Denise Boiko began investigating the college admissions process during her children's junior high years since her daughter aspired to attend a very competitive college. As you might expect, the whole family was absorbed into the process, and they ended up doing so much research that it made sense to organize the information they discovered into a book to make it available to others.
What sets this book apart from some others on the same topic is the extensive coverage on planning for those aiming for highly competitive colleges since that was the route Denise’s daughter and son both selected. Even though that information is included, those not aiming that high can skip sections that are irrelevant to them and still have everything they need.
Denise begins with a discussion of junior high, suggesting that home educators view it as a warm-up for high school. She stresses planning ahead so that students take the correct classes even as early as junior high, but especially once they begin their freshman year. To that end, she shows how to plan the entire high school course of study as well as each year's lineup of courses.
Denise makes very practical suggestions such as evaluating a student’s proficiency in various areas of English language arts, then targeting study areas rather than taking comprehensive, repetitive courses. For example, a student with a solid grasp of grammar and punctuation should not be completing a text that reviews nouns, pronouns, punctuation, etc. That time might be better spent focusing on composition or literature.
At more than 400 pages, this book is loaded with detailed information, charts, and examples. Among the topics she covers in depth are:
- Writing course descriptions
- Many resources for courses plus ways to create courses yourself
- AP courses (the most extensive information I’ve seen in similar books)
- Community college courses
- Extracurricular activities and developing leadership skills (these two are of particular interest to colleges)
- Transcripts and diplomas
- High school timetable – an entire chapter suggesting things that need to be done each year, with items broken down into those needed to be done each season or month during the last two years
- College selection
- PSAT, SAT, and ACT exams
- The college application process
- Financial aid and scholarships
- Internships and career planning
- Survival tips for parents
- Preparing for college life
At the back are very useful lists of resources and websites. Published in 2010, this is an up-to-date book that highlights the wealth of information and resources available on the internet.
As you read the book, it is clear that Denise Boiko is a Christian from the occasional mentions of faith-related issues and discussion of worldview courses, but this isn’t a dominant theme and shouldn’t be enough to put off non-religious home educators.
This is not intended to be a curriculum manual. Denise recommends some resources but does not attempt to provide comprehensive information on curriculum choices. In terms of the topics that Denise does cover thoroughly, only one area seems a little light--information on highly competitive athletes and athletic scholarships. This is a very specialized area, and those pursuing sports scholarships and/or careers will need to do some additional research, perhaps contacting Home School Legal Defense Association as a starting point.
I very much appreciate the fact that this book is based on both research and experience. Denise frequently mentions pitfalls or cautions that are not obvious. For example, you need to be aware of situations where community college credits might cause problems for admission to competitive colleges or qualifying for scholarships.