- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — David Sample wanted to attend the University of California at Riverside but thought it was a lost cause because he had been home-schooled.

The University of California system is known for being tough on nontraditionally schooled applicants. For these students, the best ticket to UC has been transferring after taking community college classes or posting near-perfect scores on college entrance exams.

“For home-schoolers, it was basically a shut door for us because of the restrictions,” Mr. Sample said.

Last fall, however, UC Riverside joined a growing number of colleges across the country that are revamping application policies to accommodate home-schooled students. The change took effect just in time for Mr. Sample, 18, to apply and get accepted with a substantial scholarship.

Under UC Riverside’s new policy, home-schoolers can apply by submitting a lengthy portfolio detailing their studies and other educational experiences.

Mr. Sample’s package showed that he had studied chemistry, U.S. history and geometry, rewired a house and helped rebuild a medical clinic in Nicaragua.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that 1.1 million, or 2.2 percent, of all students in the nation are home-schooled.

Some private colleges have eagerly recruited those students for years and tailored application processes to include them. Home-schoolers still face challenges when applying to many public universities, but their chances of being considered are improving.

In 2000, 52 percent of all colleges in the country had a formal evaluation policy for applications from home-schoolers, said David Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Four years later, the number jumped to 83 percent. During that time, 45 percent of colleges reported receiving more applications from home-schoolers, he said.

Major schools that now post application procedures for home-schoolers on their Web sites include Michigan State University, Oregon State University and the University of Texas.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology also is willing to consider home-schoolers. The highly regarded school does not require a high school diploma. As part of its admissions process, it considers scores from college entrance exams and asks applicants to submit a 500-word essay, detail five extracurricular activities and offer two teacher evaluations.

“We evaluate every student based on who they are,” said Merilee Jones, dean of admissions at MIT.

Frank Vahid, a UC Riverside computer science professor, was among those who lobbied for the change at his school, saying it could gain a competitive advantage because home-schoolers have a lot to offer. Mr. Vahid’s own children are taught at home. His 15-year-old son also takes community college classes and likely will try to transfer into to a public university.

The home-schooling movement has its roots in religion, but families pull their children out of traditional schools for a variety of reasons. When many of those students reached college age in the 1990s, colleges began considering their qualifications and potential more closely.

“Colleges are far more familiar with the backgrounds of home-schoolers and their needs,” said Ian Slatter, director of media relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association. “We have had fewer and fewer problems.”

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