Top Ten Tips for Homeschooling the College Bound Student

Jun 10, 2020 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


For podcast Episode 223 Andrew Pudewa and Julie Walker invited Denise Boiko into the studio. The author of Homeschooled & Headed for College, Denise educated her own children beginning in kindergarten and continuing all the way through high school. She successfully helped them gain acceptance into Stanford University and the University of Southern California. Since then she has helped many more students achieve their own goals of college admittance. Denise has graciously written a blog post detailing her top ten tips for the college bound student, which we are posting below. In it she shares some great suggestions for boosting your students’ chances of being accepted into their dream college.

During my sixteen years of homeschooling my own two kids, followed by more than a decade of teaching hundreds of other homeschooled students, I’ve had plenty of time to think about which pieces of advice rise to the top. After a bit of pondering and a smidgen of agonizing, I’ve distilled my top ten. Granted, I did cheat a little: Some of these are multiple tips rolled into one. But here are my favorites.

  • Cultivate a love of learning. Have fun! This was likely one of your first goals for homeschooling, so don’t lose sight of it. Every so often, evaluate your methods for pursuing your goals. Is daily learning becoming an exercise in stress, frustration, and drudgery? Step back, brainstorm new approaches, jettison what’s not working, and inject some freshness. Try doing lessons outdoors from time to time. Return to the good old days, at least temporarily, revisiting successful learning modes from the past.
  • Encourage your students to sharpen their writing skills. Writing is a vital skill for college success (as well as for college admission), so don’t skimp or procrastinate on writing practice. Explore varied essay styles, such as research papers, personal statements, timed essays, persuasive writing, and literature analysis. Plan to give your student detailed feedback, or find a mentor who can.
  • Seek out extracurriculars with built-in opportunities for leadership and demonstration of passion. “Package” and “layer” extracurriculars in the student’s greatest areas of interest. For instance, if your student loves writing and journalism, aim for multiple goals: taking increasingly advanced courses, teaching younger students, writing for a newsletter or blog, initiating his or her own creative writing projects, entering contests, launching a paid or volunteer tutoring service, writing for community publications, or even authoring a full-length book or collection of stories.
  • Make friends with a few key websites early on. Investigate for SAT exam preparation, AP Central for AP course and exam advice, for the ACT test, and for a sneak peek at college applications. On these sites you can get a head start on planning high school objectives, searching for colleges, scoping out exam preparation, and investigating the “ingredients” of college applications.
  • Start drafting transcripts and course descriptions during ninth grade. It may sound über-early, but if you can capture course names, credits, grades, and a rough overall format, your transcript will be much easier to assemble when that all-important summer before senior year rolls around. Likewise, draft descriptions of courses (yes, each and every high school course), recording a couple of pertinent paragraphs and a list of textbooks and resources. This list is much easier to construct as you go along than to conjure up at the last minute.
  • Brainstorm and dream big for capstone accomplishments. Avoid a reactive approach to high school homeschooling. Instead, in addition to planning courses, brainstorm together to create a “dream” lineup of extracurriculars and leadership activities. How might your student leverage favorite activities, passions, gifts, and talents? Is there something major you’d both love to see happen? Assemble some mini-goals and logical steps, and maybe it will!
  • Network for jobs and internship opportunities among friends, relatives, and friends of friends. That fascinating internship or special experience that your student finally lands may very well come through an acquaintance rather than via a formal application process. As you seek out opportunities, ask everyone you know!
  • Watch for overload, and mitigate excessive stress. Ideally, homeschooling should bring a more flexible and less stressful environment, rather than overloading both student and parent. If your student is becoming visibly stressed, rethink your approach. Flex on some of the home-generated deadlines in order to meet outside course deadlines, and don’t be afraid to drop or minimize some activities and commitments.
  • Use summers wisely. Consider launching into those fascinating but time-consuming extracurriculars, leadership opportunities, jobs, or volunteer projects during the summer months. Also look into travel, mission trips, ministry projects, summer classes, or creative pursuits such as writing and artistic masterpieces. Maximizing the summers will take some of the pressure off during the school year or jump-start an activity that can continue during the year.
  • Keep your faith and family philosophy central to your homeschooling and home life. Talk and pray together; affirm your student’s value to your family and faith community. This foundation can help keep your student grounded during these years of exploration, stress, and change. As a family, steward your gifts and privileges, knowing that they are precious gifts meant to be shared. Academics and accomplishments are satisfying and admirable, but as a solid foundation for life, we all need basic human qualities of honesty, respect, love, faithfulness, and generosity.

Above all, relax and enjoy the journey!

Denise Boiko is the author of Homeschooled & Headed for College: Your Road Map for a Successful Journey, available at and on


This site contains affiliate links to products. While we may receive a commission for purchases, they are mainly intended for informational purposes.

Live Chat with IEW