The Homeschooler's Guide To Getting Into College
This is a big concern for homeschool families. Lots of families are either worried that homeschoolers aren't accepted into universities or that it will be more difficult. This page is going to answer two main points. The first question addressed will be the myth that homeschoolers do not get accepted into college, or that it is not easy. The second point we want to address are the way homeschool applications are different from their public school peers. If you are a homeschooler this section will also cover what you're going to need to do in order to get into college!
How do homeschoolers get into college?
This question gets asked all the time. Frankly, it's probably the second biggest misconception about homeschooling - right after the socialization issue. Homeschoolers do not have a hard time getting into college. (And for anyone who is wondering, not all homeschoolers are unsocialized. You might turn out unsocialized if you never leave the home. But most homeschoolers are involved in many other outlets.)
So, let's start debunking the myth that homeschoolers can't get into college.
To preface this, homeschoolers did have a harder time getting into colleges 25 years ago. But not at present. This is largely because colleges and universities mad the application process more straightforward and less 'discriminatory.' The 'modern' application process might actually be in the homeschool student's favor. In fact, I will actually argue that the selection process leans in the homeschooler's favor.
The US government no longer interferes with the process
For anyone doing serious research, you will want to read the 2003 letter from the US Dept. of Education. It asserted that homeschool students would not interfere with federal assistance. That really broke down the last of the barriers for homeschoolers. After this, almost every school updated their policy.
Statistics show that homeschoolers are actually more likely to get into college
Stanford accepted 27% of homeschool students that applied. Homeschoolers public school counterparts were accepted at a 5% rate. [link to study]
This study, slightly outdated, shows that homeschooled students graduate college at a higher percentage rate than their public and private schooled classmates. Homeschoolers graduated at 66.7%. Everyone else had a 57.5% chance of graduating. [link to study]
The National Home Education Research Institute publishes statistics on every aspect of homeschooling. In 2010 the United States hosted about 2 million homeschooled students. That is 4% of all K-12 aged children. [nheri.org]
Homeschoolers are no longer uncommon
As the studies have shown, homeschooling is growing. And after the final barriers were knocked down, colleges and universities have become very accustomed to receiving applications from homeschoolers. There used to be long lists of 'homeschool friendly' colleges. At this point, you can pretty safely bet that every college has received hundreds of homeschool essays by now.
In fact, many colleges look at homeschoolers and appreciate how unique their backgrounds and applications are. Without college bias, homeschooling will actually set you apart.
Excellent universities like homeschoolers for these reasons
The letter grade of a high school transcript is not as important as the other aspects of an application. Colleges look at "hooks." When a good college gets another application with good grades, they are seeing something that is actually a dime a dozen. What colleges want to see is some type of hook that sets someone apart. Hooks are things that the student is passionate about outside of the classroom. Can you play an instrument? Are you a talented athlete? Do you have 100s of volunteer hours at a local shelter? Were you influential in founding an organization? And so on.
At good universities, grades are being devalued. This is directly in the homeschooler's favor.
Most colleges evaluate components that have nothing to do with 'school'
Excellent colleges and universities want to see motivation, accomplishment, charisma, extracurriculars, and leadership. Standardized test scores and grades are starting to matter less and less.
Great schools love talent, ingenuity, and creativity. Don't believe me? Check out this student who was accepted into Columbia. He had never taken any standardized tests. But he had his piano.
What is the difference between high school applicants and homeschool applicants?
Today, almost all schools have an admissions application process that is either designed separately for homeschooled students or one that easily accommodates for both students. Homeschoolers need to create their own transcripts. High school students do not need to concern themselves with creating or documenting the diploma and transcript. The rest of this article will describe what a homeschool parent needs to prepare.
The required components of a college application
These are the necessary ingredients for the college application recipe. 🙂 They will be listed here and then this article will look at each one of them in-depth.
You will need a transcript. This is by far the most important component for the homeschool parent to start compiling early on.
You will probably need letters of recommendation. Each university and college have different requirements and protocols for these.
Normally college applicants have a school report. Traditionally, this is created by a school counselor. Homeschoolers will make their own.
Extracurriculars. Extremely, extremely important. Especially for homeschoolers.
A standardized test score. The SAT or ACT is the last healthy ingredient for a delicious college application. Each school has different preferences. Look them up before you apply!
Mom, it is your job to create a high school transcript
You may not go to a public high school, but you still need a high school transcript to send to each college. There isn't a single right or wrong way to do this. Some parents choose to collaborate with an umbrella school. Umbrella schools essentially 'oversee' homeschoolers without really controlling anything. One of the biggest benefits is that they usually supply "official" transcripts and diplomas.
Mom, you can make a transcript and diploma yourself. It is possible and not as difficult as it sounds. The task sounds daunting because homeschool transcripts will look a lot different from public school transcripts. Depending on what type of homeschooler you are, this can become increasingly challenging. Some homeschoolers that used very nontraditional curriculums and approaches will need to turn experience into credit hours. No matter what, do not worry about "getting it right." There is no such thing as a 'correct' transcript for a homeschooler. There is too much variation.
You can buy a service to create these documents for you. You will need to supply a lot of information and it might be almost as time effective to just do it yourself.
Some parents choose to collaborate with an umbrella school. Umbrella schools essentially 'oversee' homeschoolers without really controlling anything. One of the biggest benefits is that they usually supply "official" transcripts and diplomas.
Some homeschool groups provide professional transcripts and diplomas for their members.
What your homeschool transcript needs to include
Every transcript needs the student's name, institution name, address/location, and a phone number. Most likely your 'homeschool' also has a homeschool name. This is commonly your last name + Academy.
You have to specify what grading scale your institution uses. The college needs to know your objective reference point.
You will need to list the courses your child has completed in the high school grade levels (9-12 grades). Each course should include information about where it was taken. So, dual enrollment homeschoolers, specify that community college! If the class was online, make sure that is listed as well. And so on. Additionally, include the credits given for each course. List these 'per semester' and per year.
IF your child took classes that were outside of the home, contact these institutions. You need each of them to send a copy of your child's diploma to the college/university. The transcripts these places send will be incomplete. The university understands this. Make sure that you include all of these courses in your transcript as well. The transcript you create should include everything (as the above paragraph also specified).
Include the student's cumulative (9-12 grades) grade point average (GPA).
Include the date of graduation. In most cases, this will be the expected graduate date.
Now sign it with your signature and a date.
Do homeschoolers need a GED and Diploma?
Nope. You will not need a GED or a diploma to apply. If you qualify for financial aid, lacking either of these will have no impact. You will need to make it clear that you are homeschooled and that your homeschool met the laws in your state.
Do colleges care about the GED?
Not really. Colleges and universities are usually far more concerned about your transcript and the SAT or ACT scores you submit.
What about diplomas? How do homeschoolers get diplomas?
Homeschoolers that utilized online classes or 'formally' organized homeschool groups/programs will usually get some type of diploma. If you are a parent and you homeschooled your child without using a homeschool resource that provided a diploma you can create your own. Parents can issue diplomas if the student's transcript makes it clear that he or she met graduation requirements for the state.
How do I issue a diploma?
You can use a 'template' or do it from scratch. It seems like it should be more 'difficult' or 'formal,' but it isn't. Include the homeschool name, student name, city and state, date of the diploma, the language used in the homeschool, and a signature.
How to apply for financial aid without a diploma
When you go to FAFSA select "homeschooled." If you went to an umbrella school or used another type of umbrella program you still need to select "homeschooled."
Can homeschool students make their own diplomas?
Yes, actually. If your parent has neglected to make a diploma you can take things into your own hands and create your own - so long as the requirements are met. You will need to get your parent to sign the diploma. If they refuse to sign it, you are out of luck.
Letters of recommendation
Parents, colleges and universities do not want to see a letter from you. While your child may be gifted and a great student, the letters of recommendation need to come from outside of your family. Try asking anyone who has been involved in your child's education. Community college professors, homeschool tutors, coaches, church leaders, organizational leaders, volunteers they worked under, bosses, or anyone else who can provide valuable insight and unique perspective.
Each school has different recommendation letter policies. Contact each school before you send in a letter.
The homeschool 'school report'
Without a guidance counselor on retainer, homeschool parents will need to do this themselves. The school report is where the parent should include the information about the school structure, GPA grading scale, and information about advanced placement courses.
Don't worry about not applicable sections. As a homeschooler, some of these areas will be left blank. There are lots of areas where a school report will compare students. With a single student in each 'grade,' there is obviously no one to compare against.
How do I create a school report as a homeschooler?
Head over to the Common Application, sign up / log in, find the education section, select the homeschool option at the very end, and use your (the parent's) information for any fields that ask for a counselor's name. This will send you an email where you can complete the school report.
Note: To complete a school report you will need the cumulative transcript that we talked about earlier, a list of courses with course descriptions, grading methods, your school philosophy/method, (optional) samples of the student's academic work, and some other optional fields.
Extracurriculars are the homeschooler's best friend
The beginning of this article stressed how important extracurriculars are for all students. As a homeschooler, it is especially important that you validate yourself outside of the 'classroom.' There are going to be suspicions that the grading method or courseload at a homeschool is less rigorous than public or private institutions. Extracurriculars are an easy way to eradicate this concern.
Why do colleges love extracurriculars?
Extracurriculars give colleges a little window into your social life and your interests. Colleges usually want students that not only perform academically but contribute in many additional areas to the campus and university.
Extracurriculars can show the student is involved in the community. Or that the student has a multitude of talents. They also show that the student might have learned valuable knowledge outside of what their transcripts depict.
Universities want to see what you will be like within their community. As long as the rest of your transcript is at least adequate, extracurriculars can be a huge boost.
Those dreaded standardized tests
Yes, you will want to go ahead and take the SAT or ACT. Some students can get by without them. Students like Conrad Tao are the exception to the rule. Those students are very, very rare. SAT/ACT grades won't usually make or break your application so long as they are around average. If the scores are abysmal and your application is unable to support the student in a multitude of additional areas, the application might be in trouble. Students that perform extremely well on the SAT/ACT will usually be fully validated as homeschoolers. Universities realize that the SAT/ACT isn't the end-all be-all. But they also recognize that good test scores are not usually pure accidents.
How do homeschoolers perform on the SAT when compared to their peers? Better.
Homeschool SAT versus Public School SAT
Post update: HSLDA posted new statistics about homeschool SAT statistics.
A total of 13,549 homeschool seniors took the 2014 SAT. Averaging all the scores, the mean student scored a 567 in critical reading, 521 in math, and 535 in writing.
An average score was computed for all high school seniors who took the SAT. Their averages were 497 in critical reading, 513 in math, and 487 in writing.
For the skeptic, additional measures were taken to ensure that other variables were not at play. Critics were concerned that the average homeschooler might be in a wealthier demographic or that their parents might be more educated. It is not likely that this is the case. For more information see [source] and [source].