- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 8, 2004

Forty percent of colleges and universities reported an increase in applications from home-schoolers in 2003, according to the National Association of College Admission Counselors, a professional organization. The group had no statistics on acceptances of home-schoolers.

The NACAC also reported that 77 percent of colleges and universities have a formal evaluation policy for home-schoolers. That is up from 52 percent in 2000.

What this means to college-bound home-schoolers is an easier path to admissions than in the past.

“In the last seven years, there have been tremendous breakthroughs” [regarding college admissions policies], says Chris Klicka, senior legal counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based advocacy group for home-schoolers’ legal rights.

“Seven years ago, less than half of colleges made it possible or easy for home-schoolers to apply,” he says. “Now, I’d say 95 percent of colleges have wide-open doors. There are still some barriers, though.”

Andrew Flagel, dean of admissions at George Mason University in Fairfax, agrees. He calls reviewing home-school applicants a “widely accepted” practice at his university.

“More and more universities are being accommodating to home-schoolers,” he says. “While policies are very much on a school-by-school basis, there is a great deal of flexibility on what institutions can do.”

George Mason, for instance, is phasing out the requirement of the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) test. Although it varies from school to school, the GED requirement for home-schoolers is largely dropped at many universities. The GED used to be necessary not only for admissions, but also for financial aid. The Higher Education Act Amendment of 1998 stated that students could apply for financial aid with a self-certified home-school diploma, Mr. Klicka says.

“Now it is a separate option for those in a home-school setting to have a self-certified diploma,” he says. “As a result, universities have backed off the GED requirement.”

Still, there are several actions to take when a home-schooler is thinking about college, Mr. Klicka says.

• Parents should keep a detailed transcript. It is a good idea to check with your state’s department of education to know what the proper number of units is for college-prep students. Keep track of what your children are learning so you will have something to show the college admissions representatives.

This is very important because as home-schooling has become more popular, so has abuse of the term home-school, says Manfred Smith, president of the Maryland Home Education Association, an advocacy group for home-schoolers and their parents.

“We sometimes see people who call themselves ‘home-schoolers’ but are not doing what they should be doing,” says Mr. Smith, a former public school teacher and a home-schooling father of three. “So you don’t want to be viewed [by colleges] with suspicion. Make sure you can prove what you have done.”

• Take some Advanced Placement tests if you can. Colleges will see that you are capable of doing advanced work. That could give you the edge in the admissions process, Mr. Klicka says.

Similarly, enrolling in community college will show a college track record before you try a four-year university. Many home-schoolers are dually enrolled in high school and community college. This will show a record of college work and will satisfy basic requirements, which also will save money in the long run, many parents of home-schoolers say.

• Think about what type of school your child might want to attend (such as private or public, big or small, religious or secular) and research what the entrance requirements are for a few of them, says Mary Ann Boyleston, a home-schooling mother from Ashburn, Va., whose two children both attended college. This will help you prepare early by filling in any areas in which the student may be lacking.

• Take standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. These tests are good indicators of the ability to do college-level work and usually are part of the general admissions process at most colleges and universities.

Home-schoolers also tend to fare well on standardized tests. For instance, 2,219 home-schooled students nationwide took the SAT in 1999, the most recent year for which statistics were available. They scored an average of 1083 (548 verbal and 535 math), 67 points above the national average of 1016. That same year, 3,616 home-schooled students took the ACT and scored an average of 22.7, compared to the national average of 21, according to HSLDA statistics.

WHEN YOU GO:

• What: Great Falls Park

DIRECTIONS: On the Virginia side, take Exit 13 off the Beltway to Route 193 (Georgetown Pike). Go west 4.3 miles, turn right onto Old Dominion Drive, then right on the entrance road to the park. On the Maryland side, take Exit 39 off the Beltway onto Route 190 (River Road). After almost seven miles, a road leading to the left will be marked as the entrance to the park. Both parks are about 12 miles from Washington.

ADMISSION: $4 a carload, good for both parks.

• What: Rock Creek Park

DIRECTIONS: From downtown Washington, take the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway north to Beach Drive. Exit onto Beach Drive north and take it to Broad Branch Road. Make a left and then a right onto Glover Road; follow the signs to the Nature Center. Note: The parkway is one-way south on weekdays from 6:45 to 9:45 a.m. During this time, you can use 16th Street to Military Road west and then turn left onto Glover Road as an alternate. The parkway is one-way north from 3:45 to 6:30 p.m. You can take Glover Road to Military Road east then south on 16th Street to downtown Washington as an alternate.

• What: Chesapeake& Ohio Canal

DIRECTIONS: The canal follows the Potomac River for 184.5 miles from Georgetown to Cumberland, Md. There are numerous ways to access the hiking trails, including the following:

• C&O; Canal Headquarters, PO Box 4, Sharpsburg, MD 21782. 301/739-4200.

• Antietam Creek Ranger Station, 3811 Harpers Ferry Road, Sharpsburg, MD 21782. 301/432-6348.

• Western Maryland Station, Canal Street, Cumberland, MD 21502. 301/722-8226.

• Hancock Visitor Center, 326 E. Main St., Hancock, MD 21750. 301/678-5463.

Sources: Web sites for the National Park Service (www.nps.gov), the C&O; Canal Association (www.candocanal.org) and the Georgetown BusinessImprovement District (www.georgetowndc.com/canal/canal.php).

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