If you’ve been following us recently, you already know that for the past few months we’ve been asking home schoolers around the United States to share their questions and concerns about college admissions with us. So far we’ve heard from over 100 homeschooling families representing every region of the country, each with pressing questions and concerns about the college admissions process. So,what were the most common questions asked? Are yours on the list? Here are the top 5 questions we received in order of frequency:
1. “How can my child best demonstrate that he/she is a top notch applicant?” Almost everyone who responded to our survey shared some variation of this question. Some parents want to know what admissions officers look for in a homeschooled applicant, what work and documents they need to see, and generally, as this particular parent expressed: “How can we best communicate our academic experience, knowledge and life lessons?”
2. “What advantages do you think homeschoolers have in the admission process? What disadvantages?” This question was a close second in terms of frequency, but was distinct from the first question in that parents seem to be asking about strategy (versus tactics) of the application process. Quite a few parents seem to be wondering how to frame their students’ learning experiences positively, how to play to their strengths and make the most of them while also addressing any disadvantages. Some questions were phrased in terms of perceived “strengths” and “weaknesses”, and another parent presented the question in terms of “hooks” and “assets”: “How can homeschooling be framed as a “hook”? What converts homeschooling into an asset for the student for admissions?”
3. What is the process/procedure for a homeschooled student to enroll in a college? We received many process-oriented questions, some of which are fairly specific, asking about separate applications for non-traditional students, particular tests and/or documents required, and also about whether the college has a advocate on staff to support homeschooled applicants. In short, parents seem to want a specific list and deadlines, and are hopeful that they can have a direct point of contact who can answer their questions.
4. “How do you feel about homeschooling, personally?” Not to put too fine a point on it, homeschooling families are wondering how admissions officers perceive homeschooled applicants. They’re concerned about any “negative stigmas” (as one parent put it) that may impact their child’s admissions prospects, and would also like to know about the challenges or difficulties admissions officers expect their children might face as they adjust to college life. In short, the question seems to be “What do admissions officers think about, and expect of, my child?”
5. “Where can I find information about scholarships?” Not surprisingly, one of the other frequently asked questions was related to sources of financial aid and scholarships (although I am surprised this wasn’t higher on the list.) In general, parents are wondering whether their student’s homeschooling background puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to consideration for merit-based scholarships.
The list of questions, and the frequency with which each type of question appeared in our survey, tells an interesting and compelling story about the concerns of homeschooling families across the country. While they want specific information about required documents and scholarship applications, they’re mostly focused on higher-level questions focusing on presenting the best overall picture of their student’s achievements and qualifications, and ensuring that admissions officers have the best perspective possible on the homeschooling experience.
If you share any or all of these questions, too, you can find out how some admissions officers have already responded in the interview series we’ve begun. We’re already scheduling more interviews, and will be releasing our final research report this Fall, so stay tuned for even more information!
This month I asked admissions officers from all around the country to complete this sentence, and the responses were immediate, clear and something of a “wake up call” for those of us with kids preparing to apply to college. Below is just a representative selection of the responses (there are too many to share!) in no particular order. What do you think? Are these helpful suggestions? Share your thoughts!
- Get a recommendation letter from someone other than their parent(s).
- Be receiving a diploma either from a home school agency or their home school district. As wonderful as curriculum created by your mom or grandma is, it rarely means a student is receiving a diploma. OR sit for the GED.
- Find activities to be social or become involved in the community. It’s awesome that you love to read and you taught yourself to play the piano, but community service and leadership opportunities say a lot more about your character.
- Take at least a couple of classes at a brick-and-mortar high school or community college.
- Be prepared to submit a portfolio of their work, especially if not working through a homeschool agency.
- Submit a transcript with grades & descriptions of course content. Also, pay attention to the requirements regarding proof of graduation for the college they will enroll in. If their homeschool isn’t through an agency, they may have to show proof of graduation in another manner.
- Provide some context and detail to science lab courses if taken at home if they’re looking at STEM programs.
- Explain everything! One of biggest frustrations is there is no consistency among home school requirements. It’s often difficult to compare without a deeper knowledge of what they’ve done.
- Prepare a book list to compliment your transcript. It will give us the depth and breath of your learning experience.
- Home schoolers need to have outstanding application essays that demonstrate with clarity their perspectives and experiences, and what they will bring to the school community.
- Be able to articulate the adjustment they will be making from an educational and psycho-social perspective — what they will find hard and what they look forward to experiencing. Honesty rules.
- Home schoolers applying to college should take SAT II (Subject) tests in two or three of their strongest subjects in addition to the SAT and ACT.
- Provide standardized test scores because straight A’s from the school of mom and dad don’t offer much basis for comparison.
- Apply on time. I typically saw this population waiting to apply until spring of senior year. Do apply in fall so you don’t miss important dates. Do attend financial aid workshops in your area to learn about scholarship opportunities, etc.
Top Links for August
From the Getting Smart blog, a great piece on alternative education for high schoolers, including information dual enrollment programs and MOOCs
A true teacher, insightful author, and long-time educational leader, John Taylor Gatto has some great advice for us all!
While not specifically for homeschoolers, this site has lots of useful information for all college applicants.
Developed by ETV, a program of PBS, this site has all sorts of interesting educational content for all ages sorted by grade and subject.