What's different about applying to college as a homeschooler?

Overview

If you’re a homeschooled student, you might be wondering if college applications work differently for you. Fortunately, college admissions is handled very similarly for homeschoolers as it is for traditionally schooled students. In fact, many admissions offices actively seek out homeschoolers. Admissions officers evaluate each student within the context of his/her own background and the opportunities they've had. There are, however, a few differences regarding how homeschoolers submit certain application materials. This article will walk you through how to think about each major component of your application if you're a homeschooled student.

Transcripts

As a homeschooled student, your parent or primary teacher is responsible for creating your high school transcript and for sending it to your colleges. Parents have a few different options for going about this:
  • Working under an umbrella school that produces official transcripts and diplomas
  • Creating their own transcript and diploma
  • Enlisting a service that specializes in transcript and diploma creation
  • Joining a homeschool group that produces professional transcripts and diplomas
Because the day-to-day of homeschooling often looks quite different from a traditional setting, trying to turn a student’s academic experiences into courses and credits may seem like a daunting task. However, parents can rest assured knowing there is no such thing as a “correct” or “standard” transcript, even among school districts.
Your transcript should include all of the following information:
  • Your name, the name of your homeschool (if applicable), address, and phone number
  • Your high school course list ordered by year (grades 9-12)
  • The institution where each class was taken (i.e. homeschool, online institution, community college)
  • The grade scale being used in your homeschool
  • Your overall GPA
  • Credits given per course (listed per semester and per year)
  • Expected graduation date
  • Parent signature with a date
If you’ve taken classes online or outside of your homeschooling, contact each institution to make sure they also send schools an official copy of your transcript. The transcript your parent creates should be cumulative and include both your homeschooled classes and any classes you’ve taken at an outside institution.

GED and diploma

Homeschoolers do not need a GED or a diploma to apply to college or qualify for financial aid; you just have to declare that your homeschool education meets state law requirements. Most homeschooled students choose not to take the GED if they have valid transcripts, as colleges will place the most emphasis on your transcript and standardized test scores. If you’re homeschooled through an online academy, virtual school, or organized homeschool program then they will award your diploma according to their own standards. If you’re homeschooled independently by your parents, then your parents have the option of issuing you a diploma if your transcripts indicate you’ve met the basic state requirements for graduation. When filling out the FAFSA, be sure to check “homeschooled” when it asks for your high school completion status. Even if your homeschool is administered through an umbrella organization, you should still check “homeschooled” instead of “high school diploma” to avoid any delays in the processing of your application.

Letters of recommendation

Colleges typically prefer recommendations from external teachers as opposed to recommendations from a parent so if you’ve taken a class at a local community college or online, consider asking that teacher to write a recommendation on your behalf. Additional letters of recommendation can also come from a coach, mentor, clergy member, or volunteer coordinator who can share insights into how you might contribute to the academic, social, and cultural aspects of a college campus. Policies on recommendation letters are different for different schools so it's best you contact colleges directly and ask what they would like to see as far as who writes your letters and whether or not they’ll accept a letter from a parent.

The school report

In a traditional setting, the school report is typically completed by the guidance counselor but as a homeschooler, it should be completed by your parent or the administrator of your homeschooling program. This is the place to report facts about your school like what GPA scale is used and how many honors or AP courses are offered. Parents should note that when filling out the school report, a number of spaces will be marked N/A because they depend on comparing students to others within the same school.
Here’s how your parent can access this profile online. If you log on to the Common Application, find the "Education" section and click on “Find School.” A window will pop up that lists all the schools in your area. Scroll down to the very bottom of that window and select “I was/am homeschooled.” The site will then prompt you to enter your counselor’s contact information. You’ll want to enter your parent's contact information in here instead. Your parent will then receive an email to set up a counselor account (a My Recommender Account), which is where the school profile and counselor recommendation are filled out. This is where your parent can provide some additional context about your homeschooling and how it was structured. Your parent should upload the items listed below with your school profile:
  • Your cumulative transcript (including homeschool classes and classes taken outside of the home)
  • A document with course descriptions of your homeschooled classes (what materials were used, reading lists, major assignments and/or scientific experiments conducted)
  • Grading methodology for each homeschooled subject Rationale for how grades and credits were awarded
  • Your homeschooling philosophy
  • Sample academic papers or descriptions of science projects with teacher’s comments (optional)
  • Free-time reading list (optional)
Common App Tip: The Counselor Recommendation form only becomes accessible to counselors after the School Report has been submitted. Once submitted, the Counselor Recommendation, like all other submitted forms, becomes available for colleges to download if the student has submitted his/her Common Application to that institution.
The school report window on the Common Application site

Extracurriculars

Colleges want to see you have at least a few activities that demonstrate your long-term commitment and unique interests. Participating in extracurriculars also shows you’re involved with your community and that you’ve had enriching experiences outside of the classroom. Colleges want to envision how you might contribute to their community so it’s helpful for them to see you create or get involved with a community of your own.

Standardized testing

Colleges will typically place more weight on your SAT/ACT scores if you are homeschooled. Many colleges recommend that you take one or two SAT II tests although it’s not required by all schools. Check with each school to see what their testing requirements are.
Final note: It’s important to remember that colleges appreciate the unique nature of your homeschooling education and evaluate all their applicants holistically. Today, more and more homeschooled students are attending colleges and are just as successful as their traditionally schooled peers. If you’d like additional guidance throughout your application process, feel free to explore the rest of our resource where you’ll find advice on topics like applying for financial aid, getting recommendation letters, and writing your college essays.