From Homeschool to University: 5 Tips for Success
There are many misconceptions about homeschooling. One that we hear often is that students who are homeschooled have a difficult time getting into a college or university. This misconception is so widespread that even many veteran homeschooling families accept it as truth and make alternate plans with their children from a young age.
The truth is that homeschooled children often have more opportunities to personalize, plan, prepare, and equip themselves for a post-secondary education than students in a traditional school setting. In addition, many colleges and universities are beginning to understand that homeschoolers are innovative thinkers, independent learners, and have a diverse set of life skills. According to the Dean of Admissions at Amhurst College in an NBC Interview, ‘[Homeschoolers] have thicker folders, in a good way”. In 2015, Business Insider even said that homeschool may be the “new path to Harvard”.
Here are five tips to go from homeschool to university at a time when institutions are beginning to prioritize a quality education, not a traditional one.
Explore Your Passion Outside of Academics
College admissions are interested in students with more than just great grades. They want to make sure that their students will bring passion, leadership, and help to make a lasting impact. Although many homeschool students often do not have access to formal clubs and school sports throughout their K-12 education, they still may have an advantage.
There is a reason that many American Olympic athletes are homeschooled. Students in a traditional school setting have minimal time in their day to devote to passion-driven activities outside of what is offered within their school. Homeschool students often have more time to explore community service, internships, personalized lessons, competitive club sports, and more.
Whether your student is interested in fixing cars, hockey, playing the guitar, or the local maker's lab, your family will have more time during the day to explore these areas of interest and connect with the community. Many businesses and community leaders appreciate that homeschool students have flexible schedules to explore their interests, and internships can often be created by simply reaching out. These flexible schedules open up doorways for homeschoolers to turn hobbies and interests into an authentic part of their lives.
Understanding SAT Subject Tests
Whether you are homeschooling privately or with a charter school, college admissions are looking for ‘mastery of course content’. Oftentimes, a high school transcript with courses and grades may not be enough. In order to prove mastery of high school subjects, we highly recommend the SAT Subject Tests. These tests are offered by College Board, the same institution that offers the SAT. Subject tests include Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, World History, US History, Literature, Foreign Language, and more.
Situating your high school curriculum around review and readiness for these assessments can provide great structure to your high school schedule, and tangible proof of subject mastery. These test results can be attached to your student’s high school transcript when they apply to a college or university to show undeniable proficiency in a specific course. These results can often be more powerful than a passing grade at a traditional high school.
Get to Know Your Local Community College
Community Colleges can be a homeschool family’s best friend. College courses can be another way to prove proficiency in a course, and also provides a headstart to a student’s college career. Community College courses can be entered directly onto a student’s high school report card, and highlight a student’s dedication to their own education in addition to what they are learning in high school.
We recommend that our university-bound students choose this option not only because it’s a great way for students to begin taking charge of their education, but because it can also be a cost-efficient way to navigate the high school graduation requirements. One semester of a community college course counts for one year of that equivalent high school course. For example, an introductory Biology semester course at a community college may count for an entire year of high school credit.
Due to the increase in families choosing to homeschool, many community colleges in California are starting to see the benefits of enrolling young, motivated students into their classes. We have even had multiple students graduate high school with their Associates Degree because their family started taking elective and core college classes as early as middle school.
Get familiar with Admission Requirements
Gearing up for post-secondary education means getting to know both the high school graduation requirements, and the admission requirements of your target college or university. Creating a four-year planner for high school to match these is integral to success. Don’t take American History just because it is the traditional requirement for 11th grade students. Plan to show proficiency in a subject for high school and college, simultaneously, when it makes sense for your student.
California relies on the A-G Requirements for college admission. We recommend familiarizing yourself with these requirements, and prioritizing the core A-G classes as those that your student will need to prove mastery in through SAT Subject Tests, community college courses, or other means.
We also encourage working backwards from the admissions requirements of your target university. Discover the course requirements for a particular program your student will apply to, and make sure those are community college courses your family is prioritizing. This way, you are fulfilling pre-requisite requirements that can often be transferred to your university for credit.
Partner with a Homeschool Charter
There are plenty of independent study charter schools that focus on homeschool, especially in California. Many of these public charter programs, such as Pathways Academy, are fully WASC Accredited, offer homeschool support and guidance with California credentialed teachers, and offer many benefits over doing it all on your own. These schools can help formalize transcripts and create a graduation plan for a student’s success.
There are also financial benefits to partnering with a charter school. A full-time high school student in California can be concurrently enrolled in community college classes, and they will not have to pay tuition while they are in high school. In addition, there may be instructional funding available for your student to help pay for one-on-one tutoring, sports lessons, curriculum and materials, and so much more. This can really help to ramp up the extracurriculars.
These tips focus exclusively on preparing for post-secondary education, but you chose to homeschool for so many more reasons. In the words of Susan Wise Bauer in The Well Trained Mind, "The child who knows how to learn will grow into a well-rounded-and well-equipped-adult..."
If you have any questions about homeschooling through high school, the college admissions process, or anything else, we are here for you. Call our Administrative Offices at (760) 494-9646, visit our website, or send us a message with any inquiries.