As homeschooling becomes a more popular choice for American families, colleges are looking favorably at homeschooled students. However, parents need to plan ahead if they expect their homeschooled child to gain admission to a highly selective university. Students must be able to show exceptional test scores, rich extracurricular involvement, and academic rigor.
Many homeschoolers shun standardized testing; however, colleges are looking for high test scores from even the most interesting and well-accomplished students. College rankings are based on GPA and test scores of their entering freshmen, and these rankings have become a national obsession. Homeschooled students should begin preparing for the SAT or ACT earlier than most students to assure a high score. It is also recommended that homeschooled students take as many SAT Subject tests as possible to prove their competency across several academic areas. Advanced students should prepare for AP tests to prove their competency. Test scores are weighted more heavily for homeschoolers than for applicants from traditional schools.
Providing academic rigor becomes a challenge to parents as their child enters high school. Even the most highly educated parents have areas of weakness and have forgotten subjects they took long ago. Science is the most problematic area for most families. Providing opportunities for hands on laboratory experiments outside the usual kitchen chemistry is a challenge. Parents should look for opportunities to sign up for science and other classes outside the home to supplement the homeschooling curriculum. Look for schools offering accredited, U.C. approved A-G courses (in California) who can provide transcripts to universities. Community colleges are another good resource for courses, however, high school students have last priority for signing up for classes, making it difficult to plan ahead. On-line classes may be useful for a few subjects like mathematics, but colleges are wary about the authenticity of grades from online institutions, so a good plan should not rely solely on online courses unless competency can be proven by AP or SAT subject test scores.
The best solution for homeschooled high school students is to create a hybrid solution by taking some courses at a brick and mortar school and taking SAT,ACT or AP prep classes with a small group of students. High school students are very social and influenced heavily by their peers. Taking a few classes each year with other students their age will provide social stimulation and an atmosphere of cooperation and some healthy competition.