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Higher Ed for Homeschoolers

planteen.gifFifteen-year-old Jimmy Maslanka has his heart set on attending Indiana University in a couple of years. Jimmy has suffered from migraine headaches since he was four. He opted out of public school last year, when the severity and frequency of his headaches made it impossible for him to continue. Now he's a homeschooler.

What will Jimmy have to do to prove that he's ready for the rigors of college life? Luckily for Jimmy, Indiana University will welcome his application with open arms when the time comes. "We review every application we receive, whether a student has been homeschooled or not," says Scott Ham, of Indiana University's admissions department. "We focus on academic preparation, and look for students who have completed the equivalence of a traditional high-school courseload: four years of math, four years of English, etc."

This could prove to be Jimmy's first stumbling block. He doesn't have a high-school transcript to prove that he's mastered those "traditional" high-school subjects. Some homeschoolers do create a transcript with the help of a school. Others don't bother, submitting portfolios of their work instead. This usually includes writing samples, examples of internships, and travel experiences. The good news for homeschoolers is that no school can require that students take certain courses. They can only make recommendations, since not all private and public high schools offer the same courses.

Standardized tests scores will probably carry more weight in Jimmy's application than his transcript, anyway. The vast majority of colleges require all applicants to submit SAT scores, but homeschoolers may end up taking even more tests: At some schools, like Notre Dame and Southern Methodist University, they're required to submit SAT II scores, while "regular" applicants are not.

To round out his application, Jimmy can do what any college-bound high-school student does: Get recommendations from employers or friends, and have an interview with a college admissions officer.

Jimmy's chances of getting into the college of his choice are looking brighter as time goes on. Colleges are getting used to homeschoolers: Approximately 1.5 million children are homeschooled in 2001, according to a U.S. Department of Education report by Patricia M. Lines. That's up from about 15,000 in the late 1970s, and 300,000 in 1990. And that's a lot of college applications.

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