Magazine article Insight on the News

Homeschoolers Arrive on Campus; Inquiring Minds in Many College Admission Offices Are Showing a Keener Interest in Homeschooled Applicants. (Alternative Education)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Homeschoolers Arrive on Campus; Inquiring Minds in Many College Admission Offices Are Showing a Keener Interest in Homeschooled Applicants. (Alternative Education)

Article excerpt

Getting into the college of their choice used to present a problem for homeschooled kids. Witness Rosie Lawler of Lancaster, Mass., who likes to joke that being homeschooled throughout her high-school years meant "I was the valedictorian of my class. I had the highest SATs. I was the most popular girl in school, the prettiest and the president of every club we had."

When Lawler applied to Princeton University, the admissions office replied with a short letter that said Princeton deemed her application incomplete because she hadn't included a transcript of her high-school grades. And never mind that her mother had sent a letter detailing the homeschooling curriculum her daughter followed, Princeton insisted that wasn't an acceptable alternative to a traditional transcript. When Lawler explained on the telephone to an admissions officer that she didn't have such a transcript because she was homeschooled, the only response she got was, "Don't you have any grades at all?"

"It came as no surprise," says Lawler today, "when I didn't get into Princeton."

But this sort of skepticism appears to be changing for America's homeschooled college applicants, and part of the reason may be that there are so many of them these days. And their numbers are growing. Last year, between 850,000 and 2 million students were homeschooled, the large discrepancy in numbers due to widely differing definitions of homeschooling used by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and by the organized advocates of homeschooling.

However the counting is done, everyone agrees that the number of homeschooled kids is growing, perhaps by as much as 15 percent a year. A study by the ED found that, though once the domain of fundamentalist Christians anxious to protect family values from secular manipulation, the most common reason for homeschooling today is to provide the "child with a better education" (48.9 percent), as compared with "religious reasons" (38.4 percent).

But it's not only the increasing numbers of the homeschooled that are getting the attention of even the most elite colleges. It's also the test scores. In 2001, homeschooled SAT-takers had higher scores than the SAT-taking population as a whole, with homeschooled students averaging 568 on the verbal test (out of a possible 800) and 525 on the math, compared with 506 verbal and 514 math for the national average of all SAT test-takers.

College admissions offices also cite other plus factors for homeschoolers. For example, many colleges are looking for diversity among their prospective students--and that includes homeschooling rather than the cookie-cutter backgrounds of public- and prep-school counterparts. …

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