The Challenges of Applying to College as a Homeschooled Student

So where did you go to High School? When did you graduate? How many people where in your graduating class? What are you majoring in at CNM? I cannot tell you how many times I have heard these questions since I began taking classes at an Albuquerque community college, Central New Mexico Community College. My answers surprise many people: I am home schooled. I have one person in my graduating class. I have not graduated High School yet, and therefore do not have a college major yet.
Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. While most people can count the number of home schooled students they know without having to take off their shoes, “home schoolers” are a rapidly growing group. With more and more home schooled students graduating every year, problems have arisen. How can home-schooled students get into a good college when they don’t have official transcripts, their teacher is their mother, and their class rank reads “one of one”? It is often very difficult for home-schooled students to attend a college or university, and those who do attend have to face many roadblocks along the way. This, however, should not be the case. Home-schooled students are as capable as students from public schools, and they should not be required to fill additional requirements to attend a college or university.
By the Department of Education’s current estimates, there are between 700,000 and 1,200,000 students enrolled in home schools in the United States. Further, by all accounts, the movement has been growing steadily over the past few years (Lines, 1). Comparing this number to the 400,000 students enrolled in charter schools shows the current trend towards home schooling (Anderson, 1).
So then, why is it difficult for home-schooled students to move beyond high school? The reason can’t be a difference in performance or grades, as home-schooled students generally score well above average in standardized tests such as the SAT. The reason home-schoolers have so much trouble is simple discrimination. Wait a minute, you may be saying, isn’t discrimination a bit of an exaggeration?
I don’t believe it is an exaggeration. In his essay “Don’t Let Stereotypes Warp your Judgment,” Robert Heilbroner defines stereotypes: “Stereotypes are a kind of gossip about the world, a gossip that makes us pre-judge people before we ever lay eyes on them” (207).
People often make this kind of pre-judgment about home schooled students before they even meet them. We are often seen as “sheltered” children who know very few other “normal” kids our age, or we are seen as not being able to handle the academic atmosphere of a college. When people hear that I am home-schooled, they often make a comment something along the lines of, “I can’t imagine what that must be like to be home-schooled,” as if they were saying, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be blind.”
Comments like these can’t be helped. People who have not been home-schooled can’t be expected to know which myths about home-schooled students are based in truth, and which ones are completely false. But there are those who should know better. In saying this, I am referring to colleges.
Colleges often require home-schooled students to have a GED before they can apply for admission. Some colleges and universities refuse to accept a home-school diploma as proof of a high school education. This makes it very difficult for home-schooled students to attend college. The Home School Legal Defense Association explains that a GED is seen with a negative stigma, implying that the student is a high school drop-out (Smith, 1).
Congress has acknowledged that these requirements are unfair to home-schooled students and can be seen as discrimination:
The Committee is aware that many colleges and universities now require applicants from non-public, private, or non-traditional secondary programs (including home schools) to submit scores from additional standardized tests (GED or SAT-II) in lieu of a transcript/diploma from an accredited high school. Historically . . . [the] SAT II was not designed for, and until recently was not used to determine college admissions. Given that standardized test scores (ACT or SAT) and portfolio- or performance-based assessments may also provide a sound basis for an admission decision regarding these students, the Committee recommends that colleges and universities consider using these assessments for applicants educated in non-public, private, and non-traditional programs rather than requiring them to undergo additional types of standardized testing. Requiring additional testing only of students educated in these settings could reasonably be seen as discriminatory. (“Higher Education,” 1)
Even in colleges that do not require a GED or an SAT II score, there are other roadblocks. Many colleges recommend that home-schooled students should take extra classes at a community college before applying for admission. This is an extra burden in both time and finances, especially for families with several students at home.
Another example of discrimination in colleges can be found here at CNM. There is a program for students who wish to take dual credit courses that will count for both high school and college coursework. Students who pursue this program are able to have their tuition and fees waived. However, home-schooled students must participate in a separate program called “College and Career Bound,” in which they must pay full tuition and fees to attend, in addition to books (“High School” 1).
In spite of all of these roadblocks, students such as myself will continue to apply and be accepted into colleges and universities across this country. In the future perhaps things will be different, and we will be considered to be on equal terms with our public-schooled peers. Some colleges have learned over time that home-schooled students are very capable in a college environment, and many in the country have taken steps to ease the application process for home-schoolers. For example, the University of Texas in Austin has begun accepting home-school transcripts and diplomas, and even has an admissions counselor dedicated to home-school applicants. Steps are being made in the right direction, but more can be done.

Works Cited

Anderson, Brian C. “An A For Home Schooling.” City Journal. Summer 2000. The Manhattan Institute. 14 November 2006 .
Heilbroner, Robert. “Don’t Let Stereotypes Warp Your Judgment.” The Mercury Reader CNM ed. Ed. Janice Neulib, et al. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2005. 206-209.
“Higher Education Amendments of 1998.” United States 105th Congress. 17 April 1998. US House of Representatives. 14 November 2006
“High School-Aged Student Enrolment Programs.” Central New Mexico Community College. 13 November 2006. CNM. 14 November 2006 < http://www.cnm.edu/depts/enrollment/highschoolaged>.
Lines, Patricia. “Home schoolers: Estimating Numbers and Growth.” National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment. Spring 1999. SAI Publications 14 November 2006 < http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/SAI/homeschool/index.html>
Smith, Michael J. and Michael P. Farris. “Federal Requirements for Homeschoolers Seeking College Admission and Financial Aid.” Home School Legal Defense Association. 19 September 2006. HSLDA. 14 November 14, 2006 < http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/hslda/200306/200306190.asp>.