|College Admission for Homeschoolers
By: Dorothy Karman
More and more home educated students are completing high school and entering college. In fact, many colleges actively recruit home educated students because they demonstrate independent learning and leadership skills. How do you prepare your child for admission into the college of his or her choice?
1. Contact prospective colleges early. As early as 8th or 9th grade, write to colleges of interest to your child. Ask specifically for their homeschool admission policies. You may not know specific colleges, but if you have an idea of careers that might interest your child, you can go to the public library for reference books which list colleges and their majors. Barron's Profiles of American Colleges or Peterson's 4-Year Colleges are two such reference works.
Colleges vary greatly in their requirements for home educated students. Some just want descriptions of what the student has studied, a list of books read in high school and some samples of the student's work. Others require a transcript with grades and both an admission test (like the SAT I or the ACT) and achievement tests in specific subjects (like the SAT II tests).
2. Use the college policies to plan your child's high school course of study. You don't want your student to start filling out college applications in his or her junior year just to find out that he or she is disqualified. Work with your child as early as the beginning of 9th grade to meet the expectations of the colleges of interest. For example, the military academies base admission on a combination of academics, athletics, civic service and interviews. If your child is interested in one of the academies, you would want to make sure he or she was involved in sports and volunteering during the high school years.
3. Keep records during high school. Whether the college is looking for a description of what has been studied or a transcript with grades, keep a record of what your child studied during the high school years. This can be in the form of grades given for each course or an education journal kept by your child. You don't want find yourself trying to reconstruct the high school years from memory.
4. Conquer the alphabet soup of tests. Numerous tests are given to college bound students for both admission and advanced credit. Stop by your local high school counseling office and ask for information about the tests and the dates they are given.
National Merit Scholarship test
PSAT/NMSQT, the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, is given to high school juniors in October every year at both public and private schools. This test provides practice for the SAT I and qualifies students for National Merit Scholarships. Students can take it for practice in their sophomore year (if they have had algebra and geometry), but it only counts for the National Merit Scholarship when taken during the junior year. Check with your local public or private school for dates offered.
SAT I, the Scholastic Assessment Test is one of the admission tests frequently used by colleges. It tests both reading, writing and mathematical skills. The SAT I is offered many different times during the year. Contact your local high school for test preparation materials and dates. You can purchase test preparation books and software which will prepare your child for both the test format and content.
SAT II tests are designed to measure proficiency in subject areas such as Math, Latin, History, etc. Some colleges will offer advanced placement for high scores on these tests. Other colleges actually require several SAT II tests for home educators to "verify the student's transcript." Even if not required by the college, the SAT II exams can provide more information to the admission officer and increase the likelihood of your child being accepted.
You can find out more about PSAT/ NMSQT, SAT I and the SAT II at the College Board web site http://www.collegeboard.com. Their web site also contains many helps for the college bound student.
ACT (American College Testing). Some colleges prefer the ACT. "The ACT Assessment, or 'A-C-T' as it is commonly called, is a national college admission examination that consists of tests in: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science Reasoning. ACT results are accepted by virtually all U.S. colleges and universities." (according to the ACT web site http://www.act.org/.)
Advanced placement tests
Several tests are available which can give your student advanced placement or college credit. Students can take these tests as early as 9th grade if they have just covered the subject matter on the test.
AP (Advanced Placement) tests are also administered by the College Board. These are tests administered after taking college-level coursework in high school. Good scores on these tests can also help with college admission. (http://www.collegeboard.com/ap/)
CLEP (College Level Examination Program) was originally designed for adults who wanted to skip college classes that covered material they had already learned by independent study or work experience. Subjects covered are the basic general education requirements of most colleges and some business courses. Many homeschool students have gained college credit for courses by taking these tests. This program is also administered by the College Board. (http://www.collegeboard.org/clep/)
What is the GED?
The GED is a high school diploma given by the General Educational Development (GED) Testing Service that is accepted in all 50 states by colleges and many employers as being equivalent to a high school diploma. Many colleges, in fact, require the GED from home educated students. Previously, homeschool students were required to have a GED to be eligible for federal financial assistance. Thanks to Home School Legal Defense Association and their work on H.R. 6 of 1998 "home schoolers qualify for financial aid simply by completing their home education - there is no longer a GED requirement." (Go to HSLDA's web site http://www.hslda.org/.) and search for "GED.") Taking the GED can make the path easier when applying to some schools and for employment, but some students avoid taking it because of the "stigma" of being a dropout which is attached to the GED.
Many homeschoolers attend community college during or right after high school. Once a student has a proven track record by taking a year at the community college, many universities waive all other admission requirements. Homeschool students may be able to start taking classes at the community college as early as 16 years old. Check with your local community college for early admission policies.
Financial Aid for College
Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may be picked up from any high school counseling office in November. In addition the FAFSA website allows on-line registration and can be accessed at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. All federal financial aid is accessed through this one form and much private financial aid as well. The FAFSA is used whether a student is planning to attend a university, community college or vocational/technical school.
The FAFSA should be mailed in as soon as possible or completed on-line after the first of the year, as colleges start putting together financial aid packages March 1 and the funds are limited. Do not mail or complete it on-line in December, or they will think the application is for the previous year.
The information required on the FAFSA includes all of the student's finances and all family's finances. Whoever is involved in doing the family's income tax forms will be involved in filling out the FAFSA. Many high schools have workshops helping parents fill out the forms. See a public high school counselor or the financial aid office at the college of your choice for more information.
Homeschoolers in college
Homeschool students are going to college and succeeding. You can find more information about specific colleges and their requirements for homeschool students by going to HSLDA's web site (http://www.hslda.org) and searching on "college." Read the summary of the 1999 college survey. You'll be encouraged that more and more colleges are accommodating home educated students.
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