Applying to colleges can be a bit more challenging for home-schoolers than traditional high school students. The curriculums of public and private high schools are well-documented and admissions officers have extensive historical records of student achievement at each school. The officers know that a 'B+' in Mrs. Crawford's Honors English Class at Springfield High School is a tough grade to earn and that it would transfer to an 'A' in most other high schools across the United States. They also know that the 'A' in Dr. Gardner's biology class at Chesterdale Prep is given to every student with perfect attendance. It is relatively easy to compare students from these high schools to students at other American high schools. Most home-school programs, on the other hand, do not have an extensive time-tested curriculum or a tell-tale track record, so admissions boards rely most heavily on standardized tests to assess home-schooled students' applications.
Nearly all colleges require SAT or ACT test scores from all applicants. Home-school teachers should incorporate test preparation into the curriculum and consider a prep class or tutor for junior and senior students (for more information on test preparation for home-schooled students, please see our article from The Link). To register for either or both tests, visit the College Board or the ACT. You will be able to choose a test center in your area by creating an online account.
In addition to the SAT or the ACT, home-school students should also take SAT Subject Tests for the major college prep classes, such as Literature and U.S. History. These tests will prove your mastery of the subject matter much more effectively than a home-school transcript. Many colleges require that home-school applicants take up to five SAT Subject Tests for this reason.
Counselors at traditional high schools receive daily updates, deadlines, and announcements from colleges and standardized testing organizations, which they in turn pass on to their students. Home-schoolers must stay on top of admissions, scholarship, and testing deadlines without this assistance. Additionally, many universities encourage home-school students to submit their applications early to ensure that students have adequate time to submit additional information or test scores as requested by the admissions office. You can find calendars with important deadline information on the websites of admissions offices and standardized test organizations.
Most colleges that require letters of recommendation do not allow relatives to write a letter on the student's behalf. This can put home-school applicants in a bit of a bind, since many programs are taught by a parent. Look to other responsible adults to complete the recommendations; coaches, ministers, club advisors, and employers can provide in-depth recommendations in place of a teacher referral.
Some colleges require an admissions interview, while most offer interviews as an optional component of the application. Home-schooled students should take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate their academic abilities and collegiate enthusiasm. Take a portfolio of exemplary school projects and detailed course descriptions to the interview to clarify the depth of your home-school curriculum.
Finally, research a college's history with previous home-schooled applicants. How many home-schoolers do they accept each year? What are the special requirements for admission? You may be able to find information on the college’s web page or by calling the admissions office. You can also find a list of "home-school friendly" colleges here.
The PSAT is a preliminary SAT, typically taken by high school sophomores and juniors in preparation for the SAT Reasoning Test. It provides students with estimated SAT score ranges, valuable testing experience, and possible scholarship opportunities. While students can register for the SAT online, PSAT registration must be completed through a high school guidance office. Home-school students are welcome to take the test with local high school students; simply contact a guidance counselor in your school district to arrange registration.