The High School Years and the College Admission Process

(Bruce Holt) #1


This is one of several topics that I have wanted for a long while to discuss here but have not taken time to introduce. Life circumstances are compelling me to finally do so. But I hope this can be a far-reaching conversation and not simply a collection of responses to my particular situation.

Broadly, I’d like to discuss people’s experience with homeschooling through high school with an intent towards preparation for college (I realize that not everyone intends to go to college after high school), along with the actual experience of applying for college admission as a homeschool student or parent. For those who have gone through this process, I’m particularly interested in such questions as:

Did you (or your child) earn a diploma through an online academy or other formal institution?

If not, how did the college admissions process go for you? Did you conclude that admission officers were able to give a fair assessment of the student’s qualifications in the absence of a diploma? What kind of work did you do to make up for the absence of the diploma, particularly in preparing a college application packet?
Did you find that any desirable options were closed off to you without a diploma?

For those that did earn a diploma, how would you assess the value of this during the application and admission process? Do you have a specific institution or company that grants diplomas to recommend (or not)? Did you conclude that the home-schooled student with a diploma was evaluated fairly against others from “brick and mortar” public or private schools?

Were there courses that the student took that she would not have taken except to fulfill diploma requirements? Were these valuable? Or, conversely, were there studies he would have preferred to engage in but had to forego to pursue diploma requirements? Were there other “life skills” that working towards a diploma fostered?

I have more to bring up, but this is probably long enough for an introduction to a topic. I hope this generates some helpful discussion for many.

I’ll write about my specific situation in a separate post—hopefully later this afternoon.

(Laura) #2

Good questions! I’m quite a ways off from this question for my own children, but if it helps I can share some of my own experience, though it probably won’t be as helpful since it was 15 years ago and I wasn’t the primary decision maker.

I went through North Atlantic Regional High School, which is located in my home state but serves families all over the country (and overseas as well, I believe). I ended up applying to three private colleges and one public university, and got into all of them. I don’t remember having any issues with applications, though I also took the SATs twice so I had more than just a diploma to show.

So, to the extent that I can remember, it helped me in the application process, but as to whether it was worth the money (or would have been more of a hassle otherwise), I wasn’t the one paying so I’d have a harder time answering for sure. :wink: I’d definitely want to take into account a child’s motivation and desire for college before shelling out that kind of money.

(Christy Hemphill) #3

Good question, I’m interested in what others have to say. From what I have gleaned from friends with older children, almost none of whom have used an umbrella school to get an actual diploma, it was not an issue with most colleges. Admissions offices have very individualized processes for dealing with homeschool applicants that can range from wanting very detailed syllabi and work samples to not really caring about anything other than SAT/ACT, AP scores, and student essays.

I have been advised that it is a good idea to write up a course description and a book/resource list for every course you are putting on your kids transcript, along with time estimates per/week that correspond to how you assign credit. It’s easier to do this as you go instead of waiting until junior year and finding out an admissions office wants it. Different state schools expect to see different things, so the sooner you can check out the requirements of schools your kids might potentially be interested in the better.

Also, people have said that having a few good AP or CLEP scores or some dual enrollment credits can basically serve to validate the credibility of your entire transcript.

I have heard that for homeschool kids, whatever GPA you may have assigned to them is far less important to admissions offices than test scores and being able to demonstrate involvement in interesting extra-curricular projects or service work. Here is a journal article summary from a 2016 paper comparing predictors of success in college among homeschool and traditional school students.

(Randy) #4

I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Correspondence School–a secular HS diploma. As a poor :slight_smile: missionary kid, I chose community college for the basics, and then state university for the bachelor’s in science --biology with a minor in French. The US ambassador office administered a PSAT (pre-SAT) which worked as an SAT, and I didn’t get any prep. I did OK, but always wondered if it would have done better to study first.
Benefits of comm college were many, and I don’t regret going there: Admission is easy, basics are cheap; transfer anywhere; small classes with teachers willing to write recommendations; less of a risk of curved grades from big classes, so that we had more accurate feedback on our performance; closer to home.
My brother actually did the same thing for HS correspondence, but opted for a GED because he wanted to go straight to Christian college from HS–he got a scholarship, which helped.
If you’re deciding on whether to go to a big name college or not in prep for grad work–I found that UM, Wayne and MSU med schools were ok with my coming from state school.

(Bruce Holt) #5

Thanks for the responses so far. Following is my rather long narrative about why these questions have become pressing for me this summer.

Some of you may recall that last fall I wrote about preparing to move overseas to take my dream job as a cartographer in Germany. That ended up getting delayed due to further government approvals that I had to wait on, causing my family to spend several more months on the roller coaster of life that we’ve been on these past years. Our son, Soren, ended up doing the full year of CC’s Challenge B, though he didn’t complete nearly everything in the curriculum, and I wasn’t thrilled with the decision to stay the course with CC.

As of a few months ago, the job in Germany became a strong possibility again, and it now looks like we will be moving there soon—perhaps by the end of July.

With this major move impending, and with Soren on the cusp of high school, decisions about his education are forefront for me and my wife (and Soren). There is a CC group based in the area where I would be working, and my wife’s inclination would be to continue with this program that she has enjoyed and been so impressed with. I’m not wholly opposed to that, but I have two salient reservations: my ongoing dismay with CC’s weak approach to science and the fact that CC does not, to my knowledge, issue diplomas to its “graduates”. I believe they do partner with a company to provide a means to a diploma (or at least a high school transcript), but I don’t know much about that. I’ve seen marketing emails, but have never investigated further. Perhaps Lisa @Lstrite or one of the other CC moms on this forum can tell me more.

I know that many excellent colleges have admitted homeschooled students, and I expect that some of those students did not have a formal diploma of any kind. But I also know—largely because I inquired of admissions officers two summers ago—that the work required to put together a compelling application package is substantial. I applaud those, including several on this forum, who can do that sort of work. But I know my family, and I just don’t see it happening for us. So I’m convinced that some route that leads to a diploma is the best plan for Soren. With that conviction, I’ve identified four main paths we could take:

  • Soren could attend the local DoD school
  • Soren could attend one of the international schools in the area
  • Soren could attend a private Christian school (I’ve only found one in the area)
  • Soren could continue with homeschooling (and probably CC) while participating in another program to enable him to work towards a diploma

My wife and I had a very good beginning discussion of these options. She seemed to appreciate that I’ve considered many issues that she had not given thought to—particularly how each path makes specific options for Soren’s post-secondary education either more or less accessible. Since we anticipate staying in Germany at least four years, and since we expect that Soren would then be interested in going to college, I’m keen to make sure that we don’t close off any post-secondary options he might want to pursue. As of now, he’ll say that he only wants to go to Clemson, following his dad, an uncle, and several cousins. But I can see a scenario in which after four years we all want to stay in Germany, so I’d like him to be prepared for potential admission to German universities as well. I’m not sure that homeschooling—even with a diploma—provides a path to that, in a country where the practice is still illegal for its citizens.

All that said, it’s our consideration of homeschooling towards a diploma that led me to finally ask about this forum’s experiences with that. As my wife and I were talking, we wondered if there might be on online academy that would allow us the flexibility to continue with CC (skipping science and other parts of the curriculum I’m sure) and apply the work done in CC toward credits for graduation. So far, I’ve found three that look promising:

Wilson Hill Academy
Memoria Press Academy
K12 International Academy

I know that Wilson Hill has been discussed on this forum before. I don’t know that K12 has a specifically classical or Christian emphasis, but I think they are larger and may carry a stronger reputation internationally. Memoria Press seems appealing, especially since they specifically mention that “co-op classes” can count towards their diploma.

Does anyone here have first-hand knowledge of the diploma programs for one of these academies or a similar one? I’m still at the beginning stages of exploring these options, but we’re about six weeks away from the start of the school year with a lot of work in front of us related to the move, so any help people can offer will be most welcome. Insights, cautions, recommendations, exhortations—bring them on.

I will also note that my employer will be responsible for covering educational expenses, so I can say—for perhaps the first time in my life—that cost is not a factor.

(Lisa) #6

Hey Bruce!
We live in NC and our homeschool laws don’t include umbrella schools or anything like that. The parents issue the diplomas for their homeschool. Many homeschoolers around here end up going to NC State University or UNC Chapel Hill which are both good schools and these kids are getting in without having a diploma issued by an outside organization/company.

For us, we ended up deciding that our oldest would finish CC’s Challenge A and then go to a private Classical Christian school in our area. CC wasn’t the right fit and the things I would need to add to make it up to par were going to be too time consuming (I have two other kids as well). We thought about doing other outside classes instead of CC and then dual enrollment at the local community college (free for high school juniors and seniors) but the amount of running around I was going to have to do to take him to a bunch of different classes wasn’t going to leave time for my other responsibilities. Looking over our list of goals, a Christian school looks like it’s going to be a better fit for our family at least for next year. I’ll still be homeschooling the younger two and doing Foundations.

When we were planning to continue homeschooling through high school, I was thinking I would have him take SAT subject tests and AP exams to provide some external verification of his achievement. I looked over the websites of several types of colleges: local (NC State, Chapel Hill, Duke), Christian (Wheaton, Messiah, Grove City), very selective (MIT, Yale) to see if they had any special requirements for homeschoolers and what their general admissions requirements are. A few want detailed course descriptions including books/curric used and grading policies and the very selective schools indicate they put a heavy emphasis on test scores for homeschoolers. I was already writing up a syllabus for all of his middle school and high school level course work so it wasn’t going to be anything extra for us to do.

Now CC…they does not issue diplomas but they have a service that will help you create a transcript (which you could easily do yourself with a word processor or spreadsheet). In the catalog or on their website they give suggested course titles for each strand of the Chall levels. They offer some college credit through CC Plus, which obviously costs extra and I’ve heard mixed reviews about how well that works (you go through CC but then work with someone from the college that issues the credit, and a lot of the courses weren’t anything I’d pay for anyway ie “College Algebra”).

It sounds like you have several good options. I don’t know much about the online academies other than they can be pricey :slight_smile: A couple friends use Potter’s School for all their kids coursework, that might be another one to look into.

(Christy Hemphill) #7

i work with an Austrian woman married to a German man who homeschooled her kids in Mexico and I know it was very challenging for her to provide a homeschool education that prepared her kids for German university as German students. She had to use certified correspondence courses and they had to take exams at certain levels. Only one of her kids actually ended up going that route preparation-wise, and I don’t think he even ended up going to university. (The others either did not go to college, or went to the US.) I think if you find a private school that does IB courses (which many international English-speaking schools offer) then you can get into to most European universities as an international student.

(Bruce Holt) #8

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Elle. We have friends who may have used NARHS. I recall talking to the dad years ago and learning that the oldest child received a diploma from a school in Maine, even though the family lives in Maryland. It sounds like their service—and similar ones—still require a lot of planning and documentation of the part of parents, so I think it’s not a good fit for us. But it’s good to hear more and more “success stories” of homeschoolers and college admissions.

(Bruce Holt) #9

Even though I am drawn to just about everything German, I am exasperated by their intransigent and draconian opposition to homeschooling. I’m actually a bit surprised that there is any path to German university through homeschooling. Some thoughts occurred to me today about why their national policies may have developed in such contrast to other nations like the U.S., but I should hold those thoughts for now. Ask me later if anyone is interested.

Yes, I think that is the most straightforward route to having Soren prepared to apply to schools in the U.S. or Europe. There are multiple international schools in the area we plan to be (Frankfurt Rhine-Main) that offer the IB diploma program, and my wife has seemed very open to the idea that this might be the best next step for us. It wouldn’t be an easy step, for several reasons, but I’m encouraged that we are having productive discussions and working towards unity on this complex decision.

(Bruce Holt) #10

I had a good talk last week with a former co-worker who became a close friend during the year he and I sat in adjacent cubicles. In addition to being brilliant and an overall swell guy, Nate was (I think) the first person I met as an adult who had been homeschooled all the way through high school. He how holds a Ph.D. from UCSB, so he clearly did just fine academically.

Nate had told me previously that California treats homeschooling families as private schools (I think I’m getting that right), and that he had a diploma issued by his mom and dad. When we talked last week he confirmed that he had used that document for his application to college and on job applications, and that it had never been questioned.

I still doubt that any university in Germany—and most in other countries in Europe—would recognize such a diploma, but it’s encouraging to know that U.S. colleges and universities are doing so.

(Randy) #11

Taken down because I don’t think that this is that relevant to the conversation. Sorry. Best wishes.I can’t imagine a better experience than learning German and being homeschooled!

(Bruce Holt) #12

I’ve heard a bit about The Potter’s School over the years, and I did look into it. Sadly, though they use Novare’s text (which we already have) for Earth Science, they use an Apologia text for Biology. I realize this is a simplistic approach, but essentially that’s become a litmus test for me. Based on what I’ve seen (and what others have seen) in Apologia materials, I couldn’t in good conscience pay money to support a program that uses those materials.

(Christy Hemphill) #13

My sister-in-law dropped out of high school at sixteen because she was bored, forged her mom’s signature on a document that said she had graduated from homeschool, and enrolled herself at IUPUI (Indiana). It helped that she had just pretty much aced the SAT. She had a PhD in math by the time she was 24. Evidently some schools do absolutely no questioning at all.

(Lisa) #14

Seems like a good litmus test to me!

(Randy) #15

Wow. Amazing.

(Bruce Holt) #16

This all resonates with what I have gathered as well.

I reviewed the responses I received from the five schools I contacted two summers ago: William and Mary, Rice, Sewanee, WashU, and Gordon. I inquired generally about the application requirements for home-schooled students (if they weren’t already listed on the web site) and specifically about three issues that could be significant if we were to continue in with CC.

  1. How a student's transcript or portfolio would be evaluated if all his grades were assigned by his parents
  2. Whether study of Latin would be sufficient to meet foreign language requirements for admission
  3. Whether CC's approach to science—and specifically their use of textbooks published by Apologia—gave cause for concern about students' preparation for college-level science
As I expected, the responses I got were mostly general and guarded. But the key points Christy mentioned were there. A transcript demonstrating academic rigor and how learning was assessed is more important than the grades assigned. Standardized test scores can go a long way to validate a student's achievement. Extracurricular commitment means a lot.

So maybe this is a long way of adding not much that’s new and saying that as usual Christy was spot-on from the start. But I’m trying to keep this conversation going. I’m still hoping to hear from someone who has actually been through this process in the past few years.

Zach @zapproximator, are you somewhere in the process of learning about and applying to colleges?