Home Schooling Impact on College Admissions
Are home-schooled students at a disadvantage when applying for admissions? How can these students best positions themselves as top candidates for admission?
The consensus seems to be that home-schooled students are not necessarily at a disadvantage, but that they need to better document their education and the rigor of their curriculum. Taking additional standardized tests besides those required for admission (and perhaps some community college courses) can strengthen the application.
Here are the answers to this question from each member of our panel:
Chris Ellertson, Trinity University
In evaluating home-schooled students we are concerned about their academic success and social adjustment.
As for the former concern, home-schooled applicants are not disadvantaged if they provide detailed explanations as to their curriculum, write well, and score within our middle 50 percent on the SAT I or ACT. Course content and pedagogy differ widely among home-schooled students, so it is critical that we have comprehensive information before making a decision. We recommend that their teacher or teachers provide a thorough review of their program. For example, some programs will have a profile or summary of the curriculum and overviews of what is being taught in each course. We also recommend that home-schooled students write an additional essay addressing their learning experience. This will give us insight as to how they interpreted their education and how they might make the transition to our university. Finally, without the predictability gained from a high school context (known curriculum, grading scale, counselor and teachers, current students’ academic performance), a test score becomes more important as an academic measure common to other applicants.
We not only want students with academic promise but those who will contribute to our community. As a result, we look for home-schooled students to be active participants in their community. Many times, we see home-schooled students who are more involved than traditional students; they often have more flexibility in their daily class schedule, are motivated to pursue their interests and talents, and do not be want to shortchanged by any lack of high school activities.
To ensure that our university is a good match for a home-schooled student, we require an interview with the Dean of Admissions before an admission decision is made. The student will be asked about his or her curriculum, intellectual curiosity, collaborative learning experiences, contributions to community, and talents and interests. The student will also be encouraged to learn more about the university’s learning environment and academic and co-curricular offerings.
Lisa Knodle-Bragiel, Linfield College
Each year Linfield conducts various studies on the freshman year academic performance of its first year students compared to their entering academic profile. Consistently we see the combined importance of high school grade point average and board scores (SAT or ACT) as the top significant indicators of first year success at Linfield. In the admission process, our staff and our faculty admission committee consider foremost a student’s academic preparation by examining factors such as quality of high school and progression of academic solid and college prep courses taken by the student. As an institution whose mission encompasses learning AND community, we are also interested in a student’s connection with community, personal activity and service to others.
As a home-schooled student does not have the opportunity to present information relating to strength of academic program in the high school (high school rating), Linfield draws upon a more thorough representation in the student’s presentation of course transcript. For all applicants, an official high school transcript is required. If the home-schooled student does not utilize a homeschool agency (which produces a formal transcript similar to a public or private high school transcript), the college requests that the student’s educator present a detailed list of courses including course descriptions and grades earned. To our pleasing, we find that most home-schooled educators (parents) fairly and honestly grade their students (i.e. we are not seeing all 4.0 students!). Many of our applicants (from both cohorts) have completed college courses through a community college or a Running Start-type program or have completed AP or CLEP credit. Linfield requests official transcripts or score reports for these credentials. Additionally, for all students, we require either an SAT or ACT score report.
To best position themselves as top candidates, we strongly recommend that home-schooled students take advantage of our optional admission interview. While the Linfield interview is really an informal opportunity for both the admission counselor and the prospective student to engage in discussion about the opportunities of a Linfield education, it is also a chance for the admission counselor to become better acquainted with the academic and social achievements of the prospective student. We also suggest that the home-schooled applicant present recommendations from other sources such as co-op teachers (who taught the student in a solid academic course) and activity leaders (many of our students participate in local high school sporting or music programs).
John Blackburn, University of Virginia
Home-schooled students are at a disadvantage in selective admission programs, for we usually have little information which permits us to compare their credentials with other students. Grades awarded by parents and recommendations written by them as well give us pause. We are always looking for a basis for comparing them with a national standard. Often, standardized testing, college courses and the quality of their essays are the most helpful factors in their applications.
My advice to home-schooled applicants is to take five or six SAT II subject tests and if they can work it out with local high schools, to take advanced placement exams. In addition, courses taken at local colleges can be helpful. I would discourage correspondence courses.
Chris Lucier, University of Michigan
Home school students are considered very carefully, but they are not disadvantaged. Whereas we don’t require SAT IIs subject area tests for regular applicants, we will require them from home schooled students. This is simply another means of us being able to ensure the student is prepared for the academic rigor of the University of Michigan.
There are several things a home schooled student can do to position themselves as a competitive candidate. First, contact our office early, in the sophomore or junior year, and talk to an admissions counselor to fully understand the requirements. Second, they should apply as early as possible. This allows us to communicate with the students early in case we need additional documentation or information.
Marc Camille, Xavier University
I’m not sure I’d say home-schooled students are at a disadvantage, but clearly they’ve got to overcome the lack of familiarity that admission officers have with their schooling. The advice I always give to home-schooled students/ parents is to be as explicit as possible in terms of the information you provide. More detail is better than less with respect to the schooling. Fact of the matter is that the student wants the admission committee to be making an educated and informed decision, versus a guess.
Allen London, Mercer University
At Mercer, home schooled students are not a definite disadvantage, but they must provide higher than minimum SAT/ACT scores. Actually, students with a GED have an easier time gaining admission than those with an unofficial home school diploma.
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