College may be right around the corner for your homeschooler and, as a homeschool parent, you want to prepare your student well. Or you may be wondering whether you should send your homeschooler to school to prep them for future studies or if homeschooling will adversely affect their chances of getting into college. You may be encouraged to know research shows that homeschooling does not negatively impact college admission and, in some cases, may even provide special opportunities for your kids. If your children have expressed interest in college, you should know the requirements for acceptance and scholarships needed to enhance their ability to succeed in college.
Homeschooling and college stats
The percentage of homeschooled American children has steadily grown over the last several decades. That number doubled in 2020 compared to 2019. Few differences exist between the homeschool student and private school student’s college application. The biggest issue in both cases is that colleges may not know about your school. For others, some non-college options may be more appealing.
Do homeschoolers do better in college?
Homeschoolers who go to college do better on average than non-homeschoolers. In a 2010 study, homeschool students had higher grade point averages during their freshman year. By the time they were seniors, the advantage held. Homeschoolers also graduated from college at a higher rate than their peers.
What percentage of homeschoolers go to college?
74% of homeschool graduates attend some college, according to a study conducted by the HSLDA. Homeschoolers finish college at a higher rate, bring higher standardized test scores, and transfer more credits into college than their non-homeschooled peers. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 69% of all high school graduates in the US in 2018 were enrolled in college that same year. Around 41% of college-age students from all backgrounds attend some college. The percentage of homeschooled students who go to college is just as high as or higher than other demographic groups, according to the National Home Education Research Institute.
How do colleges view homeschooling?
Most colleges view homeschooling favorably. Some special scholarships are only available to homeschooled students, though availability may vary by state. Homeschoolers score 15–30 percentile points above average on standardized tests, and as a result some colleges have even started to recruit them. Many colleges require SAT or ACT scores from applicants, whether homeschooled or not since it’s one of the best ways to validate home education. About a third of the student body from Bob Jones University are homeschoolers. At Cedarville University, about 15-20% of the student body graduated from homeschool.
Homeschool college acceptance rates
The homeschool college acceptance rate is nearly the same as for other types of schooling, provided the homeschool student has acceptable test scores. Participation in an accredited homeschool program or AP or college classes can enhance a homeschooler’s likelihood of acceptance. Homeschoolers who have participated in community involvement or have developed special talents and skills are most likely to appeal to colleges. If a college has a higher acceptance rate in general, then anyone who applies, including homeschoolers, will have a higher chance of getting in.
How do homeschoolers get into college?
Homeschoolers get into college by providing evidence to substantiate their learning. You should be ready to submit as much evidence as you can. Test scores, college transfer credits, and courses taken at private or public schools are easier for college admissions offices to measure. They have no other frame of reference for the academic standards of your homeschool.
You should submit a complete transcript with course descriptions, write about extracurricular experiences, and provide standardized test scores. This situation is not unique to homeschools. Small private or public schools may be as unknown to a university as your homeschool. Colleges love to see community involvement and leadership development demonstrated in your application.
College requirements for homeschoolers
College requirements for homeschoolers include the same score on the SAT or ACT tests which the college requires for everyone. But universities might require additional standardized test scores for homeschoolers. Colleges will want to see any source of external measurement that corroborates your child’s education. If he has taken any courses outside of your home, your child should ask the teachers of those courses for recommendation letters.
Do colleges accept homeschool diplomas?
Colleges accept homeschool diplomas as willingly as they would a private or public school diploma. The diploma itself is not as important as test scores and transcripts. It is not worth getting a GED to prove that the student has accomplished a high school level of learning.
What’s different about applying to college as a homeschooler?
Applying to college as a homeschooler is not much different than for private and public-school students. You, the homeschool parent, have to prepare the transcript unless you are working with a homeschool organization that provides transcripts for you, like the Academy of Home Education. Although the transcript is not the most important piece of evidence that your child has learned enough, it is still a good idea to be thorough in providing course descriptions and documenting extracurricular activities on their transcript. Your child might also want to take specific standardized tests to verify skill in a particular field of interest. Colleges might require an official excuse from attendance from your local school district.
How to prepare your homeschooler for college
Since many homeschoolers typically go to college and succeed, you can be certain that homeschooling is not a disadvantage for college admission. Here are ten tips for preparing your homeschooler for college. Use what works for you and your family.
1. Develop writing skills.
Start as early as you can with writing. Most college applications include essays. Your child’s writing skills will be on display, and a poorly written essay can hurt his or her chances of getting in. Essays are an opportunity to highlight development of specific skills that colleges view highly. These include leadership, service, and initiative.
Many colleges have added an optional COVID-19 essay to their applications. Your child should use this essay to explain any pandemic-related issues that impacted his scores and grades. If the pandemic did not negatively affect your child’s scores, he could also write this essay to demonstrate how he overcame difficulty during the pandemic.
2. Engage in extracurricular activities that highlight your child’s skills.
Homeschooling allows flexibility in the schedule that may leave time for more extracurricular activities. Engage in many but choose one or two that will best develop the skills colleges are looking for to focus the most time on. Be sure to track these activities so that you have a list to reference when filling out college applications. Your children should participate in community service and leadership development if they have the opportunity.
3. Keep thorough records of your child’s coursework.
Write course descriptions for the transcript. Keep track of all the classes as you go. You will not want to wait until your child is applying to colleges to start gathering this information. If you are already preparing annual portfolios, you can combine these tasks into one. If you are part of an accredited homeschool program, they will provide a formal transcript for you as well as a formal diploma.
4. Stay on track.
It is best to follow a prescribed order of courses, especially in mathematics, so students have the right subject knowledge at the right time to prepare for standardized tests. For example, your child will need to have completed Geometry and some Algebra before taking the SAT or ACT.
5. Practice standardized testing.
Standardized testing will be easier for your child if she has more chances to practice. It is very different from other forms of testing. Have your children take the test offered each year at least in high school. Teach them test-taking strategies, like trusting your first instinct and skipping difficult questions at first to ensure enough time to answer the easier ones. The ACT and SAT both offer practice tests. These practice tests provide a low-pressure chance for students to familiarize themselves with the testing style and subject material. If your child excels in a particular subject, SAT subject tests can highlight that skill on the college application.
6. Let someone else teach your children subjects you are weaker in.
If you have the opportunity to send your children to a private or public school for some classes, the opportunity is worth considering. Their other teachers can write college recommendations and serve as an external validation of the education your children have received. If you are unable to adequately teach a subject and you are unsure how much your child will be able to do alone, consider video course options so your student can still independently with a teacher.
7. Keep track of those able and willing to write college recommendation letters.
Many colleges will require your children to submit letters of recommendation when they apply. At least one letter will need to come from a primary educator—someone who has been responsible for evaluating and assessing your children’s academic ability and development. In most homeschool situations, that person will be a parent, and it is acceptable for homeschool parents to write letters of recommendation for their own children.
Colleges will also need to see a letter from someone who is not an applicant’s parent. People who can fulfill this role may be extracurricular teachers (orchestra directors, music teachers, sports coaches, co-op teachers, dance instructors, etc.), employers and supervisors, youth leaders or pastors, or ministry leaders. Look for adults who have a direct relationship with your children who have also seen and interacted with them in formal situations, like a job, learning environment, or ministry. Additionally, be sure to check the requirements for recommendation letters for the colleges your children are interested in. If the college requires letters from teachers and not from parents, connect with the school to determine what their exceptions are for letters on behalf of homeschooled students.
8. Have your child take community college courses for dual credit or spend some time at a community college after high school.
Attending some community college has several benefits to homeschoolers. Your children can experience a college classroom with the safety of still having you nearby. They will have credits toward college earned at a much cheaper price, saving you and your children money in the long run. Students will have professors who can comment on their academic readiness for college. It is not unusual for homeschoolers to start college early from home. Make sure the credits will transfer the way you expect to other colleges of interest to your child.
9. Help your child keep track of pros and cons as she visits and applies to colleges.
Unless your child’s first choice of college has a very high acceptance rate, your child will want to apply to several colleges. Include at least one that seems like a stretch. Students should keep track of all the universities they have visited and applied to in a spreadsheet. Include deadlines, passwords, and any pros and cons. Your child may want to rank the schools by location, cost (tuition minus financial aid offered), housing options, size, and any other features that may be important to him or her. At the end of the application process, your child will have ample information to decide where to go. If several colleges accept your child, weigh these pros and cons together. With the necessary information in a spreadsheet, it will be easy to reference as needed.
10. Begin college applications several weeks before the deadline.
You and your child have to gather all of the application information, write the essays, and fill out many forms. Leave plenty of time to complete all of these tasks well. Sometimes the essays can go to multiple colleges with only minor editing, but take care to answer the question each college is asking.
11. Prepare students for adulthood before they go to college.
This last tip is key, because the college your children attend will treat them like adults, whether or not they are ready. They may need to live on their own and keep track of passwords and deadlines as they prepare college applications. You may need to teach your children how to deal with teachers who are difficult or might challenge their faith. They will need to know how to budget their time and money and possibly how to use public transportation. Before sending homeschoolers to college, be sure they are emotionally ready to be away from home and handle stress. Academic readiness is necessary but not enough.
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Valerie is a wife and a mother to a very busy toddler. In her free time she enjoys reading all kinds of books. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Bob Jones University, minoring in Mathematics, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics from Ohio State University. Valerie has 15 years of experience working in research laboratories and has coauthored 8 original research articles. She has also taught several classes and laboratories at the high school and college levels. She currently works as a Data Analyst and a freelance writer.
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