Homeschooling: A College Admissions Story
Can homeschoolers get into college? What to do if you run into unexpected obstacles…
My daughter was distraught. She’d put in an application to a university she was hoping to attend. She really had her hopes up about getting into this institution but the university had contacted her with some bad news. There was apparently a problem due to her status as a homeschooler.
The admissions office told her that since she did not have a high school diploma from a public or private school, she would need to obtain a GED to be admitted. This was incredibly frustrating, as it evidenced the admission official’s misunderstanding of what a GED is designed to do. GEDs (“General Equivalency Degree” or “General Education Development”) are meant for people who did not graduate high school and need a certification to prove they have knowledge comparable to a high school diploma. Getting a GED is basically saying, “I did not graduate high school.” Since my daughter did graduate high school (albeit as a homeschooler), a GED would be entirely inappropriate—and kind of a backhanded insult, as it insinuated that her completion of high school “didn’t count.”
Postponing college to get an unnecessary GED was out of the question. I suppose we could have just tried some other colleges (and we did), but I wanted to push back because I knew this admission policy was simply wrong. So, I made a phone call and to admissions and began with the six of the most powerful words in the English language:
“Let me talk to your supervisor.”
I got on the phone with the assistant director of admissions. She explained the policy to me again. I politely explained why a GED was inappropriate and that my daughter had, in fact, already graduated high school. Not only had she graduated high school, but she had already completed two semesters of college courses at our community college. The admissions official was sympathetic, but she said my daughter “simply needed a diploma recognized by [my state].”
This might have caught me off guard in the past, but I’ve been doing this long enough that I was prepared. I said, “I have a copy of the requirements for homeschool graduates from my State Department of Education right in front of me. Can we go through it together?” I send her the PDF and we reviewed it line by line on the phone. I showed her the part where it says, “Homeschool diplomas are issued by parents. No other official documentation is required.” My daughter’s homeschool diploma was clearly recognized by my state.
The admissions official wavered.
I could tell I had her thinking. She said this all seemed reasonable, but she had to run it by the higher ups. “It makes sense,” she said, “especially given she’s already completed a year of community college.” I left the phone call feeling good and happy I’d pushed back.
Then a week later I got the news. “I’m sorry, I’ve talked about this to the Director of Admissions and our policy stands. Your daughter will need a GED if she wants to be admitted.” I was heartbroken. My daughter said, “It’s okay; I’m applying at a few other colleges, too, so we have other choices.” However, I could hear the disappointment in her voice. I confess I was momentarily shaken; there was part of me that wondered if my decision to homeschool my daughter had unintentionally handicapped her.
Fortunately, I snapped out of it. I encouraged mt daughter to apply elsewhere. In the meantime, I called the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). I spoke to one of their attorneys and told them about the problem we were having. He assured me that the policy was way out of the norm and demonstrated a poor understanding of not only GEDs but pertinent laws relating to homeschooling. He wrote the admissions folks a letter explaining how most other universities handle homeschool applicants. He suggested they reevaluate their policy. The admissions office acknowledged the letter and told me they’d take it under consideration the next time they revisit their policies.
Well, I thought that was the end of it.
“We’ll take it under consideration next time we revise our policy” doesn’t sound very promising. My daughter went on and made other plans. Weeks went by. Then, one day about four weeks after our last communication, the admissions office contacted us and told my daughter she’d been admitted. Not only was she admitted, but they admitted her as a sophomore in light of her community college credits. Furthermore, they offered her a generous four year scholarship!
You can imagine our shock and excitement! I don’t know what went on behind the scenes in that admissions office, but I know that had I not pushed back a little—had I simply shrugged and moved on after the first obstacle—things could have turned out much differently. My daughter’s college education was never on the line; by the time we got the news, she’d already received letters of acceptance from multiple other universities. She could have pursued her studies elsewhere. However, getting into her college of choice required some initiative. I’m so thankful I pushed instead of walking away. Now she is happily preparing to head out there this fall to begin her collegiate studies.
I guess the takeaway is that you, too, may face some obstacles as a consequent of homeschooling.
Homeschooling is very mainstream today; since 2020, around 9% of kids are homeschooled (source). It is vastly easier to homeschool today than it was in the 80s or 90s. Even so, you may still occasionally run up against ignorance, misunderstanding, or straight up hostility. When you do, it is worth pushing back. The only reason homeschooling is so broadly accepted today is because of decades of pushing back. So, when you need to, push.
UPDATE: The university notified me that they have changed their overall homeschool admissions policy. They also thanked me for being a catalyst for their policy review and change.
If you are looking for support for your Catholic homeschool efforts, here are three great options for you to explore…