Are you considering homeschooling your children but are hesitant, worried they might not get into college? Rest assured that most colleges and universities eagerly accept homeschoolers. In fact, many colleges provide separate admissions pages specifically for homeschoolers. But, you might ask, how do your homeschooled teenagers even apply?
Here are some tips and advice to help you navigate your way through the college admissions process as a homeschooling family.
First – Do Your Children Want to Go to College? Why?
Before your children start their high school years, ask them if they want to go to college and, if so, why. I recommend reading and discussing with your children Better Than College: How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four-Year Degree and The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late.
Once your teenagers have determined that college is the best decision for them, have them select their top five to ten schools, keeping in mind these choices will probably change over time.
There are several excellent college guides, including Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers and the Fiske Guide to Colleges.
I also highly recommend going to college fairs at local community colleges. These fairs gave my daughters the opportunity to talk directly to the college representatives, receive valuable information, and have all their questions answered. My older daughter fell in love with Drake University at the college fair at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois.
Include More Expensive Private Schools
While your children make their college list, encourage them to add private institutions despite their higher price tag. For my daughters, a private university actually cost less than a public university. How could that be?
Both my daughters attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa which, at the time, cost $40,000 per year for tuition, room, and board. My older daughter also applied to Northern Illinois University (NIU), a public school which cost $20,000/year. NIU offered her a $1,000 scholarship, reducing the annual tuition, room, and board to $19,000. However, Drake University gave her over $23,000 in scholarships and grants, reducing the cost to $17,000, $2,000 less than the public university! Luckily for us, Drake was her first choice for many reasons.
Research the College Admissions Process
Once your children have selected their top schools, research each college admissions’ policies. The college may require ACT or SAT scores, personal essays, interviews, auditions, and portfolios.
Typically, these requirements will be the same whether your children are homeschooled or not, though some schools like Northwestern University will require more of homeschoolers (see “Private Research Universities for Homeschoolers, Part Two” for more information).
Of course, every college and university will also require a high school transcript. So, how does a homeschooler get one?
High School Transcripts
There are several ways for homeschoolers to obtain a high school transcript:
Attend community college and then transfer – this eliminates the need for a transcript and taking the ACT or SAT. Community college classes are also a terrific supplement and/or substitute for high school. Both my daughters went to Rock Valley Community College (at the ages of 16 and 15) to experience a traditional classroom setting. To get into Rock Valley, they had to pass two basic English tests and one basic math test. Because my younger daughter was 15, she also had to have a letter of recommendation stating she was mature enough for the classroom.
Create your own high school transcript – It’s not as hard as you think. For a terrific article on how to go about doing this, see “How Unschoolers Create Transcripts.” The article includes sample transcripts such as the one included here.
Enroll in an accredited high school homeschool program – My daughters received their transcripts from the Clonlara high school program which was an unschooling program at the time. Clonlara has since changed to a more traditional school model. If we were unschooling today, my guess is we would create our own transcripts instead of using a program.
Other alternatives and more information – be sure to check out Growing Without Schooling’s page on homeschooling high school and college for how to get credit for subjects teens already know, opportunities and activities for teens, college alternatives, and much, much more. This page also includes an invaluable list of resources.
During your children’s high school years, document everything they do–courses they take, books they read, artwork they create, stories they write. Include gardening and raising animals (and 4H experiences), science experiments, sports competitions and achievements, volunteer work, community theatre and musical performances, jobs, internships, trips you take as a family, discussions you have at the dinner table, everything. Having complete records will simplify the admission process.
The Princeton’s Home School Students page it gives this terrific advice:
“We understand that for many home schooled students there is not as clear a distinction between academic and nonacademic activities as there might be for students in a traditional high school. The more you can document for us and describe what you have done during your high school years, academically and otherwise, the better. Feel free to go beyond the questions on our application forms if they don’t cover everything you think is important for us to know. There may also be questions that simply don’t apply in the case of a home schooled student (for instance, our question about class rank on the School Report). You and others completing forms on your behalf may leave those questions blank.”
Enjoy Your Homeschool Journey
Thousands of homeschoolers have successfully navigated the college admissions process and you can, too. Most importantly, be sure to enjoy these last few years of homeschooling with your children before sending them to college. And then watch them succeed!
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