Community Colleges Look at Homeschooling

As with Virginia’s four-year colleges and universities, Virginia’s 23 community colleges have no uniform policies regarding the acceptance of homeschooled students.

Whether students wish to supplement their high school curriculum, get a jump on college credits, work on an associates degree or attend two years of community college before heading off to a four-year institution, they will find these colleges have a broad range of experience with, and requirements for, homeschooled applicants.

One professor wrote to an applicant: “Your mention of home school gives me great confidence in your motivation. My previous homeschooled students have always been at the very top of my courses. Enroll with confidence.”

However, an inquiry about application policies at another institution was met with hesitation and an expression of skepticism on the quality of homeschool-based education and the homeschooler’s ability to fit in to the campus environment socially.

Much of this variation obviously has to do with each institution’s previous exposure to the homeschooling community. Community colleges in heavily populated urban areas seem very comfortable and familiar with the strengths and unique approaches to education that homeschooled applicants bring to the table, while those in more rural areas often have had very limited exposure to homeschoolers and seem unsure as to how to evaluate a nontraditional transcript. Their rigid acceptance policies are not malicious, but rather are due to feeling insecure about accurately gauging the homeschool experience.

Age requirements, academic documentation, and the course load allowed all are part of the variables found among Virginia’s community colleges. While a handful of community colleges accept students as young as 13, many are very strict about adhering to a minimum age of 16. Some will allow younger students to take college-level classes; others limit their participation to electives such as physical education. Most require placement testing in English and math. Some accept SAT scores in lieu of that. Others don’t.

Don’t get hung up on terminology when approaching community colleges. High school students supplementing their academics may be considered “dual enrolled” or “concurrently enrolled” at some institutions, while at others, “dual enrolled” is a special contractual term used only between a particular community college and selected public schools within its area. (Don’t feel left out, because this contractual designation usually comes with strict limitations on course load and types of classes allowed.)

A growing number of community colleges recognize that homeschoolers are not all alike and therefore have established policies to evaluate applicants on an individual basis. In these cases, a student’s maturity level and individual approach to homeschooling are each given fair consideration.

Community college policies towards homeschoolers are changing rapidly as our non-traditional approach to education grows in Virginia. What you are told today may be totally revised next week, but, while frustrating, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is the natural process institutions go through when adapting to an evolving constituency.

Encouraging Virginia’s community colleges to put out the welcome mat for homeschoolers requires a well-presented grassroots effort. Call your local community college, set up an appointment, and make your case individually. The more positive experiences these institutions have with homeschoolers, the more they will reach out to attract others.

Again, just as with four-year colleges and universities, it is the applicant’s job to show how he or she can benefit from, as well as contribute to, the campus environment.

VaHomeschoolers is interested in hearing from you about your own experiences with the state’s community colleges. VaHomeschoolers is also available to help you develop constructive communication with their your community college. Contact us at: VaHomeschoolers Government Affairs Chair

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