- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Sara Kianmehr quickly found her match when she was bombarded by choices at a college job fair: Columbia College, a small, private school that didn’t mind that her transcripts came from her parents.

The college “was the only institution that didn’t have a puzzled look and say, ‘Home school,’ and ask me a million questions,” the 19-year-old junior said. “There was a big appeal.”

With colleges and universities aggressively competing for the best students, a growing number of institutions are actively courting homebound high achievers such as Miss Kianmehr, who took community college courses her senior year of high school and hopes to eventually study filmmaking at New York University or another top graduate school.

The courtship can be as subtle as admissions office Web sites geared to home-schooled applicants or, in the case of Columbia College, as direct as purchasing mailing lists and holding special recruiting sessions.

After years of skepticism, many college officials now realize it’s in their best interest to seek out home-schoolers, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

“There was a tendency to kind of dismiss home schooling as inherently less rigorous,” Mr. Nassirian said. “The attitude of the admissions profession could have at best been described as skeptical.”

Home-schooled students — whose numbers in this country range from an estimated 1.1 million to as high as 2 million — often come to college equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in higher education, said Regina Morin, admissions director of Columbia College.

“It’s one of the fastest-growing college pools in the nation,” Miss Morin said. “And they tend to be some of the best prepared.”

Columbia College’s admissions standards for home-schooled students are identical to those for traditional graduates — minus the formal transcript requirement. Some colleges and universities, though, continue to require home-schoolers to earn a GED high-school equivalency diploma or take subject-specific SAT tests along with the standard requirements.

At Stanford University, admissions officers have helped make the university a beacon for high-achieving home-schoolers. The support can be seen on the Stanford admissions office’s Web site.

“The central issue for us is the manner in which you have gone about the learning process, not how many hurdles you have jumped,” the office advises home-schooled students. “We look for a clear sense of intellectual growth and a quest for knowledge in all of our applicants.”

Jon Reider, a former senior associate admissions director at Stanford, said the school’s pursuit of home-schoolers fits its academic and social mission.

He also acknowledged that Stanford and other schools realize that home-schooled students are a prominent enough population that can only be ignored at a university’s own peril.

“Part of it is driven by demographics,” said Mr. Reider, now a guidance counselor at a private high school in San Francisco. “There’s a surplus of college spaces,” and attracting good students to them is important everywhere.

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