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Homeschooling: The Transition to College

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By Beth Waltman

Have you wondered whether your homeschooled children will ever graduate and successfully attend college? As a parent with one homeschooled child already attending a university and another beginning junior college, I can testify that the goal is attainable.

Yes, the application process is arduous and frustrating at times. However, in choosing to homeschool, we tread a less-beaten path. We have to prove to a skeptical world that our children have mastered all the required subjects in a non-traditional atmosphere and have acquired the study skills necessary for college success. Taking some thoughtful steps will assure your readiness for the application process:

1. Document homeschool classes, extracurricular interests, and community service.

We found in applying that universities were almost as interested in our daughter's hobbies and social activities as in her grades. Essays ask such questions as, "What are your life goals? What do you have to offer our school's multi-cultural atmosphere?" All Julie's youth group activities applied. Colleges wanted to know about sports, jobs, music, and interests.

2. Keep your high school curriculum high in academics.

Foreign language, science, and higher math should be included. If the primary parent/teacher is weak in these areas, seek an on-line course, video instruction, or another homeschooling parent proficient in the subject.

3. Prepare for the SAT.

Sample tests really prepare kids. These can be obtained on-line, in CD form or pamphlet form. I can recommend the Kaplan Road Trip. Julie's final SAT score was very close to her practice score. I would urge parents to allow their children to take the PSAT their junior year of high school if at all possible. One of our homeschooling friends found when he took the SAT that his scores were incredibly high. He might have begun applying for scholarships a year earlier had he known.

4. Research the schools of your choice.

Don't assume that entry will be a breeze, even if the college is known to accept homeschoolers. Do the homework!

My oldest daughter was educated at home for five years before enrolling at Texas A&M University. We were told when we began the application process that A&M had accepted only 12 homeschooled students in 1997, so we wanted to research and apply properly. Twelve is a relatively low number when you consider that Texas has a huge body of homeschoolers, and A&M is one of the largest universities in the state. A&M appealed to my daughter for many reasons. It's fairly close to Houston, where we make our home. Julie had several possible careers in mind, and this college had courses in all of them. Business interested her, but elementary education was also a possibility. My husband had attended A&M, and is a proud "Old Ag". Also, there are several excellent Christian student organizations on campus. We didn't want Julie to be totally without spiritual influences after all our careful communication of values. Finally, Julie really felt God's leadership to apply to the school. Therefore, we marshaled our wits and gave applying our intense efforts during her whole senior year of high school.

Immediately, I found that information about the special requirements for homeschoolers is rather obscure. Many of the telephone counselors handling applications didn't seem to know all the policies required in processing homeschooling applications. After numerous phone calls, we ascertained that Julie would need to take the SAT II test in addition to the SAT I. She would need to submit the typical application which included a long essay and three letters of recommendation. Another requirement was a high-school transcript and 'letter from the principle.'

I submitted these items at least three times, with the explanation that "I can supply no official school seal or class rank, because Julie was educated at home. She was the only senior in her class." Even after attending college for one semester, we received a notice that she would not be permitted to enroll again, because her transcript did not seem to be an official high school document! We learned not to assume that a matter was settled until we received written conformation in the mail.

Because of Julie's experience, we have adjusted our middle child's education somewhat to smooth the way her for college entrance. Krystal is a 15-year-old high school junior. We hope to obtain more "official" documentation in this way, besides proof of her competitive ability. Houston Community College has permitted her to take one class, English Comp I, this year. In this way, she can earn college credit in addition to picking up classes requiring labs.

Krystal had to pass the Texas ASP in order to qualify so early for junior college. As a homeschooler, she had to talk to a committee on special admissions (alone!) and explain her hopes and dreams, and why she wanted to take a college class. Her goal to go to University of Houston for pharmacology seemed to impress the committee.

Finally, I offer the best encouragement of all for homeschoolers with college dreams. Homeschoolers can be even more capable than their contemporaries in institutions of higher learning. Perhaps teaching how to learn and love of learning is more important than offering the wide variety of subjects that public schools can offer. My daughters seem to juggle their schedules and achieve grades with ease. Julie eagerly signs up for difficult courses such as "Literature of the ex-Soviet Union" that would daunt any more timid student. Now that college is a reality for two of our children, we breathe a sigh of relief. I'm already designing the high school years for our 7th-grade son. What is his consuming interest? Marine biology!

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