Advice on how to get admitted to different colleges varies just as much as different admissions processes, but there are three factors that remain the same no matter where you go. A student must have a good SAT or ACT score in order to get into almost every college. The one exception to this rule may be found at community colleges, most of which require an English and Math Proficiency test. The more prestigious the school, the higher your test scores must be. Extracurricular activities are also a big plus – they show a willingness to pursue your passions and beliefs.
Brian Ray believes students need to consider college requirements early, so they can plan to meet those requirements while in high school. "If you want to get into certain places, you need to have shown certain experiences," he told TOS. "You have to be prepared for that."
At West Point, leadership is very important, and students will not gain high consideration unless they've shown initiative. Speaking to young homeschoolers, Colonel Jones recommends, "Along with the great education that [you're] already going to get, join Boy or Girl Scouts and get involved in that. Get involved in your church ministry, become a club officer…all of these positions get you more consideration."
At the Air Force Academy, it's very important to have a past athletic record, even if it doesn't involve typical sports like football or basketball. According to Rolland Stoneman, "We recognize that most homeschoolers are not going to have the typical athletic activities available to them, but anybody can put on a pair of Nike shoes and a pair of running shorts and go run. We'll recognize that they've done that, we assume they've trained for it, and we'll count it as cross-country."
At Harvard, teacher recommendations are a must, but they can't come from the student's parent. Admissions officers suggest that homeschooled students enroll in a class or two at a local community college and gain recommendation from someone who is used to evaluating a large amount of students. Work at a community college can also be an effective way to experience the college scene without committing to an extensive program.
Wisdom from College Grads
27-year-old Shannon Gibert is the oldest of six children. Her parents began homeschooling in 1984 when the movement was still in its infancy. Shannon knew she would be a teacher from a very young age, and because of her home education, she was able to spend most of her senior year of high school as a teacher's assistant. That senior year furthered her passion for teaching, but she wanted to do something more than teach – she wanted to make a difference.
"I got into special education because I knew I wanted to do something more than just regular education, I wanted to reach a different group," Shannon told TOS. She transferred into Northeastern Illinois University after beginning her college studies at a local community college. "I chose [Northeastern] because it was local and was a school that I could work with financially," Shannon said.
"One of the biggest transitions for me was learning how to be in a group rather than alone. I had to adjust to being in a classroom of 30 people because I usually worked very independently at home. I had to adjust to the structure of a public school setting, but academically it was much easier than I expected it to be."
Shannon recommends taking some sort of a practice standardized test – whether a practice SAT or ACT or something in a public school format – just to get used to the way it works. "That was something I didn't do, and when it came to test time I had a little bit of anxiety because I wasn't used to that," she said. "I also think students should talk to people who have already been to college and gain any type of advice that they can give you; advice about professors, school life, study habits, anything."
After graduating in 2003, Shannon found a job right away. "It was really easy for me, because I did student teaching in the district that I'm teaching in now," she said. "When I was a student teacher I met people and made contacts, and when I graduated I was able to take that information and take my contacts and get a job. Because there's such a high demand for teachers, especially special education teachers, it's pretty easy to find a job." Now Shannon shares her love for learning and helps those with difficulties, working as a Special Education Teacher with a focus on learning disabilities and behavioral disorders.
21-year-old Kenton Skarin was homeschooled from 3rd grade to 12th grade. He entered North Central College in Illinois and progressed rapidly due to Advanced Placement Tests, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2003. When adjusting to college life and classes, Kenton found that he managed the stress better than many traditionally schooled students. "I personally felt that I was at a great advantage over students that came from traditional classroom settings," he told TOS. "You need to learn very quickly in college how to motivate yourself. In public high school, students had someone who would tell them, 'Don't forget, assignments are due at the end of next week!' That kind of thing doesn't happen in college. They might remind you once somewhere along the way, but you basically have to figure out your own schedule and study methods. It took a lot of students 6 months to a year to get comfortable with something that I was already able to do."
Kenton found that students from different schooling backgrounds were always interested in his opinion on various subjects. Whenever he said "I was homeschooled," the typical response was "Cool! That must have been fun!" Students accepted him for who he was as a person, rather than focusing on his educational background. In Kenton's words, "[College] was different, but in a positive way."
"Be absolutely certain that you know what you believe and why you believe it," Kenton tells future college students. "College will challenge you in just about every area that you can think of. I really recommend David Noebel's Understanding The Times. Read the book in its entirety – that's one of the things I did to prepare for college and I was very grateful for what it had to say. Consider that advice if you're attending a Christian college as well. Often, students discover the same kinds of humanist philosophy creeping into Christian college. If you read Noebel's book, you'll be able to recognize that as it comes down the line toward you.
"I would also say that, at least for me, it was a very great benefit to be able to live at home while I attended college...to come home at night and have a family who supported the values I believed in, instead of having to be the "Lone Ranger" and go back to my dorm room and get up the next day without that support. I know there were times when I needed to have someone say that they believed in me, or that they were praying for me, or that they were in agreement with the different stands that I had to take in college classrooms. If it's possible for a student to live at home, I think it's a very great benefit. Being able to maintain my relationships with my siblings and having very strong Christian support from my parents vastly outweighed any other benefits I could have gained by living on campus."
College prepared Kenton for his ultimate goal – to study at Northwestern University of Law. If his application is accepted, he plans to go there this fall. Currently, he serves as a debate coach for a NCFCA High School Policy Debate team, an historic military vehicle technician at McCormick's 1st Infantry Division Museum in Wheeling, Illinois, and an intern/editor for the Illinois State Bar Association's Alternative Dispute Resolution Newsletter, In the Alternative.
The Next Generation
The first homeschooling parents brought their children home for many different reasons. There were some who believed they could give their children a better education than what the public schools had to offer. Others had children who struggled with the poor learning environment that a classroom provided. Then there were those who objected to what public schools were teaching, wanting to develop character and a Christian worldview through their own studies. Whatever the reason, they wanted to do what was best for their children; they paved the way for future generations.
Today, those first homeschooled students are finishing their college education, maintaining successful careers, and raising young families of their own. They've demonstrated that the love of learning still exists; that passion and dedication are not lost qualities. From the universities and academies of this nation come heartfelt requests, "Send us more homeschoolers!" The call will be answered. America's next generation of homeschooled students are ready – and willing – to pick up the torch.
Copyright, 2004. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. Claire Novak is a freelance writer and journalist. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications, including TOS, The Girlhood Home Companion, The Pebbly Brook Farm Journal, and Country Line Magazine. Claire's specialties include Christian human-interest stories, historical pieces, and articles about horses and western riding. She plays an active role in her family's ministry, The Gift of Family Writing. Visit their website www.giftoffamilywriting.com.