How early do I have to start planning for university?

(This is a part of the document that I used to hand out at my Ontario University Admissions seminar. Just thought I’d get it up online.)

The answer to this question depends in part on how you intend to enter university. Below you’ll find some general tips and suggestions for your high school program that address credit courses, standardized test prep, “top six” and portfolio-based options. Of course, these are just some general, brief guidelines to get you thinking about the process.

To earn the OSSD: start taking credit courses in “Grade 9″ and plan to take roughly 6 – 8 credit courses per year for four years.

To write Standardized Tests (SAT/ACT): follow a challenging English/Math program of your choice through “Grades 9 and 10″ and begin specific test prep in the fall of “Grade 11.”

To take 12U credit courses (“Top Six”): follow a challenging English/Math program through “Grades 9 and 10″ and begin with one or two 12U credit courses in fall of “Grade 11.” Finish the rest of the six courses in “Grade 12.”

To prepare a Portfolio: document activities (begin to prepare a transcript with course names, descriptions, lists of texts used, tables of content followed) starting in “Grade 9.” Start producing samples of graded, admission-level work (projects, essays, tests) in “Grade 11.”

To enter an open university directly: follow a curriculum according to interest and ability in “Grades 9 and 10.” Choose more challenging/advanced programs in areas of future specialization. For interests in humanities, develop solid writing skills early. For interests in social studies, develop advanced reading comprehension early. For interests in math/science/engineering/technical areas, develop solid math skills early. Begin your first course or two in “Grade 11.” Choose an area of strength or interest to start. Look ahead to courses you might take over the next 2 years and if need be, study specifically to prepare for those courses. Complete 4 – 6 courses over the course of 2 – 3 years. Then, decide whether to continue studying by distance or transfer as a university transfer student to a traditional university setting.

General Admissions Timelines – “Grades 9 and 10″

Decide on an admissions strategy to aim for:

  • Standardized Tests,
  • 12U credit courses (“Top Six”),
  • Portfolio/Transcripts,
  • Mature student entry,
  • Transfer from an open university.

Research admission policies:

  • Homeschool policy already in place?
  • Homeschool contact person at university?
  • Contact universities to confirm policies and establish relationship.

Personal thinking/planning about future

  • Am I a “science” person? A “history” person?
  • Do I have a specific profession in mind?
  • Do I want to attend university right after high school?

Begin formal documentation for portfolios/transcripts

  • Consult Ministry of Education course descriptions for curriculum topics by grade
  • Collect samples of work, externally-evaluated if possible
  • Keep exhaustive list of activities and use edu-speak to translate into courses

Start regular, academic writing

  • Argumentative/persuasive writing
  • Report writing
  • Grammar and style
  • Research and documentation
  • Organization and structure

Analysis of texts and literature (fiction and non-fiction)

  • Reading for meaning and content
  • Understanding tone, perspective, and bias
  • Use of figurative language
  • Themes and character development in works of fiction

Regular diet of pre-algebra/algebra

  • Basic arithmetic and order of operations
  • Integers, fractions, decimals
  • solving equations
  • rate, ratio, percent and proportion
  • linear and quadratic functions
  • linear and quadratic equations and systems of equations
  • analytic geometry
  • polynomials and factoring

Establish/Develop areas of academic interest

  • Having an “academic speciality” can go a long way to being noticed as a university applicant.
  • Put together your own “survey course” in a particular field
  • Explore professional/industry/career organizations in that area and familiarize yourself with their suggested links/resources

“Grade 11″ – credit courses or personalized study program for standardized tests

Attend university fairs (usually in the fall)

Visit university campuses – when students are there!

Language Development

  • Continue regular writing and revising – style and sentence variety
  • Work on improving, enriching vocabulary – consider studying lements of Latin, Greek
  • Read challenging texts, including those which are open to interpretation
  • Studies in current events/world issues
  • Elementary Logic, especially logical reasoning and fallacies for the purposes of evaluating arguments, identifying faulty reasoning
  • Traditional Grammar Study for clear, concise communication

Mathematics Development

  • Humanities students: Continue studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation
  • Business students: this should be a pre-calculus year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability””if possible, write AP Statistics exam this May””(or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
  • Social Science students: studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation with an emphasis on statistics and probability (or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
  • Science students: this should be a pre-calculus year (physics students should also consider this a pre-linear algebra year)
  • Math/Computer science students: this should be a pre-calculus and pre-linear algebra year. Completion of the equivalent of 11U Mathematics (Ontario) or Algebra 2 (U.S.) should be the goal.

Standardized Test Route

  • Start prep for SAT (and any AP exams) in the fall
  • Write SAT (May or June)
  • Write one or two “easier” AP exams (May)

Credit course route

  • Take one or two 12U courses in first semester (easier ones)
  • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester

Research universities – Method A: By School

  • Close to home vs. far away?
  • Finances and Scholarships?
  • Size of campus/classes?
  • Size of city/town?

Research universities – Method B: By Program

  • Where is the program available?
  • Co-op or internship possibilities?
  • Specialization or general?

“Grade 12″ – STANDARDIZED TESTS or 12U courses

Visit OUAC website in the fall

  • Contact OUAC in September re: applying as a home schooled student to receive appropriate login information or paper applications
  • download copy of INFO (available late Sept/October) for specific program requirements and application information

Language Development

  • Read and respond to challenging, classical texts – explore the universal themes of classic works and the elements of language used by the author to communicate his or her message
  • Use academic journals (instead of newspapers) to explore current issues
  • Choose some subjects to be studied “from the textbook” and develop the skill of learning independently from a textbook (perhaps choose a text you may be using next year in university – e.g. intro to psychology)
  • Attend local seminars held by museums or local colleges/universities
  • Join or form a book club with deadlines for reading and discussion dates

Mathematics Development

  • Humanities students: No further mathematics is typically required beyond studies from Grades 9 and 10, and/or SAT, but you may wish to consider preparing for a SAT Subject Test (Math I) or your university program’s breadth requirement in math/logic/statistics
  • Business students: study calculus (formally or informally) this year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability if not previously studied. Plan to write SAT Subect (Math I or II) test and/or AP Calculus & Statistics in the spring, if not previously written.
  • Social Science students: plan to write SAT Subject Test (Math I or II) and AP Statistics in the spring, if not previously written.
  • Science students: study calculus (formally or informally) and possibly linear algebra. Write SAT Subject Test (Math II) and/or AP Calculus in the spring
  • Math/Computer Science students: study calculus and linear algebra (formally or informally) with the intention of writing SAT Subject Test (Math II) and/or AP Calculus.

Standardized Test Route

  • Revisit prep for SAT in the fall if you wish to rewrite this year (Before Dec.)
  • Start AP and/or SAT II preparation in the fall
  • Write AP exams (May)
  • Write SAT II subject exams (Spring)

Credit course route

  • Take two or three 12U courses in first semester (ideally, have 6 done!)
  • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester, if desired/necessary

Other academic options for Grades 11 and 12

  • Volunteer placements
  • Internships, job shadowing
  • Online university/college courses (for credit or “open study” such as MIT)
  • Competitions and contests (e.g. music, academic)
  • Special camps/activities hosted by universities or community groups
  • Offer tutoring and/or mentoring to younger students
  • Outside certification courses (e.g. cooking, technology, athletics, public speaking, technical writing, swimming) in areas of interest and/or teaching classes in these areas
  • Specialized research project
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