|Colleges warm up to home
Admissions panels say the students
are better prepared
May 14 — Darcy Abrams was
prepared to explain to colleges why she had never spent a day inside a
traditional classroom. Why her mother had been her primary teacher since
kindergarten. But when Darcy, 17, and her parents started going to college fairs
last year they were met with a warm reception from recruiters.
“THEY ALL SAID, ‘Oh, we like home-schoolers,’” said Carla Abrams,
College admission officers, once suspicious
of the home-schooling movement, are finding that home-schooled students not only
are college-ready, but they’re also more ready than their public school
Studies show that students taught at home
consistently score higher than the national average on the Scholastic Assessment
Test and the ACT Assessment. Once they make the transition to college, other
studies show, home-schoolers also tend to have higher grade averages than other
students, often because they are more motivated and curious and take
responsibility for their own education.
Already, 200,000 home-schooled students are
enrolled in colleges across the county, and 1 million more are expected to apply
over the next decade, according to home-schooling groups. In response, many
colleges have begun changing their admission policies to make it easier for
home-schoolers to apply.
“We are very encouraged. ... They are
opening their doors. They are smoothing the path for home-schoolers,” said
Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the Virginia-based Home Schooling Legal Defense
But Darcy Abrams said she couldn’t be
Her family belongs to the Christian-based
North Jersey Home Schoolers Association. She said she feels as ready for college
as any student from any public high school. She has acted in plays with her
home-school support group and has done three- to six-month apprenticeships in
several professions, including physical therapy, communications and speech
Darcy, one of four children, was set to
enter kindergarten when the West Milford, N.J., family opted for home-schooling.
Darcy’s mother, who was concerned about sex, drugs, violence and what she
believed to be the anti-Christian aspects of the school system, was receptive
when her husband told her about a home-schooling lecture he had just attended.
“He said, ‘You know, we don’t have to
send our daughter to kindergarten next year,’” Carla Abrams said.
When Darcy’s needs surpassed her
parents’ academic knowledge, she turned to the Internet, taking online
versions of advanced-placement high school psychology and literature.
Darcy was accepted this spring at Geneva
College, a small private school in Pennsylvania, where she plans to study speech
therapy under a partial scholarship. She said she doesn’t regret her
“There is always something inside you
where you wonder what it would be like to go to school — what it’s like to
walk down the hall and hear the lockers slam and hear the people,” she said.
“But I’m not nervous about that I was home-schooled at all. If anything, it
A survey of more than 500 colleges
conducted by the Home School Legal Defense Association earlier this year found
that nearly 70 percent, including Harvard University and other Ivy League
schools, had “positive” admissions policies that did not penalize
home-schooled students for not having traditional high school diplomas. The
other 30 percent still require those students to earn general equivalency
diplomas or to take extra SAT subject tests or other exams.
The results of the study were a significant improvement over a 1996 survey
that found that 40 percent of colleges were deemed to welcome home-schooled
Home-schooling groups attribute the more
flexible admissions requirements to both the growing number of home-schooled
students and a 1998 change in federal law that opened up college financial aid
to home-schooled students without a GED or a traditional high school diploma.
Jessica Remaly, 17, a home-schooled high
school junior from Glen Gardner, N.J., said books and letters from colleges have
been stuffing her mailbox since she took the SAT earlier this year.
“I found that many, many colleges are
very, very accepting to home-schoolers,” she said. Remaly’s parents took her
out of the North Voorhees school system in the fourth grade to teach her at home
with her younger brother and sister.
In addition to her work at home, she takes
private French and clarinet lessons and has taken up fencing. Like most home-schoolers,
Jessica said, she socializes mostly with other home-schooled students.
Jessica said she plans to apply next year to Moody Bible Institute, a
small nondenominational college in Chicago. This summer, she will take a
chemistry class at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey to help her
get acclimated to classroom learning.
“It’s one thing that a lot of home-schoolers
have recommended to me,” Jessica said.
As a group, the new generation of home-schoolers
is difficult to characterize, said Karen Prince, an assistant professor of
education at the College of New Jersey who studies the movement.
“There are really two loose groups,”
Prince said. “There are those who home-school for religious or moral reasons.
Those people tend to replicate school at home. Then there are people on the
other end of the spectrum who refer to themselves as ‘unschoolers.’”
The “unschoolers” believe in less
structured forms of education that let students learn at their own pace and
pursue their own interest, Prince said.
It seems the unifying interest for all
home-schooling groups is college.
It’s always a
concern and we’re always thinking about the future,” said Nancy Hoffman of
Morris County Christian Home Educators in New Jersey. Her fifth-grade son
already has college on his mind.
“If you ask him, he’ll say he’ll be
home-schooled until he goes to Princeton,” she said.
By Kelly Heyboer
Newhouse News Service © 2000 Newhouse News Service