Gaining College Admission: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Post-Secondary Options (Part 5)

Everybody is an expert in something. Some feel they are experts in most things.

I say this because we once had a great way of preparing unaccredited home educated students for post-secondary admission, but the idea was stolen, sabotaged and made useless. I am talking about the portfolio.

We taught parents and students how to make a simple portfolio of accomplishments within a home education program. We developed it on a KISS principle which was to keep it straight and simple.

It started with a résumé, expanded to a transcript and ended with specifics on pertinent subjects. It was simple, easy to use and mostly accepted by registrars and admissions personnel.

This happened a long time ago, when most everybody was sending their children to school to be completed with credits to meet the standard admission criteria of colleges, etc. Wanting to help the home education community, I naively presented my secrets at the provincial conference.

A mom who was not a part of our organization, but rather an integral part of another that did not have experience with moving unaccredited students to college found the idea fascinating.

By carefully following my directives, she managed to create portfolios for her two children who were then accepted into college on their strengths.

Unfortunately, this success got to her head and she presented her board with her finding as though it was uniquely her idea. Normally we would call this theft, but the portfolio idea was shared with the objective of helping others.

What should have been a good thing for the home education community became a problem. It was not that the portfolio idea did not work in gaining admission. The problem was that this wannabe leader thought that a good thing would become better with more.

What began as a simple little half inch portfolio most admission people found helpful, grew and evolved to became a four inch scrapbook that represented every detail of everything the student had done or even hoped to do.

There was not an admissions person anywhere who had the time, nor the inclination to review a giant tome of useless material. My great idea was destroyed and portfolios were no longer accepted by most institutions which had come to equate portfolios with a lot of work, time and energy.

Is there a moral to this story? Yes. First, one always has to be wary of self-appointed experts, as their focus is usually more a matter of self-aggrandizement than the welfare of others.

More related to our topic, the lesson is that most solutions are not complicated. Most of the time, very little needs to be done to meet the admission criteria of college programs.

Admission to college is accomplished by presenting what the college needs to properly evaluate your potential for success in the program. This is especially so with prescribed one, two and three year programs usually offered in colleges and technical institutions.

Since English proficiency is always required, make sure your English skills are good. Need math, biology or chemistry? Again – no problem. It does not have to be 30 level courses. Prove that you have the required skills by having followed a different program.

There are a number of ways to meet those requirements and if you have not done that within your home education program, do it some other way. Remember that going to school to get those missing courses is a silly way of going backwards in order to advance.

If biology is a requirement that you don’t have, take an online course from a reputable university or college. Make sure that it can be transferred to the college you want to attend.

The good thing about doing it this way is that, not only do you demonstrate proficiency, but you are likely to be able to apply the course to your program, eliminating the need to take that first year course.

Alternatively, you could always challenge the institution’s first year biology program, and if successful, establish your proficiency while already having completed a course required within the program.

Understanding that colleges are businesses looking for people who will pay tuition for the entire program is critical to understanding why they are so fussy about who they accept for the prescribed programs.

Students who fail or quit the first year of a two year program will not be paying tuition for the second year of the program. This creates opportunity for a resourceful student to go directly into the second year of a two year program.

Why go through the pain of creating a four inch solution for a half inch problem?

Understanding College Admissions: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Post-Secondary Options (Part 4)

Once it is determined that you need to attend some institution of higher learning as part of your career plans, you will have to investigate what it will take to gain admission. I need to remind you that I addressed this issue earlier in this series and suggest you go back and review this information before proceeding.

Institutes of higher learning have rules for entry which vary from program to program. These are known as prerequisites which usually include specific courses you will need, to show you have sufficient knowledge to succeed in the program of choice.

Diplomas may be mentioned as needed, but they are not necessary, as it is not so much a requirement, as a measure of your ability to finish what you have started. Having completed a home education program is certainly proof that you can finish what you started.

No institution in Canada, that I am aware of, will refuse a student who does not have a diploma.

Every student in this province is given an Alberta Student Number (ASN) to which are attached records including a provincial transcript and whether or not a diploma has been awarded.

Home educated students who have avoided provincial programming (credits) at the secondary or high school level have an ASN like most every other student, but will not have this transcript or diploma, which is actually a good thing.

All students who have earned at least some credits will have a transcript created in their name associated with their ASN.

It is very important to understand that any transcript containing some but not all the required credits for a diploma may actually be a hindrance to post-secondary admission as it could come with the stigma of being a dropout or of not being able to finish what you started.

For this reason, we very highly recommend that home educated students stay away from public programming.

Please listen carefully! Colleges, technical institutes, universities, etc., have two sets of admission criteria: one for students who have attended government sponsored schools where students work towards credits and diplomas, (known as standard admission criteria), and one for those students who have not.

Alternate admission criteria is used when assessing any student who has not followed provincial programming, including inter-provincial, international and home educated students.

If you have followed standard government programming and earned the correct combination of credits to earn your Alberta High School Diploma, you will be assessed for admission using standard admission criteria.

If you have earned credits, but not enough to earn the diploma, you will also be assessed using standard admission criteria, but you may encounter some challenges, which are not insurmountable, as long as you have good marks in the requisite courses.

Unaccredited home educated students are not any more disadvantaged than their public school counterparts, but usually have to help admission personnel understand the need to assess them using their alternate admission criteria. This is often simply done by informing the admission person of the fact that you have been home educated.

If the institution you are applying to is a large one, it may be necessary to ask for a more senior person to assess your qualifications for enrolment. Alternate admissions are often handled by those who have more experience with registrations.

Diplomas aside, whether using standard or alternate admission criteria, every post-secondary institution will have prerequisites for entry into all their programs. Prerequisite courses are non-negotiable and they should not be treated as unnecessary.

Usually these are communicated in the language of school, such as English, Math or Biology at the 30 level, but once again, this is a standard measure of subject proficiency. It is not that they require 30 level courses, but rather a certain level of understanding of a particular subject.

Home educated students need not concern themselves with these specific 30 level requirements as you should be assessed using alternate admission criteria. However, you will have to demonstrate that you have an equivalent or better level of training.

Keep in mind that home education programs usually have a much higher level of academic rigour than school programs, so it should not be difficult to prove that you have the equivalent to school-based 30 level programs.

Once you clearly understand how post-secondary institutions of higher learning work, you need only ascertain that you have what it takes to be accepted and to succeed at the program being taken.

Registrars are looking for the best candidates to fill the limited seats in their institution. Your job is to convince them that you are one of those candidates.