Although most of the information required on college applications is the same at various schools – in fact, the Common Application is accepted by nearly 400 colleges and universities across the United States – each college evaluates applicants differently. The various factors taken into consideration are weighted and compared against those of all other applicants before a college is willing to offer acceptance, and students that were educated at home instead of at a public or private school may find themselves running into problems.
Homeschooling is simply the practice of educating your children at home, as opposed to in a formal public or private school setting. Before mandatory school attendance laws took effect in the United States, the majority of children were educated at home, but these days it is considered an alternative to “regular” school.
Homeschooling is legal in most places, and although tutors are sometimes used, children are typically educated by their own parents. Some states require homeschooled students to learn by an approved curriculum while others do not; the requirements and legalities regarding homeschooling vary from state to state. Standardized tests to gauge achievement and home visits from officials are also required in some areas.
Until 1999, little information existed regarding homeschooled students, but the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that approximately 1.1 million students were homeschooled in the United States in 2003.
NCES statistics show that students are homeschooled for a variety of reasons, but the majority of parents feel they can give their child a better education at home themselves. Religious reasons are also a deciding factor for many parents of homeschooled children. In rural areas, schools may simply be too far away to logically attend, and parents in huge cities may cite the safety or poor quality of the public schools in their area as the deciding factor. Families that move constantly due to one or both parents’ jobs may opt to home school their children instead of uprooting them from school to school to school.
Some people might feel that homeschooling is weird or strange, but others vehemently oppose the practice. The National Education Association, which is the largest professional organization in the United States, is comprised of teachers, administrators, professors, faculty and staff members at schools and colleges, as well as college students that are studying to become teachers. The NEA’s “vision” is “great public schools for every student” so it’s easy to see why members would object to the practice of homeschooling.
Politicians argue that homeschooling contributes to lower funding at public schools, while parents of homeschooled students argue that they pay taxes which support the public schools their children do not attend. Critics also claim that homeschooling can give students a one-sided point of view (probably their parents’ views) and some claim that homeschooled children lead sheltered lives and develop anti-social behavior.
Homeschool opponents even claim that the practice can lead to unmonitored child abuse because the children will not be seen by other students, teachers, and professionals. Ten different states and the District of Columbia have no regulations regarding homeschooling, and a D.C. woman named Banita M. Jacks withdrew her four children from school in 2007. Their decomposing bodies were found by U.S. marshals that came to serve the family with eviction papers, and the New York Times reported that many experts suggest the woman’s abusive behaviors would have been detected long before she murdered her children had they been attending school.
The Home School Legal Defense Association, or HSLDA, claims that the chances of child abuse among homeschooled children are rare, and the fact that these children were taken out of school had nothing to do with their murder. HSLDA is a non-profit member organization of families who home school their children. The group began in 1983 and advocates for the right to choose homeschooling: legally, on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures, and in the media.
As with anything else in life, homeschooling has its pros and cons. One of the cons might be trouble getting accepted into various colleges and trouble receiving academic scholarships.
When the time comes to start planning for college, homeschooled students should follow the same procedures as formally-educated students regarding the SAT and ACT, standardized tests which are required by most colleges and universities. Formally-schooled students aren’t officially prepared for the SAT or ACT at school, but plenty of review materials, practice tests, and preparation tutorials are available. It’s important to keep track of due dates such as SAT and ACT registration deadlines and college application due dates.
College applications typically request reference letters from teachers, and in the case of most homeschooled students their teacher is Mom or Dad. In that case, a letter of recommendation from a coach, dance teacher, music instructor, or an employer may work out better. It’s always a good idea to get involved in extracurricular activities, such as sports or music, and have a part-time job to learn about responsibility and socialize with people besides your own family.
Some colleges are friendlier toward homeschooled students than others, and you may have a higher chance of being accepted at those schools. The College Board explains that each homeschooler’s situation is different, depending on several factors. Some students are associated with a particular home school program while others are not, and it is suggested that you contact the admissions offices of the colleges and universities where you would like to apply with your questions and concerns. An in-person, on-campus interview may also help your chances of acceptance because admissions officials may get a better idea of who you are as a person, as opposed to reading your information from a form.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.