According to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, homeschooling is on the rise in America.
The pandemic, coupled with teacher shortages and other public school challenges, have resulted in many families seeking alternative school options. Homeschooling is becoming a popular choice. Fortunately, homeschooling is not new and many students have successfully gone to college after homeschooling for their K-12 years. In fact, colleges often seek out homeschool applicants and have developed specific admissions criteria to make the process more user friendly for homeschool families. Let’s explore: how do homeschoolers get into college?
In most cases, homeschoolers are evaluated on the same criteria as students who have attended public, charter, or private schools. Colleges evaluate students on grades, courses taken, and standardized test scores. In recent years, colleges and universities have been placing more emphasis on students’ personal statements, interviews, and letters of recommendation. Homeschool students are able to provide the same documentation as traditional students in all of these categories.
Another way for homeschool students to show they are ready for college, is to earn college credit while still in high school. There are three different ways to do this: 1) take classes at a local college or university; 2) pass a CLEP exam; or 3) pass an AP exam. Regardless of how you demonstrate your academic acumen, remember that colleges and universities want homeschool students to attend. So, there is no try, just apply.
A transcript is a record of all of the courses taken during a student’s academic career. Homeschool families can create this document. If you are not sure how to create a homeschool transcript, No worries, you can begin by completing the SRAR (Self Reported Transcript). This is a free service.
Many colleges and universities have students complete this first, upon application, and only require an “official” transcript upon acceptance. This will allow you to see what type of information the school is looking for including: course name, grade in course, and for ambiguous course names, a course description and/or syllabus can be helpful. The transcript is used to determine if a student meets the admission requirements.
For example, a student applying to Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering is required to prove they have taken Calculus. A transcript is used to verify this information.
Homeschool Standardized Test Scores
The ACT is the name of one, popular, standardized test. The test score is often required as part of a college application. The ACT consists of four (4) sections: English, mathematics, reading, and scientific reasoning. There is also an optional writing section. Homeschool students can sign up to take this test at a local high school or testing center. It is a timed test, but accommodations are available if necessary. The SAT is another standardized test option.
Many college applications will accept either test. The SAT has three (3) sections: math, reading, and writing/language. Like the ACT, students can register to take this test at a local testing center. Recently, some colleges have gone “test optional”. However, for homeschool students, tests are often highly encouraged or even required.
For instance, Ball State University has specific requirements for homeschool applicants including requiring homeschooled students to provide their SAT and/or ACT scores. Don’t let the test intimidate you, there are a lot of free resources to help you prepare to take these tests.
Homeschool Personal Statement
Homeschoolers often have unique and varied experiences that make them excellent college applicants. The personal statement is an opportunity for homeschool students to highlight their strengths and experiences.
For example, the University of Florida boasts a holistic approach and a willingness to weigh both academic and non-academic accomplishments. The personal statement is an excellent place to highlight your nonacademic accomplishments including work experience, volunteer activities, and travel.
Homeschool Counselor Recommendation
In addition to hearing what you have to say about yourself in your personal statement, many colleges and universities also want to hear what others have to say about you – in particular, your guidance counselor. For the homeschool student, this will most likely be your parent or guardian.
The University of Dallas, like many schools, requires this specific recommendation as part of the Common App. They have even developed specific guidelines for this letter to be sure it meets their criteria. Here is a sample of what they are looking for in this letter: Distinctive Qualities, School & Curriculum, Academic History, Activities & Interests, and Final Recommendation. It is important for caretakers to be objective in this letter.
Homeschool Letter of Recommendation
Furthermore, many colleges want to hear from more than just you and your family. They want to hear from others who have experience with you during your high school career. Such as Montclair State University, which requires two (2) letters of recommendation from homeschool applicants. It is very important to select the best candidates to write your letters of recommendation.
Ideally, select someone who is not related to you and who can attest to your academic prowess or other unique skill or talent. If you have taken a course at a local college or university, your professor would be a good candidate to write you a letter of recommendation. If you excel at athletics or performing arts, your coach or mentor could write you a strong letter of recommendation. Be sure the person you select knows you well and can share with your prospective college or university why you would be an ideal fit for their school or program.
Homeschool Dual Enrollment
Many homeschool students opt for dual enrollment during highschool to make their college application stand out. This allows them to earn both high school and college credit. It also prepares them for the rigor of college.
Many colleges and universities offer an early scholars program, allowing high school students to take college classes for credit. For example, the University of Nevada, Reno has an Early College Academy that allows high school students to dual enroll, allowing courses to satisfy both high school graduation requirements and college credit. These programs are usually non-degree seeking, however, the courses can still be used toward a degree once the student graduates from high school.
Each school has their own admission requirements which may include a test like the ACCUPLACER or ALEKS to ensure proper placement in Math and English courses. Dual enrollment is a great way to impress admissions committees and prepare you for college.
Homeschool and CLEP
Other homeschool students opt to take the CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exam to show mastery in a variety of subjects, while potentially earning college credit. There are thirty-four (34) different CLEP exams in core subjects including: English, math, social science, business, and foreign languages. Roughly, 3,000 schools accept CLEP scores and award credit based on the scores.
CLEP is a part of the College Board umbrella and the College Board site maintains a list of College CLEP policies on its website. The cut score varies per institution. Let’s look at a scenario. Let’s say you are an American History buff and planned to take the History of the United States I: Early Colonization to 1877 CLEP exam.
If you were attending The University of South Florida, you would need a score of a 50 to earn 3 college credits. However, if you were planning on attending Missouri University of Science & Technology, you would need a score of a 57 to earn 3 college credits. Yet, a lower score could demonstrate high school mastery of the subject.
Homeschool and AP
College Board offers another way for students to experience the rigor of college and potentially earn college credit through their AP (Advanced Placement) program. There are several ways for homeschool families to participate in AP classes.
First, many homeschool curriculum providers offer AP classes. However, if you prefer, you can create your own syllabus and go through the course audit process to offer your own AP class. In May of each year, all AP students take an exam. The score from this exam is the basis for colleges to offer college credit.
Similar to CLEP, AP credit varies from institution to institution. However, as a rule of thumb, credit is not awarded for scores below a three (3).
Homeschool College Application Checklist
- Check your school’s website for homeschool specific guidelines
- Take the ACT or SAT
- Create a Transcript
- Write a Personal Statement
- Have your caretaker write the Counselor Recommendation Letter
- Obtain at least 2 Letters of Recommendation
- Take a class or two at a local college or university
- Take an AP or CLEP Test
- Complete the Common App for colleges and universities
Homeschool students successfully get into colleges and universities on a regular basis. Although, initially, the application process can feel daunting. Do not be dissuaded. Colleges and universities are lucky to have homeschooled students on their campus, as these students often provide unique perspectives from their experiences.
Be sure to follow the application checklist and before you know it, you will be experiencing college life at your perfect-fit college or university. Remember what Yoda said: “Do or do not. There is no try” and Just Do It – Apply today!