The Home School Graduate and College

Gone are the days when home schooled students wondered if they would be able to go to college. In 2003 the Texas legislature passed HB 944, a law that requires state-supported institutions to accept home school graduates without discrimination and on the same basis that their public school counterparts are accepted. (See page C-1, 2.) Today home school graduates are not only getting into colleges but also being actively recruited by many schools.

Gone also are the days of questioning whether or not home schooled high school graduates can make it in college. There is now plenty of evidence to show that they can not only do well at higher education institutions but also excel. Even college sports, once thought to be out of the question for the home educated student, are now an option. (See p. C-8 for information about NCAA eligibility requirements for home school graduates)

Preparing for the Classroom

Many parents still wonder, though, how their home school graduate will handle the formal classroom setting of a college campus when they have not experienced it. The answer to this question is preparation. To thrive in a college classroom, students must have the study skills necessary to be independent learners. They must also have assumed responsibility for their education. The following are some areas on which students should focus to gain this vital preparation:

Note Taking

This ability gives practice in the skills of summarizing and evaluating information. Students can practice note taking with church sermons or home classroom lectures.

They can take notes or make outlines from texts. Taking notes on recorded talks gives the student the additional advantage of being able to listen to the information again, assess the completeness of the first note-taking attempt, and look for areas of improvement.

Time Management

One of the greatest strengths of home schooling is its lack of rigid structure. However, students must develop their own mental structure that enables them to follow through on assignments, meet goals and deadlines, and use time efficiently. They must know how to use assignment sheets, organizers, calendars, etc., to track studies, projects, responsibilities, and activities. If they work under the pressure of immovable deadlines at home, they will be prepared for the immovable deadlines of unsympathetic professors. If they suffer unpleasant consequences when they fail to meet deadlines at home, they will quickly learn to manage their time wisely.

Test Taking

Although they are an unreliable way to measure learning, tests are an integral part of the college experience. Consequently, knowing how to take a test is critical to succeeding at the university level. Parents should give students opportunities to experience the different types of tests: multiple choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank, essay, and oral. In addition to seeing how well the student has mastered the information on the test, parents should also use the test as an indication of how well the student’s test-taking ability is developing. If the student’s performance is under par, the parent could work with the student on finding a better way to study, take notes, memorize, etc.

Standardized tests are a necessary evil that all college bound students will encounter. To prepare themselves, it is recommended that students take the SAT and ACT every year beginning in their freshman year or earlier. Taking these tests repeatedly makes students familiar with the testing format and environment. It reveals test-taking weaknesses on which students can work before their senior year. It provides a “bank account” of scores from which students may draw for scholarships and college admissions. Also it allows students to recognize the test as a tool, not a judge. For more information, see Testing below.

Use of Reference Materials

It is important for the student to be familiar with reference books (e.g., dictionaries, encyclopedias, and the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature). The Internet is a reference tool of vast proportions. The student can learn to locate needed information by using search engines or by following Internet references. Train the student to depend upon these resources for research and report processes.

Research Papers

Do not decide it is too much trouble to be worth it. The discipline of seeing a long-term research and writing project through to completion is invaluable. Set aside six weeks of English lessons for students to work on an in-depth, single-subject paper. Helpful teaching tools for research papers are Writer’s Inc., The Write Source, and the MLA (Modern Language Association) Handbook.

Organization

Require the student to put papers away neatly and in chronological order. Establish certain places for books, pens, pencils, and other supplies. Organization can be learned; be a good example to your student—put your things away.

Projects

Do them. There are usually many opportunities for participation in science fairs, history fairs, etc. Start small so you and your student will not get discouraged.

Preliminary to Making Application

Academics

It is important for all students to have a strong background in reading, written communication, oral communication, math, computer skills, and critical thinking. If a student is strong in these five areas, he will be mentally prepared for whatever life has in store for him.

However, the college-bound student should have an additional list of more specific academic goals. The place to begin making this list is the admissions office of the colleges in which the student is interested. Make an appointment to visit with an admissions counselor, either in person or on the phone, during the student’s freshman or sophomore year. The counselor will be able to explain what the school’s admissions requirements are for high school academics. Based on the counselor’s information, work with your student to create a plan that will enable him to meet the school’s requirements.

If your student knows in what majors or career fields he is interested, the admissions counselor should be able to tell you what additional academics are required by those fields of study. If he is undecided on a major, consider administering a career assessment or interest inventory test. See if your local institution or college of choice offers this service. This should help determine what extra requirements may be necessary.

Typical years of high school credit required per subject for general college admissions:

English 4
Math 3
Social Science 3
Laboratory Science 2
Foreign Language 2
Electives 3.5

Testing

Colleges rely more on test scores than on transcripts for home schoolers. Find out which test(s) and what scores are required for admission to the colleges or universities your student is interested in attending. His test scores could determine which school he eventually attends.

Testing takes place at local high schools, community colleges, and universities. Check testing websites (See p. 4-8) for information about testing dates and locations and to see if the student can be registered online. When he goes to the test site, the student should be prepared to show a photo ID.

The following are the most common test scores requested by colleges and universities:

THEA (Texas Higher Education Assessment) is the new name for what was called the TASP (Texas Academic Skills Program) test. The THEA test is designed to provide information about the reading, mathematics, and writing skills of students entering public colleges, universities, and educator preparation programs in public institutions. It has been approved for use by Texas institutions of higher education as an assessment instrument for entering students.

The GED (General Education Development) test measures knowledge and academic skills against those of today’s traditional high school graduates. This test is not required for admission of home schoolers to Texas state colleges and universities.
The SAT® is a three-hour test that is intended as a measurement of the critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, and writing skills students will need to be successful academically. Many colleges and universities use the SAT as only one indicator among others—class rank, high school GPA, extracurricular activities, personal essay, teacher recommendations, etc.—of a student’s readiness to do college-level work. SAT scores are compared with the scores of other applicants and the accepted scores at an institution and can be used as a basis for awarding merit-based financial aid.

The ACT® (American College Testing) test is designed to assess high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. The tests cover four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science.

While the SAT and ACT are very different tests, they fulfill the same role in the admissions process. The SAT and ACT exams are designed to provide college admissions officers with two things: a predictor of first-year academic achievement in college, and a common yardstick to use in comparing students from a wide range of educational backgrounds. Many schools accept either SAT or ACT test results, or both.

The PSAT/NMSQT® (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is used in the National Merit Scholarship competition. The PSAT is administered once or twice a year in October, unlike the SAT and ACT which are administered many times throughout the year. Although students may take the PSAT more than once, only the score from the student’s junior year is used for the National Merit competition.

Visit your local high school to register and to get a copy of the PSAT/NMSQT Student Bulletin. Schools can set their own fee for administering the test, but legally they must charge the same fee for home school students as they do for public school students. The tests must be ordered, so contact your local school as early as possible. Most large bookstores carry test preparation books; computer programs are also available.

Test Code Numbers

Home educated students in Texas should use these numbers when completing their applications for the following tests:
ACT Code: 969-999
SAT Code: 970000
PSAT Code: 994499

For more helpful information, see the following:
ACT: www.act.org
PSAT: www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/psat/reg/homeschool.html
National Merit Scholarships: www.nationalmerit.org/nmsp.php
SAT: www.collegeboard.com

Develop a Transcript

A transcript is simply a list of classes taken, along with grades and credits earned. It may be traditional or built on a spreadsheet on your computer. A transcript must have an explanation of grades, grade point average (GPA), and honors classes. A GPA is calculated based on grades for classes, points assigned for grades, and total number of classes/hours. The transcript should include the signature of the principal. Class ranking is usually required but does not apply to home schoolers. TranscriptPro, available from EdPlus+, is a tool for recording classes and assigning credits for your student’s high school career. (See www.edplus.com.) Other helpful information may be found elsewhere on the Internet.

Build a Resumé

Your student should prepare a resumé for college admissions and scholarship interviews. This resume´ should briefly describe experience the student has in community service, leadership, major-based employment or apprenticeship, etc. It will be most effective if it contains action verbs and states facts, not opinions. Some of the information in the resum&eacute’ might also be used in a portfolio. (See Other Options below.)

Financial Assistance

It is advisable that neither you nor your student go into debt for college. Consider having your teen pay for part or all of his college. This could mean taking PSAT, SAT, or ACT prep courses; many schools offer partial or whole tuition scholarships for high test scores. If your student earns his college money by working, it should be for less than fifteen to twenty hours per week. That will provide enough money to help him start taking responsibility for his own life.

Many home school graduates have been able to receive financial assistance toward their college careers through numerous scholarships and grants. Be aware that scholarships and grants abound, and many go unclaimed because no one knows they exist or goes to the trouble to apply for them. Scholarships and grants are awarded according to several different criteria: academic, ministerial, athletic, departmental, need, ethnicity, etc. There are books in the public libraries that address scholarships in certain fields.

In 1998 the U.S. Congress passed legislation clarifying that home schooled graduates meet the eligibility requirements to receive federal aid (grants and scholarships). (See Appendix, page C-4, for directions to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) The clear intention of the U.S. government is that home schooled graduates should not be discriminated against in college admission policies and procedures.

When seeking financial aid, complete the necessary paperwork early in the process. An admissions packet from the college/university will have financial aid information. Application for financial aid can be started on the Internet site for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (www.fafsa.net) and finished by providing the needed financial information to the school the student plans to attend. It is very important to start researching during the junior year. Get an admission packet in the summer and apply in the fall. Do not postpone until spring; by then it will be too late for many scholarships.

In 2001 the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board issued a memorandum to all colleges and universities in Texas to explain that home school graduates are eligible for Texas grants and scholarships. (See p. C-5 to see a copy of the memorandum.) In 2007 the Texas Legislature amended the Texas Education Code to make home school graduates eligible for B-On-Time Loans. (See letter from Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Appendix, p. C-9.)

Other Options for Earning College Credits

Dual credit

Consider enrolling your high school student in a local college to receive dual credits for high school and college credit simultaneously. Community colleges in Texas are now required to offer dual credit courses to private school students, which includes home schoolers, in the same way they are offered to public school juniors and seniors. Your student could graduate from home school with many college hours already to his credit. Be aware, though, that credits earned through dual credit can jeopardize the student’s eligibility for certain scholarships. Check with the college admissions or financial aid officers to see if this applies to your student.

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program)

The CLEP examinations cover the material taught in introductory courses that students are often required to take during the first two years of college study. Frequently, these courses cover material that should have been learned in high school. Therefore, students who, through disciplined study at home, independent reading, and life experiences, have achieved a solid high school education, may be able to “CLEP out” of some college classes. Credits earned through testing generally do not affect a student’s scholarship eligibility. In addition, credits earned this way do not affect a student’s GPA, making a CLEP test the perfect way to get credits for those subjects in which a student struggles. Check CLEP testing at www.collegeboard.com to learn about the tests and to locate testing sites in your area. Costs will vary according to location, as will the procedure. Be forewarned that if you have a child trying to take a CLEP test, he must have a picture ID and a Social Security number.

The College Board website will provide a downloadable free demo that will familiarize your child with the computerized test format. There, you will also find more information about the individual subjects that CLEP offers. In general, there are tests for English and literature, foreign languages, history and government, mathematics, and science. There is no minimum age limit, so a student can gain credits and experience at any time. Credits for tests are granted at the college or university’s discretion. This means that a school may not accept a particular CLEP test for credit.

Portfolio

A portfolio may translate prior college-level experience and learning into college credits. A student begins creating a portfolio by taking a thorough inventory of his learning experiences. He should evaluate special skills he has learned and knowledge he has gained on a particular subject through personal study, classes, or workshops. Unique volunteer or ministry work and leadership experiences should definitely be included. Music lessons, landscaping, counseling, home economics, computer skills, and mission trips are just a sampling of the activities eligible for credit.

A portfolio has two parts. The narrative part describes in detail (five to fifteen pages) how and when the learning took place. This is the student’s opportunity to “make the case” that his efforts are worthy of college credit. The documentation part is a compilation of reports, pictures, letters, certificates, etc., verifying specific learning. If the college of choice does not offer a portfolio program, the Internet will be helpful in locating one that will offer transferable credits.

Online and Distance Courses

These options offer the flexibility for a student to study on his own time with accountability to an instructor. There is a vast selection of online courses offered today. With e-mail and the Internet, a student can pick classes and instructors from virtually every continent. Online courses are usually the most expensive of the credit-earning options unless taken from a junior college. Your student might benefit from taking self-study courses in accelerated reading, writing, and memorization that can help streamline and enhance time spent learning. The student generally will read assigned text, write several essays in response to chapter questions, and then e-mail assignments to a course mentor for grading. Sometimes there are online lectures and group discussions in which to participate. The course mentors are available to answer questions by phone, email, or live chat.

Some Cautions

Even though the prevailing thought in our society is that a person cannot make a good living without a college education, there are some things a family should consider before automatically pursuing college for their young person.

One set of questions to ask would be: Is college necessary? Can my young person accomplish what he desires without spending the time and/or money that a college education will require? What is the ROI (return on investment)?

Also many Christian young adults lose their faith during their college experience through discouragement, moral temptation, and indoctrination—even at some Christian colleges. Parents and students should pray, and the student should enter college only with clear confirmation from God.

If the family concludes that the student is to pursue college, the parents might want to consider the following suggestions to help prepare their young person to face the onslaught of evolution, humanism, liberalism, and immorality:

1. Read and discuss good books about worldviews, such as Understanding the Times, The Case for Faith, and The Evolution of a Creationist. Talk about what can be expected.

2. Summit Ministries or Worldview Academy camps are highly recommended. The students spend time examining worldviews in light of the Creator.
3. Seek Christian ministries on campus. On many campuses, there are active Christian ministries; denominations also might have ministries. Visit area churches with the student to help him find a church home.

4. Have the student live at home. Some students will thrive on campus but can still have a safe haven at home.

5. Consider the distance learning options when more education is needed but God has not given a go ahead for college.

Suggested Timeline for the College-Bound Student

Before high school:
• Start high school subjects, if possible.
• Take the SAT and/or ACT in the spring.
• Pursue community service and leadership.

Freshman year:
• Carry a full academic load.
• Take CLEP or AP tests for subjects studied.
• Take the SAT and/or ACT in the spring—send scores to favorite schools.
• Pursue community service and leadership experiences.
• Discuss possible majors/career paths with parents and other adults.
• Discuss universities and colleges with parents, other adults, and alumni or current students of various schools.
• Fill in transcript/curriculum list for freshman year.

Sophomore year:
• Carry a full academic load.
• Take SAT and/or ACT.
• Pursue community service and leadership experiences.
• Take CLEP or AP tests for subjects studied.
• Visit with admissions officers from at least one private school and one state school you are considering.
• Visit with deans or department heads for the majors you are considering.
• Discuss what adjustments need to be made in your academics and extra curricular activities.
• Register for the PSAT/NMSQT for October of your junior year and obtain a picture ID for the test.
• Update transcript/curriculum list.

Junior year:
• Adjust academic load per recommendations of admissions counselors.
• Take SAT and/or ACT.
• Pursue community service and leadership experiences
• Take CLEP or AP tests for subjects studied.
• Take the PSAT/NMSQT in October.
• Obtain catalogs from favorite schools and begin researching degree plans and credit by examination opportunities.
• Check into dual credit courses.
• Familiarize yourself with admissions timelines for specific schools.
• Research scholarships—deadlines, paper trail, etc.
• Update transcript/curriculum list.

Senior year:
• Finish up home school academics.
• Take the SAT and/or ACT (have at least 2 scores on record).
• Acquire credits through CLEP, AP, classes, etc.
• Pursue community service and leadership experiences.
• Find practical ways to experience your major.
• Follow application/admissions procedures for your preferred schools.
• Begin scholarship application process as early as possible.
• Visit with the dean/department head of your major at each school.
• Check into the honors program at your schools.
• Enjoy planning your graduation.
• Finalize transcript/curriculum list.

THSC Webmaster – has written 122 posts on this site.

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