It used to be that homeschooling families approached colleges with some fear and trepidation. The path to admission was quirky and nonsensical, and the hoops that needed to be jumped through were often ridiculous…if the school would even consider accepting a non-traditionally-schooled person. Homeschoolers had no access to federal scholarships, and colleges rarely gave any money to them.
Things have changed, and definitely for the better. Homeschoolers are entering college in record numbers, with higher test scores than their public school counterparts.
“Home educated students generally score at the 65th to 80th percentile on achievement tests, 15 to 30 percentile points higher than those in public schools,” writes Brian D. Ray, Ph.D. of the National Home Education Research Institute. They also tend to stay in college and finish on time, often with above-average grades. This makes them very desirable students.
The Financial Aid picture has changed also. Thanks to the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1998 (Pub. L. No. 105-244), the student is eligible for Federal Aid if “the student has completed a secondary school education in a homeschool setting that is treated as a homeschool or a private school under state law. That’s all that is necessary. No GED, no special tests, just a homeschool diploma. The law also discourages colleges from discriminating against homeschoolers, and encourages them to accept students on the basis of their ability, not the accreditation of their school.
This played out very well recently when I took my seventeen-year-old son to our local community college to enroll him in their computer science program. I went armed: copies of my letters from the county board of education to prove that we were legal, a homemade high-school transcript to show what he’d studied, results of a recent standardized test, and a copy of the state homeschool regulations.
I didn’t need any of it.
I dropped Evan off to take his entrance placement tests to see which level of classes he needed to start with. Evan hadn’t studied much, but he felt ready for the challenge, and it could be retaken if he chose.
An hour and a half later, I went to pick Evan up. He was not in the testing room, and he’d left only about two minutes before. I wandered around the campus, wondering how I could lose someone twice my size. After a nice long walk, one of the ladies in the testing room said that maybe they’d sent him to the academic counselor.
When I finally caught up with Evan, all there was to do was pay.
He’d registered, been accepted, and signed up for three classes (no remedial needed).
It was a bit more complicated five years ago when his older sister, Claire, applied to a small, private, heavily academic college. She had a few small scholarships to the school from some church programs she’d participated in, but she was only sixteen, so we doubted she’d make it. On the other hand, she had an excellent ACT score.
This school, like may now, had a user-friendly program for admitting homeschoolers. They asked for a list of courses taken with books used, test scores, a student essay, and recommendations. It was easy to navigate, and the admittance office was very helpful. All-in-all, though, it took a few months, not counting the dishearteningly long FAFSA application.
When all was said and done, though, Claire was offered most of her tuition paid in scholarships and a very low-interest loan for the rest. She graduated last year, second –and youngest- in her class!
A few useful links for all college-bound students: