J. Michael Smith, Esq.
Michael P. Farris, Esq.
Help for Homeschool Grads: The College Bound and Job Seeker
January 21, 2011
For the College Bound
Have you recently graduated from a homeschool high school program only to find that the college of your dreams wants you to take the G.E.D. as a requirement for admission? Or have you been denied financial aid because you don’t have an accredited diploma?
While colleges and universities around the country have increasingly opened their arms to homeschool graduates, HSLDA does occasionally receive calls from members with problems similar to those mentioned above. Many unfavorable admissions policies are merely the result of misunderstanding—the two most common concerns expressed by admissions offices are: 1) unfamiliarity with homeschooling and related legal requirements, and 2) a fear of losing institutional eligibility for federal financial aid if students with unaccredited diplomas are awarded financial aid.
If you are seeking college admission and want to prevent the above scenarios, or you have already encountered these challenges, take the time to complete the following three steps to help ensure you have done all you can to clearly communicate with admissions personnel.
Make Sure Your Transcript Includes:
• Personal information of the graduate
• School information
• Dates of each school year and grade levels
• List of courses completed
• Credits earned for each course
• Grades given for each course
• Grade point average (GPA)
• Date of graduation
• Parent/school administrator’s name and phone number
• Parent/guardian’s signature
1. Show that your diploma is legal and valid.
If your college admissions counselor is unfamiliar with homeschooling, you can provide him or her with very helpful, basic information. First, make sure that you are familiar with the homeschool requirements in the state in which your high school program was conducted (you can find the requirements on HSLDA’s website—click your state to download a legal analysis). Second, gather proof of your compliance with the law. For example, a copy of your notice of intent (if your state requires one) demonstrates that filing requirements were met, and transcripts and work samples show that you completed the required courses. In some cases, it is helpful to also include additional documentation of classes taken (visit HSLDA’s Homeschooling thru High School webpages for examples and recordkeeping suggestions).
Transcripts are a standard requirement in the college admissions process, and yours should be professional as well as informative. While not required, it can be helpful to have your transcripts notarized. For more information on transcript preparation and to download samples and templates, go to HSLDA’s Homeschooling thru High School webpages.
Answer any questions the admissions office may have about homeschooling, requirements, homeschool success, and your own education. It may also help to put together a portfolio of your best work from your high school years and offer it to the admissions counselor.
2. Assure admissions and financial aid counselors that the school will not lose its institutional eligibility for federal funding if they award financial aid to a nontraditional student.
Postsecondary institutions that accept federal funds are subject to federal regulations, and many admissions officers mistakenly believe that federal regulations require college applicants to have an accredited high school diploma or GED. Consequently, many admissions counselors also believe the institution will lose its federal funding if the school grants admission and/or financial aid to applicants who do not have accredited high school diplomas. However, HSLDA has worked with legislators and the U.S. Department of Education to develop policies that allow nontraditional high school graduates to receive federal funding.
The relevant sections of the Federal Financial Aid Handbook can be found by searching for the terms “homeschool,” “home school,” and “self-certify.”
In short, the U.S. Department of Education allows homeschool graduates to self-certify completion of their secondary education in a homeschool setting. No proof of accreditation must be submitted for the student to receive financial aid, and the postsecondary institution will not be at risk of losing its institutional federal funding if it admits and awards financial aid to the applicant. The Department of Education has published an official letter regarding homeschool student and institutional eligibility.
HSLDA has prepared a detailed memorandum on this issue entitled “Issue Analysis on Federal Requirements for Homeschoolers Seeking College Admission.” You should provide a copy of this memo, along with the relevant sections of the Federal Financial Aid Handbook (with attachments) to the college admissions office.
3. Contact HSLDA.
If you have followed the two previous steps and are still having homeschool-related difficulties with applying to college, please call HSLDA. While institutions do have the legal right to set their own admissions policies, HSLDA can often help facilitate a favorable outcome for all parties involved. Due to the unique circumstances of each situation, please note that HSLDA handles each one on a case-by-case basis.
For the Job Seeker
HSLDA has found that many employers have concerns similar to those of the college admissions offices. Employers may not be familiar with homeschooling and state-by-state requirements, and as a result insist that candidates have an accredited diploma and transcript. The best response to a potential employer who is expressing doubts about your homeschool diploma is almost identical to the first college admissions recommendation above:
1. Show that your diploma is legal and valid.
First, make sure that you are familiar with the homeschool requirements in the state in which your high school program was conducted (you can find the requirements on HSLDA’s website—click your state to download a legal analysis). Second, gather proof of your compliance with the law: for example, a copy of your notice of intent (if your state requires one) demonstrates that filing requirements were met, and transcripts and work samples show that you completed the required courses. In some cases, it is helpful to also include additional documentation of classes taken (visit HSLDA’s Homeschooling thru High School webpages for examples and recordkeeping suggestions). If necessary, HSLDA can also write a letter on behalf of members to help verify that the homeschool program met state law requirements.
Answer any questions the employer may have about homeschooling, requirements, homeschooler success, and your own education. Be prepared to submit transcripts (see the above section for more information on preparing them), and have a portfolio of your best high school work ready to show in the event that it is appropriate to do so.
2. Contact HSLDA.
If the employer still refuses to accept your high school diploma, please call HSLDA. Although the extent of HSLDA’s assistance is determined on a case-by-case basis, we love serving our members and would be privileged to help you secure employment if at all possible.