by Penny Ross
Are you afraid that private homeschooling will put your child at a disadvantage when applying for college admission? Let me assure you that it will not! All three of my children were homeschooled, kindergarten through high school graduation. Between them, they amassed eight college acceptances and multiple scholarship offers. I know other homeschool families whose kids received an even bigger stack of acceptance letters.
Let’s bust some of the myths that circulate regarding homeschooling and college admissions!
Homeschoolers have a harder time when applying to college.
As most colleges receive more applications than they have seats available, schools are able to look beyond high academic qualifications as they seek to populate their freshman class. So it’s up to the students to market themselves, especially emphasizing the activities and demonstrated skills that set them apart from other applicants. Since homeschoolers have more free time than the average public school student, they have the ability to pursue their hobbies and passions, engage in multiple activities, and further develop and hone their skills. Because they have much more to include on an application, they actually have an advantage when applying to college. They do, however, need to promote themselves well and prove their academic readiness for college classes.
You need “A-G” courses to apply to college.
The system developed by the UC (University of California) and CSU (California State University) college campuses to evaluate high school courses for their adequacy in college preparation is known as “A-G” course certification. Though this certification only applies to admission to our state college system, it has become the de facto prep for the public schools in advising all their college-bound students. However, the good news is that A-G certified classes (the certification is not available for privately-taught unaccredited schools) are not the only way to gain admission to higher education. You can also satisfy A-G requirements through testing and dual enrollment classes (see The University of California’s admissions requirements) so there is a back door for homeschoolers to satisfy this requirement. Private colleges and out-of-state schools do not require A-G courses.
You have to use an accredited homeschool program if you are college-bound.
Accreditation is the formal method by which schools measure the effectiveness of other schools. However, it uses factors which do not apply to homeschools, such as whether all faculty members have teaching credentials or if the school has a favorable reputation in the community. Since accreditation is the norm for campus-based schools, an unaccredited school usually means a troubled one. But for a homeschool, lack of accreditation is not an issue to be fixed, but instead it merely indicates that the school is operating outside of the norm of the school system. (Isn’t that the point? Homeschoolers WANT to be OUTSIDE the system and its requirements!)
However, non-accreditation is not usually an issue because colleges are already used to evaluating applications on the merits of the individual student, not the school system’s merits. They recognize that not every student in a high-performing school receives a superior education. But be aware that some colleges might have an additional hoop or two for the student to jump through in order to demonstrate his or her capabilities if applying from an unaccredited program. Some vocational schools do require an accredited high school diploma but oftentimes, they will accept the CHSPE test instead.
The major issue with accreditation involves students who wish to transfer into a public high school after a semester or more has been completed in home-based private non-accredited school. Many public schools do not accept transfer credits from unaccredited high schools. So accreditation is not usually an issue for college admission, but it can be an issue for those who do not remain homeschooled for all their high school years.
You need AP, Honors, or Dual Enrollment courses if you are college-bound.
For any student applying to college, but especially for homeschooled students, the burden of proof is on them to prove to the college their ability to succeed on campus. AP, Honors, or Dual Enrollment courses are one way to do this, but not the only ways. AP classes need to be validated by a score on the AP test. As more high schools close access to their campuses for security reasons, it can be difficult to find a place to take the test. Honors classes taken at home and graded by the mother will not be considered an objective way to prove your student’s skills. I usually recommend college-bound homeschoolers take several dual enrollment classes, at least one on campus, as this will not only validate the level of their educational foundation but will also prove their ability to succeed in a classroom environment.
You can’t submit a homeschool transcript to colleges.
A transcript is the official record of your student’s high school career. It should be official looking and should be issued from the school named on your PSA or the PSP your student is enrolled in. Though you may sign it (reference the title you used on the PSA – such as registrar or administrator), there should be nothing that screams “homeschool” on it since homeschool is not a legal term in California.
There are instructions and examples online to help you name courses and design the format or you can outsource preparation to a transcript service or consultant. Each college will have its own requirements as to whether it wants the transcript uploaded, electronically transmitted, or mailed.
Please keep in mind that college is not for everyone. But rest assured that homeschooled students can and do gain admission to colleges of their choice, if they choose to pursue higher education. In fact, they graduate from college at a rate greater than the overall population (66% compared to 57% in a study by Michael Cogan at the University of St. Thomas). So don’t let these myths keep your students from pursuing a college education, even while realizing that you and they will need to prove the coursework, skills, and paperwork to get them in.
Penny Ross has over 35 years of experience in home education: teaching her own 3 children kindergarten through high school graduation, leading a PSP, and now running her own independent consulting business, Tools for the Home Educator (www.toolsforthehomeeducator.com). She coaches, supports, and trains homeschool parents as well as speaking at homeschool events throughout Southern California.