College Admission Requirements for Homeschoolers
College admission is stressful and challenging for any student, but homeschoolers face additional difficulties above those of their public- and private-schooled peers. If you went through home school either partially or wholly, you must be aware of the specific college admission requirements for homeschoolers.
In the past, homeschoolers have had difficulties with college admission. The Higher Education Act was modified in 1998 to make it easier for those in home schooling to apply to college, but there were fears among university administrators that accepting homeschooled students would affect their federal funds. Only a few colleges accepted homeschooling as a valid alternatives for more traditional high school learning.
In 2003, the Department of Education clarified its position by stating that no university would be penalized in their federal funding in any way for accepting a homeschooler. It also more clearly defined the admission and application requirements for homeschooled students. In the years that followed, the majority of U.S. universities altered their admissions policies to evaluate homeschooled applicants in the same way as all other applicants.
College Applications for Homeschooled Students
Many universities, including top-ranked colleges and Ivy League schools, receive applications from a substantial number of students with all or part of a home school education. According to the Harvard College Director of Admissions, "We are looking for the strongest candidates in the world and we find some of those among homeschoolers."
Harvard College, along with other top universities, evaluates traditional and homeschooled applicants the same way. Prospective students must submit their scores for either the SAT I or ACT tests — I wrote previously about how to choose between the SAT and ACT — and typically their scores for three SAT II Subject Tests. These standardized tests allow the university to compare homeschooled applicants with traditional students, so scores on these tests are particularly important for homeschoolers.
Your coursework as a homeschooler is also important. You should ensure that you are taking classes that match in subject and difficulty with the most rigorous offerings at local public and private schools. The more closely the rigor of your homeschool curriculum matches that of traditional schools, the more likely you are to be compared positively with your peers. According to the Harvard College admissions website, "an ideal four-year preparatory program includes four years of English, with extensive practice in writing; four years of math; four years of science: biology, chemistry, physics, and an advanced course in one of these subjects; three years of history, including American and European history; and four years of one foreign language."
Letters of Recommendation for Homeschoolers
Typically, traditionally schooled applicants will submit letters of recommendation from teachers or other educators. A homeschooled student may not have the body of teachers to draw such letters from. Keep in mind, however, that letters of recommendation do not always need to come from a teacher. Most universities will be happy to receive letters from anyone who is directly familiar with the prospective student's life away from the classroom. A letter from a sports coach, dance instructor, or volunteer coordinator will carry just as much weight as one from an educator. Additionally, homeschooled students can look for letters from any tutors or other academic professions with whom they work, supervisors at a part-time job, or a religious leader.
Homeschooler's Class Rank
Many homeschoolers worry that their application will be hurt because they cannot provide a class rank. Remember that although many applicants come from large public high schools, many also come from smaller private schools. These small traditional schools also do not give class ranks. At many universities, the class rank is just a single criterion admissions officers use. Lacking a class rank will not hurt your college application in any way, but it will mean that more of an emphasis will be put on other criteria in your application packet, including standardized test scores, course rigor, and extracurricular involvement.
Extracurricular Activities and Home School
Every homeschooled student should be involved with outside activities. Academic credentials are important, but a good homeschooler should combine academic performance with extracurricular activities to show a well-rounded education. Homeschoolers often omit activities from their application because they feel non-traditional. Ensure that you fully explore all of your activities, awards, honors, hobbies, and anything else that gives a complete picture of who you are. For many universities, broadly evaluating a student's special interests plays as important a role as evaluating the student's GPA and SAT scores.
Though most colleges do not require anything additional of its homeschooled applicants in terms of testing or additional credentials — and many are actually prohibited by law from doing so — robust academic credentials allow a homeschooler to appear more competitive. Awards and honors you win while in competition with traditional students should always be included in your application. College-level courses taken in conjunction with your home schooling curriculum will also help to set you apart.
Specific Application Requirements for Homeschoolers
Every college is different, but you must often include a high school diploma with a parent's transcript, your standardized test scores, a portfolio review, any written essays required by the application such as a personal statement, and any entrance examinations the university may require to test your preparedness. Most colleges will permit you to submit equivalent documentation for anything that is inapplicable to a homeschooler, such as letters of recommendation. If the school application materials do not explicitly list such alternatives, contact the school's admissions office.Have any insight on this topic? Want to ask a question or make a suggestion? Click here to leave a comment.
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