Feb 4, 2011

Tips for College-Bound Homeschool Students

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) recently came out with tips for homeschool parents and students that should help enormously with the college admissions process.

While the HSLDA reports that colleges and universities are increasingly more open to homeschoolers, problems occasionally occur when admissions officers are either unfamiliar with homeschooling and related legal requirements or are fearful of losing eligibility for federal support if students with “unaccredited” diplomas are awarded financial aid.

The following is a summary of HSLDA’s recommendations for how to avoid challenges and communicate with college admissions staff:

• Make sure you are familiar with the homeschool requirements in the state in which your high school program was conducted.
• Collect proof of compliance with state law.
• Have available a copy of your “notice of intent” (if your state requires one) demonstrating filing requirements were met (Maryland, Virginia, and DC all require some official notification/verification of intent).
• Make sure your transcript is professional as well as informative (it can be helpful to have transcripts notarized).
• Put together a portfolio of your best work from high school and make it available to admissions counselors.

HSLDA suggests that some colleges mistakenly believe federal regulations require college applicants to have an “accredited” high school diploma or GED in order to qualify for financial aid. The US Department of Education, however, allows homeschool grads to self-certify completion of their secondary education in a homeschool setting and no “proof” of accreditation needs to be submitted for students to receive federal aid.

“We work with homeschoolers every year. Each one is different and has different application materials with regard to transcripts,” said Jean Swartz, Shenandoah University’s director of undergraduate admission. “We have a webpage of information for them with our application process.”

George Mason University also offers advice for homeschool students on its website and emphasizes that such students "will be viewed no differently than those who apply from traditional high schools." And the College of William & Mary advises that although there are no special requirements for homeschool students, applicants must complete the Common Application's Home School Supplement and should consider taking SAT subject tests to prove proficiency in certain academic subject areas.

Kelly Gosnell, Vice President at Trinity Washington University, advises that college admissions offices like to see “a full reading list—everything you have read from 9th grade up through 12th,” including pleasure and text reading as well as related writing samples. Along the same lines, homeschoolers should be able to “exhibit full math and science progression through documented projects with samples.” She also suggests, “Keep a condensed activities resume showing extra-curricular (social, academic, and athletic) and community service activities through the years.”

In a handout prepared for homeschool students, Catholic University (CUA) recommends that transcripts, whether created at home or through a homeschooling organization, must list all courses of study with explanatory descriptions and assessment of academic performance. Catholic also requires at least one recommendation letter from someone other than the homeschooler’s parent—a coach or pastor might be a good option.

While welcoming applications from homeschooled students, CUA reviews each application on a case-by-case basis and all homeschool applicants are given the same consideration for scholarship and financial aid as traditional students.

“The homeschooled students who apply to CUA are almost always well prepared for college level work,” said Christine Mica, Dean of Admission.

The challenge is being aware of all requirements and compiling the necessary information to make a persuasive case for admission.

For more information on homeschooling rights and responsibilities as they relate to college admissions, visit the HSLDA website.

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