Heading Home: Who Are Home Schoolers, and Why Should You Want Them in Your College? (the Admissions Angle)

Article excerpt

A home-schooling room recently asked us, "How should a home-schooled student best present himself or herself to colleges? What would be important for this student to show the colleges, in terms of academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, and evaluations?" But as we responded, it occurred to us that we should turn this question around for college admission officers and administrators, and ask, "What should you look for in a home-schooled student? What are the issues surrounding the advancement of home-schooled students to college? And the big question: Why should you wont home-schooled students in your institution?"

Growing movement. According to the National Home Education Network (www.nhen.org), there are between 1.5 and 2 million home-schooled students in the U.S. (3 to 4 percent of the school-age population). Other higher education authorities estimate 850,000 home schoolers approaching college. What's more, every state has specific laws detailing the rights and responsibilities of families who choose to educate their children on their own for any number of significant reasons. And federal attention to home schoolers and their access to college has increased under the Bush administration, as home-schooling organizations lobby for fewer restrictions and requirements for college-bound home-schooled students. In general, we Feel that home-schooled students hoping to continue their education at selective colleges will find admissions officers willing to look favorably on their applications, but that doesn't mean these officials don't need to know more about such students--they do.

Diverse demographics. One thing is certainly clear: Home schoolers do not represent a homogenous group. While the home school movement has been identified nationally as a conservative one, home-schooling parents are not all religiously or politically conservative ... or white ... or rural. Many are liberal, or libertarian; international, or urban dwellers; African American, or Hispanic. They may have concerns about the substance or style of public, independent, or parochial education. They may be worried about the safety and security of their local schools; negative peer influences; support for physical or learning disabilities; or large class size. There may not be a good school close to their home. Primarily, they are concerned parents attempting to make the right educational choice for their children. It is important that colleges recognize the diversity of the home-schooling population, and see it as a potential source of bright, interesting, independent, nontraditional, and under-represented students.

CHALLENGES

Sans transcript. That doesn't mean there aren't challenges, however. The first challenge home-schooled students face in college admissions is their lack of a traditional high school diploma and transcript. That is the core of most admission applications, so home-schooled students need to present alternate materials to demonstrate their strengths in a variety of academic subject areas. Most high schools not only send colleges a transcript outlining a student's curriculum (the courses they took over four years) and grades (including a cumulative GPA and academic credits), but they also produce a school profile that indicates levels and types of academic courses offered; standing of the student in the graduating class (a rank or a decile distribution, for example); a list of colleges that students from the school have attended; the percentage of graduates going on to college; and so forth. The home-schooled student needs to produce something similar to provide admissions officers with comparable information. While some colleges require home-schooled students to earn a General Educational Development (GED) diploma in lieu of the high school degree, many will accept a portfolio of a student's academic and non-academic accomplishments, including details of the subject areas covered (and in which learning environments), as sufficient proof of suitable pre-college studies. …