The Corner

Education

The College Application Process Is Hard on Homeschoolers

The college-application process was established before homeschooling became a big thing, and it imposes unnecessary hurdles for homeschoolers today. That’s the argument of Professor George Ehrhardt of Appalachian State in today’s Martin Center article.

Ehrhardt, a homeschooling parent himself, thinks that colleges are missing out on many fine students:

From the perspective of higher education institutions, these students represent a potential pool of high-quality recruits. This is especially true because one of the current trends in homeschooling is increasing numbers of low-income urban minorities, who see it as their only escape from public school systems that do not serve their children’s needs. Unfortunately, the current application process — the Common App in particular — makes it more difficult to match students with institutions than it should, unnecessarily lowering the number of homeschoolers who attend college.

One problem is tha the common application asks for information that isn’t pertinent to homeschooled students, such as class rank. More important, the app does not ask about the student’s actual learning. Ehrhardt writes,

What did a student actually do in his or her classes? While school-at-home families may produce educational outcomes similar to those assumed from a high school transcript, other families’ practices may not, and this can be valuable information. For example, my daughter’s Bio 101 course centered on designing and conducting a semester-long experiment instead of memorizing parts of the cell. Surely the faculty that designed the course would like to recruit students who flourished in experiential education settings, but the Common App has no obvious way for students to communicate that.

Another barrier is that the common app calls for recommendations from school guidance counselors — which homeschooled students don’t have, of course.

Ehrhardt concludes,

Many homeschoolers in North Carolina view higher education not only with a healthy skepticism but also with an unfortunate sense that it is something closed and distant. Anyone interested in closing this gap — whether to recruit more applicants or from a confidence that higher education does have something to offer these homeschoolers — needs to think about the way that the college admissions process may unintentionally reinforce that image and drive applicants away.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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