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Preparing For College

Homeschool Resources

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, careful preparation prevents senior year from being overwhelming. 


Looking Ahead: Skills for College Success

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 such as 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 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. At PHC, 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 presented. 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.


Charting a High School Program: Minimum Courses for Admission

Patrick Henry College recognizes that 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 five 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.


Reading for College: PHC Literature List

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.

  • Homer: The Odyssey
  • Aeschylus: Agamemnon
  • Sophocles: Antigone
  • Aristophanes: The Clouds
  • Euclid: Elements
  • Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics; Politics
  • Plato: Apology; Phaedo; Crito; Euthyphro; The Republic
  • Virgil: The Aeneid
  • Augustine: City of God; Confessions; On Free Choice of the Will
  • Aquinas: Selections from Summa Theologica
  • Dante: The Inferno
  • Chaucer: “The Franklin’s Tale”
  • More: Utopia
  • Luther: On Secular Authority
  • Calvin: On Civil Government
  • Shakespeare: As You Like It; King Lear
  • Cervantes: Don Quixote
  • Milton: Paradise Lost
  • Hobbes: Leviathan
  • Swift: Gulliver’s Travels
  • Voltaire: Candide
  • Locke: Second Treatise
  • Rousseau: Discourse on Inequality; The Social Contract
  • Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Paine: Common Sense
  • Kant: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals; Perpetual Peace
  • Goethe: Faust
  • Shelley: Frankenstein
  • de Tocqueville: Democracy in America
  • Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment
  • Marx: The Communist Manifesto
  • Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilyich
  • Chekhov: The Cherry Orchard
  • Mill: Utilitarianism
  • Nietzsche: Basic Writings
  • Conrad: Heart of Darkness
  • Kafka: The Metamorphosis
  • Eliot: The Wasteland
  • Brecht: Mother Courage and Her Children
  • Beckett: Waiting for Godot
  • Pirandello: Six Characters in Search of an Author
  • Kirk: The Roots of American Order
  • Lewis: The Weight of Glory; The Discarded Image; The Abolition of Man
  • Beowulf
  • The Magna Carta
  • Mayflower Compact
  • Declaration of Independence
  • Articles of Confederation
  • The United States Constitution
  • Federalist Papers
  • Anti-Federalist Papers
  • The Rights of Man


Recordkeeping: Transcripts and Grading

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.


Making a Plan: College Preparation Timeline

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.

9th Grade

  • Research the most challenging course of study available
  • Develop good study habits
  • Begin constructing a literature list
  • Research standardized testing policies and learn about the SAT and ACT
  • Select a service area where you can volunteer
  • Join clubs and activities in areas of interest
  • Begin constructing a resume
  • Job shadow or participate in a career day, if possible
  • Build relationships with peers, teachers, mentors, and employers
  • Discuss post-high school plans with parent/guardians
  • Begin to discuss college costs with parents/guardians

10th Grade

  • Continue working on study habits and note-taking skills
  • Continue developing literature list
  • Register, prepare for, and take the PSAT/NMSQT (www.collegeboard.com)
  • Continue development of service activity
  • Begin to look for leadership roles in clubs/activities
  • Refine/revise/update your resume
  • Job shadow or participate in career day, if possible
  • Strengthen relationships with peers, teachers, mentors, and employers they will be writing recommendations for you down the road!
  • Attend college fairs
  • Continue discussing post-high school plans with parent/guardians
  • Review cost factors for college and investigate options

11th Grade

  • Take the most challenging academic program available
  • Develop a plan for taking standardized tests this year (SAT and/or ACT)
  • Demonstrate leadership and responsibility in your community
  • Make the most out of your part time job
  • Gather career information/take an aptitude test  job shadow if possible
  • Begin to consider which teachers, mentors, and employers you might ask to write recommendations
  • Begin researching colleges and developing a list of colleges that interest you
  • Request information from colleges on your list, including a sample application
  • Schedule campus visits at your top colleges and prepare questions in advance: meet with Admissions and Financial Aid, sit in on core and upper-level classes, attend chapel, meet with a faculty member in the field you’re considering, stay in a residence hall and eat in the college dining hall, talk with current students
  • Attend college fairs and evening college information sessions in your area
  • Research outside scholarship opportunities 
  • Continue talking with your parents/guardians about your college plans
  • Continue discussing college finances with parents/guardians

12th Grade


  • Finalize list of colleges where you will apply and request updated information (including applications, financial aid information, housing, etc.)
  • Take/retake SAT or ACT as advisable
  • Develop a checklist of application requirements  MEET DEADLINES!
  • Write application essays and line up recommendations
  • Send test scores and transcripts to colleges
  • Submit applications early (keep copies of all applications and forms)
  • Request college financial aid applications and complete CSS/Financial Aid Profile if desired


  • Send mid-year grade reports to colleges, if necessary 
  • Submit all financial aid applications/documentation


  • Keep senior grades up  it matters!
  • Visit or revisit schools where accepted, as needed
  • Make final decision  mail deposit to one school and notify all schools of your choice in writing
  • If waitlisted, contact the admissions office to indicate continued interest
  • Verify you have met all financial aid requirements
  • Notify colleges of any private scholarship awards


  • Submit all enrollment forms on time (class registration, college housing, medical forms, etc.)
  • After graduation, have your final transcript sent to the college Admissions Office
  • Create a first-year college budget with your parents/guardians
  • Research college town: banking options, grocery stores, medical services, etc.
  • Prepare for Orientation!


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!


Scholarship Resources

Learn about Financing For Patrick Henry College

Cost of Attendance