SOURCE: NextStudent

April 17, 2008 12:50 ET

As Homeschooled Population Tops 1 Million, More Seeking College Admission

PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwire - April 17, 2008) - Colleges across the country are better equipped to welcome the growing number of applications they're receiving from homeschooled students.

Recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Education put the number of homeschooled students at more than 1 million, or about 2 percent of the school-age population. As this number continues to climb, many colleges have changed their attitudes and admissions policies to accommodate homeschoolers, says Ian Slatter, spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association, a national advocacy group.

As recently as 20 years ago, homeschooling was effectively viewed as illegal, and prior to the late 1990s, colleges were ill-prepared to deal with students who were homeschooled.

"The homeschooler would show up, and the colleges would say, 'We don't know how to deal with you,'" Slatter told The Oregonian. "They really didn't know what to do with a parent-issued diploma."

Today, many colleges have a dedicated homeschool admissions officer, a homeschool admissions policy, or both. Homeschoolers, like other students, can qualify for federal financial aid in the form of grants and student loans. And last year, the Common Application, a college application format used by more than 300 schools, added a supplement for homeschooled students to help streamline their application process, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Without the usual measures, like class rankings and grade-point averages, available to evaluate a homeschooled student's college preparedness, many colleges choose to rely more heavily on standardized test scores.

Homeschoolers need to prove that their pre-college studies have covered core academic subjects like math and science, says Paul Marthers, the dean of admissions at Reed College.

Admissions offices will typically ask a homeschooled student for GED, ACT, SAT, or Advanced Placement test results, along with transcripts from any community college or online courses taken, and a sample of the work graded at home by their parents. Often, colleges will also require that homeschooled applicants take two or more SAT 2 subject tests.

Like their traditionally schooled peers, homeschooled students can qualify for federal financial aid like Pell grants, work-study, and federal student loans to help pay for college. In order to be eligible for federal aid, homeschooled students will have to obtain state-certified secondary-school completion credentials or complete a secondary school education in a state-approved homeschool setting.

In addition to federal grants and college loans, homeschooled students may be eligible for private student loans. Private student loans can provide college-bound homeschooled students with the additional funds they need to pay for school if they find that their education-related expenses exceed their available federal financial aid. However, since federal college loans generally offer more attractive terms than private student loans, students and parents are encouraged to look to their available federal financing options first.

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