It’s that time of the year again when high school seniors are getting serious about college choices and applications for the 2021-2022 school year. For both traditional and homeschooled seniors, now is the time to make campus visits to the top colleges on your list. Visiting is always a more productive experience when classes are in session.
For homeschooled seniors, key differences in the application process do exist, as compared to seniors in the “traditional” school system. It’s important to be prepared to address these differences and to be realistic about what can be expected in the application process.
Overall, college admissions processes at all schools are handled in much the same way for homeschoolers as for traditionally schooled students. In fact, many admissions offices actively seek out homeschoolers. At all colleges, admissions officers evaluate each student within the context of his or her own background and the opportunities they have been exposed to and how they responded individually to those opportunities.
This article is intended as a reference point for homeschooled high school seniors and their parents as they navigate the U.S. college application process.
The National Home Education Research Institute’s (NHERI) database indicates that “There were about 3.7 million homeschool students in 2020-2021 in grade K-12 in the United States (roughly 6% to 7% of school-age children),” and “The homeschool population had been growing at an estimated 2% to 8% per annum over the past several years, but it grew drastically from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021.”
NHERI also notes that “As the number of homeschoolers continues to climb and more colleges roll out homeschool-specific guidelines for applicants (SEE: HOMESCHOOL TO COLLEGE: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE under MORE GREAT INFORMATION, below), the perception of homeschooling is moving from being seen as “alternative” a decade ago but and now bordering on “mainstream” in the United States. (https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/ )
FINANCIAL AID AND HOMESCHOOLERS
Lisa Davis, who maintains a blog site named Fearless Homeschoolers, recommends to homeschooling parents that they “Don’t let AWESOME schools pass you by. The hardest part will be changing your mindset about which schools should be on the list. Think outside the box (like you always do). Challenge the status quo (like you always do). Do your research. Be transparent with your homeschooler. And start falling in love with schools that will be throwing money your way!” (https://fearlesshomeschoolers.com/blog/scholarships-for-homeschoolers
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form completed by current and prospective college students in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. Oliver Austin, writing on November 19, 2021, for College Success Network notes that “Homeschooled students are allowed to file their FAFSA® to receive federal student aid for college. In fact, the application process is exactly the same. When asked about your high school completion status, simply select “homeschooled.” (https://www.collegesuccessnetwork.com/apply-colleges/how-to-apply-for-college-with-homeschooler.html )
THE RECORD KEEPING CHALLENGE
According to homeschool mom and scholarship expert Pam Andrews, supplying needed documents is usually the most difficult part of maintaining credibility for homeschoolers. “One of the biggest challenges for homeschools families may be record keeping,” she says. “Families need to provide admissions officers with an accurate account of their time in school.” (https://www.collegesuccessnetwork.com/apply-colleges/how-to-apply-for-college-with-homeschooler.html#Can_homeschool_kids_go_to_Ivy_League). The problem is, many homeschool families have not been diligent enough about thorough record keeping, which can cause problems when submitting college applications.
“It’s really important that a home-schooled student shares with us a really detailed account as to how they came to be a home-schooled student and what they’ve done with their time as one,” says Brittney Dorow, assistant dean of admissions at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York (Ranked #17 in National Liberal Arts Colleges). “And that’s going to come in a transcript that they have written out, which will detail a trajectory as well as the classes that they’ve taken and give an explanation of what those courses are.”
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION/DIPLOMAS & TESTING
In most cases, a public school will not issue a diploma to a homeschooled student even if the homeschool worked under the oversight of the local school district. Students who are homeschooled through an umbrella school or correspondence program will generally receive a diploma from that institution. Similarly, students who are educated at home through a virtual charter school or online public school are granted diplomas through those programs.
Thoughtco.com writer Kris Bates summarized the homeschooling diploma/transcript dilemma in a July 28, 2019, article: “One of the biggest concerns for homeschooling parents is high school. They worry about how their student will get a diploma so he or she can attend college, get a job, or join the military. No one wants homeschooling to impact their child’s academic future or career options negatively.” (https://www.thoughtco.com/homeschool-diplomas-4160356#:~:text=In%20most%20cases%2C%20a%20public%20school%20will%20not,K12%2C%20will%20receive%20a%20state-issued%20high%20school%20diploma. )
Most colleges and universities now accept homeschool diplomas and transcripts. With some exceptions, most colleges do require that students complete an SAT or ACT admissions test. (Check with the colleges on your list to find out if entrance testing is required.) Test scores, plus a well-documented homeschool transcript, can meet all entrance requirements for most colleges.
The U.S. Military also accepts homeschool diplomas. A homeschool transcript might be required to back up the diploma.
The move from high school to college is challenging to both students with a traditional school background and those who were home schooled. In terms of completing college applications, home schooled students are required to go through a bit more effort, basically because it’s more difficult to create a homeschool high school transcript than it is to simply receive a transcript from a public high school. A growing number of colleges have begun accepting a “body of work” or “work portfolio” from homeschool graduates rather than a traditional transcript, but this form of work package can be difficult and time consuming to produce.
While it’s likely that most colleges, universities, or employers will be satisfied with a parent-issued high school diploma, you should be prepared to provide proof of the validity of your diploma. Helpful documentation might include your high school transcript, a letter from the local school superintendent certifying that your homeschooling took place in compliance with the law, and perhaps a copy of your state’s homeschooling law. (NOTE: for information related to your state’s law, visit www.homeschoolfacts.com.)
MORE GREAT INFORMATION
https://www.edsmart.org/homeschool-to-college/ TRANSITION/SCHOOL TO COLLEGE
https://www.edsmart.org/homeschool-to-college/ – HOMESCHOOL TO COLLEGE: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
https://www.thoughtco.com/homeschool-diplomas-4160356#:~:text=In%20most%20cases%2C%20a%20public%20school%20will%20not,K12%2C%20will%20receive%20a%20state-issued%20high%20school%20diploma. – WHAT SHOULD BE IN A HOMESCHOOL DIPLOMA?
https://responsiblehomeschooling.org/guides/resources-for-homeschool-parents/homeschooling-high-school/how-to-obtain-a-homeschool-diploma/#:~:text=Homeschooled%20students%20may%20obtain%20a%20high%20school%20diploma,not%20issue%20homeschool%20diplomas%2C%20but%20this%20does%20vary. HOW TO OBTAIN A HOMESCHOOL DIPLOMA