If you’re wondering whether the process of applying to college after homeschool is challenging, then the answer is a qualified yes. But it’s not impossible. The truth is, college applications are always challenging and can be vastly different from applicant to applicant. It takes a lot of time and includes great detail, no matter what school your child graduated from. It’s also important to know that applications are no different for homeschooled college applicants than than for those who graduated from public schools.
Caught between government schools that simply aren’t good enough, and a $25,000-per-year average tuition for private schools, more parents are opting for homeschooling than ever before. That means more homeschool graduates are soon going to be applying for college. If you are currently in a situation where college admission is quickly approaching, I sincerely hope that some of the information you find in this article will help you and your child.
The Expected College Process
In many ways, as you approach graduation, everything starts out the same in choosing a college. For instance, it’s important to search until you find the school that is right for you. Check the courses they offer, especially for courses you’ll enjoy. Look for classes that can just as easily be taken online.
College entrance exams could be vitally important for the homeschooler. Even though there’s no necessary prep, these test scores will really stand out to your school of choice. The better that score is, the better your opportunity for success will be. On the other hand, colleges also know that some people simply do not do as well on tests as others do. That’s why they also pay as much attention to other aspects of your application.
The admission process can vary greatly. Make sure you’re ready to submit transcripts, recommendation letters, proof of community service and special achievements, and any necessary essay. The essay portion can really give you the opportunity to let your best traits shine through. If you find the application process particularly stressful, you might want to work with the admissions counselor from the school to which you are applying.
Many Colleges Are Warming To Homeschooled Students
Some schools, such as MIT, Yale, Harvard, and Stanford actively recruit students that were homeschooled. They have come to realize that homeschooled students are, in fact, better prepared to enter the college scene than many who went through an official “college prep” track in public school.
In order to make college more accessible to those who might not have “official” diplomas or transcripts, some colleges are accepting work portfolios in place of the academic documentation. Those with a proven homeschool record are truly in an advantageous spot as they often stand out from the crowd, differentiating themselves from the “normal” looking transcript. Most of all, colleges are starting to take notice of the fact that homeschooled students often have nearly three times as many college credits as those who were traditionally schooled through graduation.
Important Documentation to Include
Sometimes, contrary to normal expectations, a few selective colleges will look at a homeschool graduate differently than someone who graduated from public school. That is simply because they don’t yet know how valuable a homeschooled student can be to their student body.
In order to stand out and be proactive in your application, here are some things to include:
- A specific syllabus for every course taken.
- The specific timeframe utilized to complete each course.
- A reading list detailing every textbook, novel, and other literature read while in high school.
- A detailed educational philosophy for the homeschool.
- Descriptive details of the reason you were homeschooled as well as what your specific homeschool setting looked like. Caveat: Political correctness is a tragic reality of the culture in which we live. If your homeschool philosophy and detailed reasons lean too heavily on moral and ethical principles, be prepared to defend your position.
- A break-down of the grade-scale used in your included test results and portfolio packages
- Any recommendation letters you have from employment, internships, supervisors, or teachers of non-academic courses such as music and art.
Offer Important Information
When a homeschool graduate applies to a college of their choice, they almost always want to know the details about your homeschooling experience. Why homeschool was the chosen academic avenue, how studies were accomplished, and a wealth of other information that can paint a very accurate picture. Be sure to tell the story as you want that particular college to know it.
Some Admissions Officers even admit that more detail is better than not enough. This gives them the opportunity to see the full picture. For instance, if your narrative covers opportunities that were unusual or if you provide other information that is unique in some way, it creates a different level of interest in you.
College prep and dual-credit classes are very important bits of information to include as well. It shows the Admissions department that the graduate has always been serious about college enrollment and took extra steps to assure their further education. Even better, those homeschool students who developed connections with instructors outside the home-learning environment also have the benefit of a possible letter of recommendation from that instructor.
Make sure that any standardized test scores are included when applying for any college, even those for which testing is not mandatory. Good test results paired with a proven track record of doing more than what public or private schools would require is a great way to make an excellent first impression.
Adaptation Can Be A Challenging Process
After spending any number of years as a homeschooled student, adapting to a structured environment such as college can be a bit of a challenge. Since bullying can be as prevalent in some colleges as it is in high schools and middle schools, be prepared to deal with those who lack the ability to stifle comments about socialization.
Homeschooled students may also be challenged to blend in or conform. Most homeschoolers are very independent and will need to adjust to “classroom etiquette”, especially if those “rules” are unwritten. But, as time wears on, the comfort of sitting in a room with an average of 30 or more students will begin to grow.
It’s also a fact that homeschooled students are free from the influence of those that have different moral principles or religious beliefs. However, in college, that will change quickly. That’s why proactive teaching, prior to the college years, is of the utmost importance. Making sure the student knows “why” certain things are bad or to be avoided can go much further than simply putting your foot down with a firm “No”. “But santify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)
A class on public speaking is never wasted if one wishes to attend college. Anyone in college who is comfortable with speaking in public will automatically outperform their peers in this area. It also boosts self-esteem, lessens the risk of anxiety, creates great organizational skills, and of course, communication skills.
Time management is now more important than at any other point in the academic career. It isn’t always necessary in homeschool, where things can be relaxed, laid-back, and simple. In college, however, you will be the captain of your own ship, which means you’ll have to balance your time between fellowship with friends, homework, dating, extracurricular and volunteer opportunities, and anything else that demands your time.
Tips for Homeschool Students
If you are currently still in high school, which is a great time to start reading articles like these, then I have a few tips for you. These are likely to help you stand out on your transcript and application, help you tell the difference between myth and fact, and help you chart your course if a college education seems certain.
A GED is not necessary for federal aid. If you are getting ready to enroll in college, be prepared to combat this myth, which many colleges currently believe to be true. Those without a GED are just as capable of applying for federal financial aid as any other college applicant. Speak with a local financial aid officer before crossing any college off your list because of this reason alone.
Be prepared by being involved. Most homeschooled students are certainly more involved in their respective communities than public-schooled teens. Take every opportunity to get involved in extra-curricular activities, groups, and opportunities that give you a chance to be active and contribute to your community.
The importance of the application essay for homeschooled students is underrated. Even if college Admissions personnel usually skip over the essay portion of the application process, homeschooled student essays are always read. Normally, other documentation that accompanies most public-school transcripts will be enough. But when you are homeschooled, more weight is given to this essay, to specific test scores such as the ACT and the SAT, as well as any letters of recommendation you might have procured.
Rack up as much college credit as is feasible for you. Dual enrollment opportunities, distance learning, AP coursework, and CLEP testing are all integral parts of jumpstarting your college education. Especially for the homeschooled student, these extras not only show how seriously you take your college education, but how early you were planning to get that head start. The more you have to show in this area, the more you will stand out during college admission.
If you are considering college after homeschool, attending one of our regional Great Homeschool Conventions can be an amazing asset. You’ll find exceptional information in our various workshops and by listening to our featured speakers. From there, you will meet many homeschooling families who are currently on a college prep course of study, as well as those students who graduated from homeschool and have already gone on to, or through, college themselves.
Our seven regional conventions are located around the country, with one that is probably near you. However, for those who must travel, we offer hotel discounts, military discounts, and free admission for any active clergy members. It is our hope that these will all help you to be able to attend as well.
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And remember, Great Homeschool Conventions are: Encouraging… Equipping… FUN!