The 9 Things Homeschoolers Must Do for College Admission

Parent homeschooling 4 children

All colleges, even Ivy Leagues, are incredibly tolerant of educational variety. Home schooled students are getting accepted and excelling in universities across the country. In fact, more than 900 colleges, including "highly selective" ones, regularly admit homeschooled students. To give your son or daughter the greatest chance to get accepted to college after homeschool, use these 9 techniques:

  1. Remember the homemade "transcript" - Keeping a detailed portfolio on your child's education is vital to creating the eventual 'transcript' that will be submitted to colleges. Very often, the same program outline you design for state certification is sufficient, but greater detail is always better. Also remember that while many colleges will accept this portfolio you generate, some will require a GED on top of it.
  2. Take advantage of other application materials - Many colleges acknowledge that certain parts of the application portfolio, such as SAT/ACT and SAT II test scores, letters of recommendation, and the personal statement and application essays, are given greater weight for homeschooled applicants. The totality of the applications file is even more important for a homeschooler.
  3. Teach with breadth - A university admissions officer will want to see a program with a similar educational breadth as a public high school. In other words, don't put too much focus on any particular subject. Former Senior Associate Director of Stanford Admissions, Jonathan Reider suggests that you, "imagine that they go straight into 'life' after high school. In that case, what educational setting will best give them the tools for lifelong learning, which one will stimulate their curiosity, provide some realistic competition and honest feedback? That's the right 'education' and preparation for that student, and that will be the best choice."
  4. Keep in contact with preferred colleges - Some universities that you or your child may be interested in have special admission requirements for homeschooled students. Knowing these requirements ahead of time will allow you to construct an application packet with confidence.
  5. Take advantage of homeschooling in the application essay - Most colleges provide a prompt asking applicants about past experiences that have shaped them as a person. The homeschooling experience is a perfect topic. Writing about how being homeschooled has shaped his or her background and has uniquely prepared him or her for college is an excellent thesis for your child.
  6. Earn CLEP credits - The College Level Examination Program will allow your son or daughter to earn college credits by taking qualified examinations. Because the typical homeschooler will gain topical understanding on a level far deeper than their public school educated counterparts, they are in a unique position to excel on these CLEP exams. This can potentially save you thousands in college tuition and help to give them a head start.
  7. Be aware of college cost - Many of the same financial aid opportunities available to non-homeschooled students will be available to your child as well. However, because homeschoolers lack a high school guidance counselor with experience in financial aid, utilizing resources from preferred colleges becomes even more important. Make sure you know the answers to the seven questions you must ask of financial aid officers.
  8. Be cautious if considering distance learning and other online college programs - While your son or daughter is already familiar with a more personalized approach when it comes to learning, and while it may seem that distance learning is a perfect fit, you should not immediately jump to this conclusion. Future employers may (perhaps unfairly) assume that a homeschooled student who also received an online diploma lacks proper social skills necessary for a workplace environment. If your child has a shy personality, they may benefit from the social rigors of a brick-and-mortar college experience. Online education may work, but only you and your son or daughter can make this determination. Make sure to do some research to find out whether an online degree is right given your situation.
  9. Attend college fairs - The best way to network with college admissions officers and learn information about the process for homeschooled students is to attend a college fair. The National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) holds several free, public fairs full of college representatives. Their website, lists all upcoming fairs. Keep your ears open for regional and major-specific college fairs as well.

Remember that while homeschooled students are almost always equal in every way to public educated students during the admissions process (i.e. they suffer no penalty), the process is often a little bit different. By keeping abreast of the changing college landscape, and by maintaining contact with admissions officers at preferred colleges, you and your child maintain the best chance to get accepted to a top university.

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Great list! Thanks for compiling it. My 17yo dd is a junior and we've done almost everything you mentioned, so we're on track!
You could write another few blog entries on #8. And expand it to discuss dual credits. Homeschoolers seem to jump at the idea of starting college early/dual credits, etc...but everything free has its own cost. My experience has been that many of the dual credit classes are poor quality even if the university has a good reputation.
Great site. I added your blog to my feed and will check back when I have more time.

- Carol, 03/11/08 at 5:24 am

Hi, Carol. Thank you for your comment!

Excellent points on dual credit classes, and thank you for sharing your experience. I have not been able to personally evaluate any of the programs, but have heard sentiments similar to yours. The market certainly seems to be one of "buyer beware," and it's up to students and parents to do the appropriate research before taking the plunge.

- Brian Cavner, 03/11/08 at 9:29 am

I would add that homeschoolers should start planning high school and college options early. While many homeschoolers are habitual planners and can tell you where they want to be several years out, others don't seem to consider college requirements until well into the high school years.
I also like to suggest that homeschoolers take advantage of AP and SAT subject tests or other outside quantification of their academic experience. A homeschool doesn't have to look like a public school to have provided a good education. But it is helpful to give admissions offices something to measure.

- Sebastian (a lady), 03/12/08 at 10:47 am

Hi Sebastian,

I completely agree with your first point that students -- both homeschoolers and not -- should begin their planning as early as possible. Even if you think college may not be in your future, it never hurts to have everything in order just in case.

You make an excellent second point as well. Thank you for your inside perspective.

- Brian Cavner, 03/12/08 at 5:29 pm

Not to take away from anything in your post here, but I just wanted to remind any international readers that most of the information available online is US-based, and may or may not be appropriate for those homeschooling in other countries.

For Canadian info (particularly in Ontario) on this topic, I'd like to mention to people that they can click my name below this comment and be taken to a site devoted to Ontario University Homeschool Admissions.

Similar to this site, there's no advertising, and I'm not selling anything. As I've advised Canadian parents and students over the years I realized the extent to which most of the available info was American, and much of that irrelevant for our particular system of higher education.

Hope you don't mind me sharing my Canadian link, Brian! Nice site!

- Sarah Rainsberger, 03/17/08 at 12:36 pm

Hi Sarah,

I don't mind you sharing your site at all. While some tips I provide are are universal, I am simply not familiar enough with international policies to advise these types of students. This information is tailored for US students applying to US schools. Your site is terrific, and I certainly would recommend it to any Canadian reader.

Thanks again for your comment!

- Brian Cavner, 03/17/08 at 8:40 pm

A really great article for homeschooling families. I am a big fan of CLEP exams which you mention in Number 6. Of course there is the possibility that you will receive quite a few credits towards a degree, but another key point is that they give the student an opportunity to prove to college admissions officers the depth and breadth of the curriculum studied.

@ Sarah - Some Canadian universities accept CLEP credit as well.

- pyngthyngs, 08/23/08 at 12:13 am

@pyngthyngs - yes, they do. However, it's next to impossible to actually WRITE a CLEP exam as a student in Ontario. (You'd have to travel out of province, if not out of country to do so.) So, this isn't a valid strategy for our local students. It is more something that a US student might use when applying to an Ontario university.

- Sarah Rainsberger, 08/23/08 at 12:19 am

I find it interesting that "Top Online Colleges" are one of your advertisers. In my experience, they DO NOT accept homeschoolers, unless you take a GED... something HSLDA frowns upon.

- heather, 09/18/09 at 7:36 am

My oldest child is in high school now...and while I realize that I need to keep some type of portfolio, and that she'll need to write essays. But I really like the other facts you outline here. It is extremely helpful to moms like me who haven't a clue what colleges expect!! Thank you.

- Jennifer, 03/17/11 at 7:39 pm

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