Thursday, March 31, 2011

You Don’t Have to Go to School or Take the SAT/ACT to Get Into A Good College

As children of many parents continue on their RACE TO NOWHERE treadmills in high school, a secret many are unaware of is that you don’t have to go to school to get into college. I don’t just mean community college.  I mean a very good college. In fact, I don’t just mean a very good college, I mean the best colleges.  In fact as the Learn in Freedom website explains, “Harvard College specifically mentions that they have never required a high school diploma for admission. Stanford University makes clear in a form letter to home learning applicants that a high school diploma is not necessary for admission. 

More and more colleges are following their lead and mentioning admission policies for home learners in their on-line or in printed materials.” Wikipedia reveals that homeschoolers have now matriculated at over 900 different colleges and universities, including institutions with highly selective standards of admission such as the US military academies, Rice University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University.[19]. The Learning in Freedom site provides a list of colleges that will admit students who haven’t attended school here.

Another option home learning students are pursuing is earning college credit at community colleges or online before attending a traditional college. From a financial perspective it might make good sense to earn credits from a more affordable institution in advance of attending a traditional four-year institution.  Another option is to earn college credits through standardized tests such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). CLEP is a group of standardized tests that assess college-level knowledge in several subject areas. Students who earn credit by passing the tests.  Over at the College for Homeschoolers site Calfi Cohen shares additional great tips such as colleges that provide a free education for those who meet their requirements, colleges whose programs have students engaging in real world work and experiences, colleges without exams or grades, a college geared toward students with ADHD, as well as advice for those who want to homeschool for college and attend a "virtual" university.

If you’re thinking, “This sounds great, but a student who has not attended school surely must meet some admission requirements.” You are right.  You can see how unschooler, Kate Frikis got into college without school here. Here are things you can do to ensure your home child who learns at home gets into the school of their choice.

How to Prepare for College Admission

Not only can children who don’t attend school get into a good college, as the Learn in Freedom website explains, those who prepare thoroughly can even be admitted with scholarships. The site goes on to explain that colleges that accept home learners rely on various materials in place of high school grades. While criteria will vary widely, here are some of requirements schools may request.

  • GED
  • Grades from open admission community colleges
  • SAT or ACT scores
    • Some selective colleges will admit anyone with a score above a certain level.
    • This is not a requirement for all colleges.  According to FairTest, the Center for Fair and Open Testing, there are more than 800 colleges and universities that no longer require the SAT for some or all applicants. Here is a list of those schools.
  • Extracurricular activities could be a key to getting a scholarship
  • Personal recommendations
  • Portfolios of student work
  • Applicant's personal essay

The College Board, who sponsors the SAT college-entrance exams has created a page devoted to the application process for those who have not attended school that outlines the approach such students must take to be accepted into college.  

Sandra Dodd has compiled some terrific resources sharing how student work can be documented for a portfolio in this blog post and on this page from her site as well as how you can turn the “curriculum” of a home learner into educationese which you can find here and here and here.  Helen Barrett also has terrific information on how to create electronic/digital portfolios using free tools on her site

Further reading
College without High School - The Book
The Teenagers Guide to Opting Out of High School


  1. Wow! My daughter and I were just talking about this last night - she doesn't like school much and is thinking of taking her GED, finishing early, and going on to college. Good food for thought!

  2. Another answer... go to uni OUTSIDE the USA... avoid the test nonsense and also SAVE a boatload of money. :)