As high school graduation draws nearer, students and parents alike have more to consider each year. While navigating the college admission process may seem complicated, with careful preparation now senior year does not need to be overwhelming.
There are several ways a student may prepare during high school to take full advantage of our programs. The most important thing a student can do is to pursue a broad, challenging college-preparatory curriculum. Students should not shy away from taking difficult subjects. We like to see students who have taken significant amounts of math and science in high school, because these subjects are noted for their rigor and analytical strength. Advanced courses starting with trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, and physics are especially impressive on a student’s academic transcript. For a list of minimum high school course requirements, please see the section below, titled Charting a High School Program: Minimum Courses for Admission.
Another important area of preparation involves reading the classical works of western literature. Students should note the advice of Pliny that it is better to read, not many works, but a few important works carefully. In other words, carefully reading Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Herodotus’ Histories, Vergil’s Aeneid, four or five of Plato’s dialogues, and a few of Cicero’s speeches is far better preparation than any one hundred titles, fiction or non-fiction, from the last fifty years. The ambitious student should read these Greco-Roman classics, and then move on to Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Dickens, Dostoevsky, and others.
The final component of preparing well for college is learning to write effectively. This means writing according to the standards that others have set for clean and careful prose. On campus, we use Kate Turabian’s writing manual and the Elements of Style by Strunk and White. High school students would do themselves a tremendous favor if they purchased these texts and practiced the principles they present. As one of our faculty members notes, “By the time one has reached college, spelling should not be a challenge, punctuation should not be hung on a sentence like Christmas ornaments, and arguments should proceed from premises to conclusion, not from opinions to bald assertions.” We have a very writing-intensive curriculum, so when we review applicants for admission, we pay careful attention to writing skills.
Patrick Henry College recognizes there are many legitimate approaches to preparing for college. Regardless of the form of academic preparation, applicants must provide documentation of all high school level studies. The College requires that prospective students complete a minimum of 18 high school level courses. The following courses should be completed prior to admission to Patrick Henry College.
English: Minimum of four courses. To be well-prepared, students should pursue a well-rounded, college preparatory English program that emphasizes literature, grammar, and composition. Examples: Grammar, Literature,Ccomposition, Speech, and Debate. Please note: Competitive speech and debate may count for one English course.
Mathematics: Minimum of three college preparatory courses, which must include: Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry. Examples: Algebra (I & II), Geometry, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus. To be well-prepared, students should take courses at least through trigonometry.
Science: Minimum of two different college preparatory courses. Examples: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. It is preferred that students complete three courses and that those courses include labs.
History: Minimum of two courses, which must include at least one comprehensive course in U. S. history and one comprehensive course in world history.
Government: Minimum of one course. The course should cover material on local, state, and federal government.
Foreign Language: Minimum of one course. Examples: French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Italian, Latin, or Greek. It is preferred that students complete two consecutive courses.
Electives: Minimum of 5 courses. Examples include Bible, Fine Arts, Logic, Rhetoric, Music, Economics, Geography, and Computer courses, as well as courses in areas such as biblical worldview and apologetics.
The following is a partial list of the books studied in various courses across PHC’s core curriculum. This list can serve as a guide to the genres and quality of literature that can best prepare students for PHC’s academic program.
Preparing a transcript can present special challenges for homeschooling families, but recordkeeping doesn’t need to be an intimidating process. The goal of a successful transcript is to document high school coursework and provide a means of evaluating the student’s academic mastery. Each student’s high school background is different, and PHC recognizes that there is no single educational model that best prepares all students for college-level work. Homeschooling families should not wait until beginning the college application process to prepare a high school transcript; rather, PHC recommends keeping an ongoing list of all courses, grades, and extracurriculuar and volunteer activities throughout high school. For your convenience, a transcript template and sample high school transcript are available for you to download. Your transcript may use one of a variety of formats, but all transcripts should include the following information:
Subjects studied, with specific course titles. Please include a brief course description if the content of the course is not readily apparent from the title.
Units, credits, or another method to indicate the course duration and amount of material covered in each course. A typical year-long high school course covers 1 credit worth of material; a semester-long course is typically ½ credit.
Year or months in which each course was completed.
Grades for each course (please include your grading scale on the transcript). Please note: PHC strongly prefers that the transcript list a grade for each course. If grades are not assigned, please use some other means to indicate the level of mastery in each course to allow the Admissions Review Committee to accurately understand and assess the student’s achievement.
Any courses planned or in progress for a current high school student, any high school level courses completed prior to ninth grade, and any college-level courses completed for dual high school/college credit.
Verification that a student has completed or will complete the designated high school program with a full graduation date (i.e. June 15, 2008, not June 2008).
An original signature, hand-signed in ink by the school administrator (usually the parent).
Optional information: extracurricular activities, volunteer and service areas, special awards or honors, and standardized test scores.
As an alternative, homeschooling families may provide a narrative description of a student’s college preparatory work, including a description of subjects studied and an overall evaluation of the quality of work. In order to evaluate applicants thoroughly, the College needs to know what subjects applicants have studied as well as when and to what extent they studied them.
If applicable, you may want to prepare an addendum with additional information that will help the Review Committee better understand your high school program, such as course/curriculum descriptions or your school’s specific educational philosophy. For example, it is helpful to indicate if your curriculum followed a classical or Great Books model, emphasized interdisciplinary courses, or used a unit studies approach.
The following year-by-year college planning guide (adapted from monster.com) can help you plan to make the most of your high school years. By beginning your college search early you can prepare for admission and scholarship requirements, be ready for application deadlines, and ultimately make an informed, confident college choice.
The following online resources can help you through the college search process with information on standardized testing, scholarship searches, and more. As always, please contact the Office of Admissions at PHC with any questions as you continue your college preparations!