • Dual Enrollment Information

College Requirements and Planning

We typically encourage teens to “reverse engineer” their high school years so that they are sure to fulfill all the requirements of their “first choice” college. Because colleges frequently change their guidelines, it’s a good idea to revisit their requirements each year to verify that you are headed in the right direction.

Each college has unique requirements. Though certain elements are likely required by most (e.g. a high school diploma or equivalent), you will always find differing requirements as you research. Each college and university offers slightly different programs and therefore the requirements for studying at the school shift as well.

College requirements also differ with the type of school. For example, if your heart is set on the ivy league schools, you have a lot more work ahead of you than if you wanted to attend a state university. However, if you need a more affordable option, community college is still an excellent choice! If you don’t qualify for Financial Aid and you can’t afford college tuition, one of the very best options is University of the People, which is tuition-free and nationally-accredited.

Some common differences: ivy league schools may require admissions interviews, application essays, an accredited diploma, and related extracurriculars while state universities may only be interested in SAT/ACT scores. Further, community colleges offer free applications and they usually don’t require a high school diploma. 

All that to say, keep in mind that the requirements will shift with the kind of school in which you are interested.

Other resources for help with determining your course of study:

CLEP Testing Information

CLEP testing is a great option to consider when creating a four-year plan. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program, which is offered by the College Board. In short, it is testing for college credit. When a student passes a CLEP test at a testing center, he or she will be awarded equivalent college credit as if the corresponding college course had been taken. 

As a result, CLEP tests are a helpful way to save money and time in high school. Testing for credit can work as dual credit for both high school and college and can help your teen graduate high school early (and college!). Don’t feel pressured though, even if you only take one CLEP test, you’re ahead!

There are two other fairly new but approved alternatives to CLEP testing: and Saylor Academy. Both of these services operate on the same idea as CLEP, which is testing for credit. The differences lay in that Sophia and Saylor do not rely on one major test as a pass or fail exam. Instead, Sophia and Saylor are mini-courses, which can be taken as quickly as you like. Sophia has a series of quizzes and tests, and a certain number must be passed to earn the college credit. As for Saylor, the courses are free but students must pass a final exam (which may require a proctor) to earn college credit. 

The benefit of these services over CLEP is that the study materials and lessons are all included whereas, for CLEP, official study guides do not exist. For CLEP test studying, a student needs to procure a course textbook for that particular test (e.g. College Composition I). Because the study materials are not associated officially with the test, the material may or may not be on the test. CLEP has been a tried and true method, but for students with testing anxiety, Sophia and Saylor may be more helpful options.

Dual Enrollment Information

Using dual enrollment as part of your college preparedness plan is an amazing way to get a jump start on your college courses. Dual enrollment is a community college program in which high schoolers work on high school and college credit simultaneously. Consequently, dual enrollment fulfills high school credits while also satisfying certain college general education courses to save time getting a degree.

Oftentimes, dual enrollment is a free program for high schoolers. Keep in mind, though, a free program is not offered at all community colleges. However, your high schooler can still participate in dual enrollment! Even if your community college requires tuition, the credit can still count for both high school and college. Therefore, a tuition-based dual enrollment experience can still be an excellent homeschool investment.

Find out more in our articles on dual enrollment:

Jamie Gaddy

Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been a part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional school and homeschool became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, editor, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children in Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience to help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected].