Review Admission Policies Carefully
When you look at a college website to see what their admission requirements are for homeschoolers, it can be sort of…well, off-putting. Often it looks intimidating. Sometimes it’s just downright scary! They use big words, acronyms, and bold font. But if you cut through the fear, you will often find a college policy that is actually fairly reasonable.
Voice quivering at first, a member recently asked me about the Homeschool Admission Policy at a specific university, so we looked at it together. Together we decided, “Hey! That’s not so bad!”
Using this college policy as an example, let’s see what that scary-looking website REALLY means to homeschool parents. Let’s take those big words, scary phrases, and ridiculous acronyms, and break them down into the Latin and Greek roots, to see what is REALLY behind all that edu-speak!
“College Academic Distribution Requirements (CADR)”
This simple phrase is more intimidating because of the acronym. At first glance, you might think you should already know what “CADR” means. That phrase is NOT part of a normal parent’s vocabulary! It’s not at all like “CPR,” which most people understand the meaning of, and it’s OK that you don’t understand when you see it the first time. Even if you don’t understand the simple phrase, when you look at the policy, it becomes clear. CADR means “core classes.” These are the classes they want students to take before applying to college. Whew! I’ll bet you are already teaching those classes.
“Homeschooled coursework requires validating test scores.”
Uh oh! Reading that phrase for the first time, you might immediately think we are being treated unfairly, and given additional testing. And what about the word “validating?” Does that mean that without a test score, you are NOT a valid homeschool? No! They are looking for some outside documentation, that what you say on the transcript is true. And actually, their outside documentation is pretty easy to get!
“Examination Options: SAT Reasoning Test or ACT with Writing”
Those intimidating “validating test scores” may look pretty scary, but take away the extra words and the answer is simple. SAT or ACT. Your child just needs to take the regular SAT or ACT that all students take. Virtually all children who apply to a university will take those tests and have those scores. It looks like a unique requirement for homeschoolers, but it’s really pretty run-of-the-mill ordinary. Now if you are a non-tester, or someone who might balk at a nationally standardized test, this may be frustrating, I’ll admit. Still, it’s not really unusual.
“Science Examination Options: ACT with Writing or SAT Subject Test or Advanced Placement®”
Read the details on each subject area, and which test will cover each area. Do you notice anything? The ACT test will only work if you take the test with the optional essay. But that test still has an advantage – it validates science. Read the details carefully. In this instance, these details can save a lot of trouble! Your child would only have to take the ACT with Writing to meet almost all their validation requirements. This is like an un-spoken suggestion. That’s particularly interesting, because this college is in Seattle, where most high school kids take the SAT test, not the ACT. So read those details; it can help you work smarter, not harder.
“Subjects completed at a high school or regionally accredited college do not require test score validation.”
This sentence may contain two of my most-hated words in the English language; accredited and validation. But I’m willing to look past my prejudices against these two words, and actually read the sentence. Lo and behold, I find out this is actually good news! Have you noticed how not all homeschool kids get sky-high test scores? Some kids simply aren’t good test takers. Like the proverbial square peg in the round hold, standardized tests don’t fit them. But within this scary-sounding sentence is an option for poor test-takers. Without having SAT or ACT test scores, students can still achieve that frustratingly required validation through community college. Not required or even encouraged, the community college option provided is an option for kids who don’t have or can’t provide SAT or ACT test scores.
“Foreign language UW proficiency examination or SAT Subject Test or Advanced Placement®”
Proficiency means competence. Apparently this particular university cares about one subject that is not covered by the ACT with writing. They would like to see competence in foreign language. Now, when a child is admitted to a university, they will often provide proficiency exams in different subjects - they are pretty common. However, those tests are often in reading, writing, and math. Did you know that almost one third of students admitted to college are remedial in those subjects? Colleges give exams to help direct those remedial students to additional resources before they flunk out of college. However, at this school, they seem to have a proficiency exam before the child is even admitted. Before you panic, though, notice how all they really need is an ordinary, run-of-the-mill subject test. They can take either the SAT or the AP® subject test in foreign language. They will even provide a foreign language exam of their own!
What I found particularly interesting about this college’s foreign language policy is how it has changed over time. When our sons applied to this school, the school required homeschoolers to jump through even more hoops regarding foreign language. I was unable to meet their requirements in my homeschool, so I wrote to them and explained our situation, and provided thorough course descriptions !" target="_blank" > course descriptions of our foreign language, instead of test scores. My students were admitted and were given great scholarships. Still, it was interesting to see how their policy has changed. Always assume that admission policies can change over time, so check each year, and especially the year you begin applications. One thing that did not change? Their concern over foreign language has stayed the same
“Lab Science: Validation is required for at least one of the following: Biology, Chemistry, or Physics. Examination options include ACT with Writing or SAT Subject Test or Advanced Placement®”
Homeschoolers are a diverse bunch, and colleges are each unique too. For that reason, when a university gets THIS specific, it helps to pay attention. Notice how this long, boring sentence with lots of capital letters gives us a clue about the unique requirements from this particular college. This school REALLY wants students to take biology, or chemistry, or physics. And then they want you to prove that you have taken one of them. Although this is specific, it’s helpful to pay attention to what this list does NOT say. It does not say that you have to take biology plus chemistry plus physics. It does not say you have to take physics at all! It doesn’t say you are not allowed to take another science, or that other sciences don’t count. It doesn’t even go into detail about what must be included in the “lab” part of your lab science. It just wants to see a valid test at the end. It’s very specific. Just make sure that at least one of your sciences is biology with lab, chemistry with lab, or physics with lab. Because it is so specific, if this is one of the colleges your child might apply to, I suggest you make your transcript match this specific request. Put the word “lab” by your science classes that include a lab.
“All applicants are assessed holistically in the context of the school’s comprehensive review process.”
I say it all the time; nobody is perfect. It’s possible to get admission and scholarships even if you don’t have a perfect application packet. That’s why I like this reassuring admission policy. When a college says they review applicants “holistically,” they usually mean they look beyond test scores or GPA. Yes, they do LOOK at those things, but they also look beyond those numbers. “In addition to grade-point average (GPA) and test scores, the University takes into account many aspects of an applicant’s achievements and personal history.” They look at academic preparation, like your homeschool course description providing documentation about the academic rigor of each class. They look at performance in ways not measured by tests, like letters of recommendation. They look at personal achievements listed in the activity and award lists. And they look at personal characteristics, often by carefully reading between the lines on the application essays. So yes, the test scores and GPA count, but the school is also looking beyond numbers. And that’s encouraging!
“Stuff We Like: Freshman from 50 states & 90 countries.”
This tiny phrase was way off in the corner – almost hiding, really. And yet, it can be one of the most encouraging tidbits on any college website. Do you see how they highlight that information? If you are a military or missionary family, and you can represent the 91st country on that campus, you might have an advantage. In fact, think about this in terms of other colleges as well. They ALL want to claim that statistic, of having students from all 50 states. What if they only have students in 49 states? What if you live in that one last state they need to claim all 50? Consider looking for a college that needs someone to represent your state or country. It could mean more scholarship money. Colleges want students from all over. If you are from “all over,” that means they want you!
“All freshman applicants are required to meet minimum academic distribution requirements.”
Don’t get bogged down in the homeschool policy, but remember to read the fine print on the general admission policy as well. Even if you meet the listed homeschool requirements, you must also meet the admission requirements in general. This university provides an excellent example of this universal truth: you are NOT just a homeschooler. You are also a regular applicant. For example, even if you have great SAT scores in math that prove “validation” in math, but you don’t have math during senior year, you aren’t meeting the minimum requirements for admission. You are a homeschool family, but meet the universal application requirements, too.
“An official homeschool transcript is required for all homeschooled coursework.”
Virtually all colleges will require a homeschool transcript. Did you know your homeschool transcript is official? Sure, the word “official” can sound intimidating. I think that’s because some people get the word confused. “Official” does not mean “accredited” or “blessed by the Pope” or “validated by the state.” It only means you, as the homeschool parent, have determined this to be the official transcript for your homeschool. So instead of getting all freaked out by the word “Official,” let me give you some simple steps for making your transcript official enough for this college. STEP ONE: create a homeschool transcript with the title “Official Homeschool Transcript.” STEP TWO: submit the transcript and say it is official. Whew! That was easy!
“The transcript must include: course title, duration of study, short description of course content, grade for performance, and teacher signature.”
While this college says it wants a transcript, it’s actually asking for more than that. What they really want to see are course descriptions along with the transcript. They are looking for thorough documentation of each class. A course description can be difficult to whip up at a moment’s notice, so I strongly recommend that everyone keep course descriptions each year. A common request, there are many colleges that will ask for this detail. But you know, whatever they request, whatever they want, and whatever they call it, give it to them. Each college is unique, and they may ask for things in a strange language or have unusual requests. As a homeschool parent, do your best to figure out exactly what they want so you can give it to them. I actually like what they wrote here, because it’s in English, not edu-speak. But what they are specifically requesting is actually a bit unusual. They want to see “duration of study.” You rarely see that. It’s unusual, and a unique aspect of this college. It wouldn’t be hard to provide, it’s just different. Duration is an unusual request. Having a teacher signature is also an unusual request. Not all colleges ask for that. But you need to know what they want, in order to give them what they want, so read the fine print and be thorough.
“The homeschool transcript must be signed by the teacher of record; this may be a parent.”
It can be pretty scary to see the words “official transcript” and not know you can create your own. It can also be scary to see the words “teacher of record” and think it means someone else. This is not saying you need to have a certified teacher sign the transcript, and it is not saying you need to have a teaching certificate in order to be the teacher of record. It’s saying that the person who taught the child should sign the transcript, and they know it will probably be the parent. You ARE the teacher of record. So when you break this down, you see what they really want. They want a Mommy-made transcript. Give them what they want. Now, the signature request is a little unusual, but so what? Just know what they want and give it to them. Sign your own Mommy-made transcript as the parent (I mean teacher!) of record.
“All official transcripts, including college transcripts, must be submitted by the application deadline.”
Turn the transcript and course descriptions in on time. It’s kind of embarrassing that they need to include this on the homeschool admission policy. I wonder if they have to say that to public schools as well? I don’t know! But I do know that we are not immune to deadlines, just because we homeschool. The rules do apply to us. Follow the deadlines. They are usually completely inflexible. In fact, if you turn in your materials early, long before the deadlines, sometimes they will be so thankful they end up liking you more, and viewing your application more favorably. It’s not just deadlines; try not to be embarrassing in other ways either. Write your transcript on a napkin? Oh no! Please don’t! Unless you are President Lincoln writing the Gettysburg address, that just won’t look good. Get the transcript so it looks nice and official, and turn it in on time, and you won’t be embarrassed.
“The UW does not have an established list of predetermined minimum scores but reviews each homeschooled applicant in light of their unique educational history.”
This university does not have a minimum requirement for test scores, but they don’t really need minimum requirements. This school has so many applicants, they have plenty with great test scores. While this statement may be true, it will still help to compare statistics about each college. For example, their “quick facts” <http://admit.washington.edu/quickfacts#achievement> page provides statistics that describe the average student admitted to the school. Here is what you might learn: they admit only 56-59% of people who apply, the average high school GPA is 3.63-3.92; most admitted students get these test scores: SAT Critical Reading 520-650, Math 580-710, Writing 450-650, and the ACT Composite 24-30. To be successful in applying to this school, you really need to have scores in this middle range. To be confident you might get in, you need to have scores in the high end of this range. To achieve scholarships, you may need to have scores above these ranges. Scores matter, even when they say they don’t matter. You can use scores to figure out how successful your child may be with college admission and scholarships for a particular school.
“English 4 credits, Math 3, Social Studies 3, World Languages 2, Lab Science 2, Senior Year Math-Based Quantitative Course 1, Fine Arts 0.5, Academic Elective 0.5”
While I can provide guidance about what colleges are looking for in general, each college may have unique requirements from students. The only way to tell what a specific college wants from core classes is to find out their unique policy. Policies vary widely, and nobody can tell you exactly what each college in the nation might like. That research is up to the student and parent. My best advice is to cover the common classes colleges tend to require, and then do your research during junior year. That way, if you find something unusual in their policy, you will still have time to modify your homeschool plan and include an unusual core class in senior year. What I found particularly interesting in this school policy is that they say they want 3 math classes, but they also say they want a “quantitative” course taken in senior year. Most quantitative classes are math classes. Essentially, they are saying they want a fourth math class, but it can be “math-like” as well as a regular math class. It also demonstrates how senior year is important. They want their applicants to have the ability to think mathematically during senior year – not wallow in senioritis. Read the details, and give them what they want.
“Pass/Not Pass grades are permissible, but UW recommends that courses have a letter or numerical grade.”
Many parents feel uncomfortable providing homeschool grades because they worry that we can’t be objective about our own child. What they don’t realize is that public and private school grades aren’t objective either, and colleges know that. Colleges prefer a grade – any grade – over a pass/fail indication. Give them what they want. If they want you to give number grades (4.0, 3.0, 2.0) or they want you to give letter grades (A, B+, C-), then be like Burger King, and make it their way! By providing number or letter grades, the GPA calculation will often be high enough to earn scholarships. With only pass or fail grades, colleges can’t give your student GPA-based financial aid. Be honest about your grades, but don’t stress too much about being objective. Honest, yes. Objective, give it up.
“You must attain at minimum a passing grade (including D)”
As homeschoolers, we worry so much about academics, and learning, and the love of learning. I hear concerns about lack of motivation, or poor performance or attitude. But really, is a D really your definition of passing? It’s important to remember that during the college application process, your children are not being compared to “perfect homeschoolers” that all have test scores in the 87th percentile. They will be compared to masses of college applicants. And some of them may have some D’s on their transcript. Whether you are confident about your objective grades or not, I doubt your child has done so poorly that you have been tempted to give a grade of D.
“Homeschooled students bring unique qualities to our campus, and we welcome their interest in our university. The Office of Admissions provides these guidelines to help homeschooled applicants become eligible for admission consideration.”
It was nice to have this example of a homeschool policy. I liked seeing their introduction, expressing their value of home education. I’m usually very glad to see a college with a homeschool admission policy. It’s important to recognize, however, that these policies may change over time. They don’t stay the same from year to year. The college admission representatives may not be familiar with the homeschool policy, or notice a yearly change. They are often reasonable people, however, so speak to them kindly if you have a concern, and they are usually glad to help. At the same time, be flexible, and continue your research on interesting colleges each year, to notice any changes that may occur.
What might a scary first-glance at a university website look like? Here is how it looked to me, when I saw this admission policy on February 13, 2013.
Now what does this scary policy actually mean to a homeschooler?
Bottom Line for This Unique School
After all the scary looking words and phrases, capital letters and acronyms, the bottom line was not scary at all. Taking the ACT is best. Cover regular college prep classes. Provide a homeschool transcript and course descriptions . The only thing that is really unusual here? Try to locate a subject test for your foreign language.
See? That wasn’t so bad!
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies.