How Homeschooled Students Should Approach the College Search Process

Homeschooled students may feel like the college search process is daunting, but it's not.

Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

Homeschooling is on the rise. According to recent statistics, there are over 2.3 million homeschooled students in the US each year. The reasons for homeschooling vary, from the ability to give individual attention to your student, to religious reasons, and others. When it comes time for your homeschooled student to leave the nest and head off to college, it is perfectly natural to feel a bit swamped. After all, high school students in public and private schools have a bevy of resources provided by the school to assist in the college application process. With homeschooling, you may feel you’re going at the college process alone, so to speak. However, the process is not nearly as daunting as it seems.

Make a list before starting

Before applying to schools, all students need to list what they look for in an institution of higher learning. Most students will have an idea of what area of study they wish to pursue, whether they want to be close to home or explore a faraway area, and what their price range is like. It is very important to have this conversation as early as possible so as to jumpstart the college search.

Starting the search process

Once your student has his or her criteria in mind, it’s time to begin the search process. Parents and students alike are encouraged to use online resources (such as this website) as well as more traditional paper resources to find a school that suits them best. Websites such as College Raptor, which ranks colleges based on certain resources, can be extremely helpful in this process. It’s impossible, though, to know how your student will feel about a school from seeing a picture on a computer monitor. The next step is to visit schools, form relationships with admissions officers, and network with the goal of getting your student an acceptance letter.

Every homeschooling is different

The homeschooling experience is different for everyone. There are many different routes students take when filling out college application forms. Some homeschooled students are taught under “umbrella” programs, which award diplomas once the curriculum is complete. Others forgo this route and complete a curriculum of their own design. Depending on your homeschooling experience, your student may already have a transcript in progress that can be sent to a college. If not, your student’s transcript will take the form of their grades and progress reports, as recorded by their parent or teacher.

You may or may not need a physical diploma

Your student doesn’t necessarily have to have a physical diploma to apply to college, or for financial aid. But, you have to be able to prove that your student met certain academic requirements throughout their education. This criterion is determined by your state legislature and is often similar to the progress checks for a GED diploma. If you’re planning to apply via the Common App, which is recommended, there are certain spaces that will ask for the signature of a homeschooled student’s parent or teacher, as well as questions about the philosophy of the home classroom.

Double-check everything!

 Once your application is complete, double-check everything to ensure you’ve completed the requirements. The application process is not easy, even for the most practiced guidance counselors and parents. It is natural to have questions. What if you’re concerned that you may be overlooking something, or that you need an additional form or letter? It is crucial to call the school to ask directly. Yes, the internet provides many basic answers. But for such an important process, it is important to remove the margin of error. Ultimately, homeschooled students face most of the same challenges their public-and-privately schooled peers do. It is important to keep in mind that there’s a litany of resources out there to answer your questions.

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