The latest news circulating regarding college admission is the large number of four-year colleges and universities that are considering college students who have not submitted SAT or ACT scores. That’s right, many colleges are becoming SAT (or ACT) optional schools. As a homeschooling parent, I was very excited to hear that news. But, of course, restrictions apply, and homeschoolers are the ones most restricted. Here are some of the main caveats I came across and thought important to share before you make the decision for your teen to by-pass standardized testing altogether.
- Most of the SAT (or ACT) optional colleges/universities are private schools.
What does it matter if the school is public vs. private you may ask? Well, it usually boils down to coins. Private schools are typically more expensive, offer less financial aid in the way of grants versus loans and private schools don’t have some of the transparency as public universities, funded by taxpayers, do. For some of you, that may not make a bit of difference, but, for my family, merit and income-based financial aid that is in the form of scholarship and grants are important to us and necessary. While it is great the SAT (or ACT) is optional at a lot of schools, I was specifically interested in the schools in our state and surrounding area.
2. Many of the SAT (or ACT) optional schools require a high school diploma or GED at the time of application.
I had a remarkably uncomfortable conversation at a college fair earlier this year around admission to a four-year institution. I was talking to a admissions rep from Loyola University in Maryland about their SAT optional policy, very interested. I mentioned that my daughter was a community college student and was going to be getting her associate’s degree in a year and a half. The woman had a lot of information to share until I told her that my daughter had just turned 16 and was homeschooled, as she was technically an 11th grader.
At that moment, the college rep told me that she would have to take the SAT even if she applied with an Associates degree in hand. I was confounded. How on earth did this make sense? She proceeded to make a very racist comment that for all she knew, my daughter’s associates degree could be in auto mechanics. I told her she was out of line with that comment because she could have easily just asked me instead of immediately assuming my daughter’s trajectory was not a college prep trajectory. I studied a trade in high school in a vocational school, so I was also offended by the insinuation that studying a trade also immediately makes you less ready for college. If the college is reviewing a student’s transcript and seeing that all of the courses taken correspond with comparable courses at their school for the same program, why is a score on the SAT necessary if courses have been completed and an associates degree has been received?
Well, I checked the policy for a number of schools that have an SAT (or ACT) optional policy, and most of them make the tests only optional for those in traditional schooling who earn a high school diploma or GED. What allows homeschoolers to bypass this is if they apply to schools as a transfer student and not a first-year student. What this does, however, is diminish a homeschooler’s chance to earn a merit scholarship or other awards for first-year students, awards that are typically more abundant when you are a first-year student versus a transfer student.
3. It is still difficult to get consistent information that is specific to homeschool students.
Because many schools don’t have specific policies in place for homeschooling students, the idea of a dual-enrolled homeschooled student– a student with college credits or an actual associate’s degree– may be a bit confounding for those who are supposed to answer your questions. Because it is hard to get consistent and accurate information at time, it is sometimes necessary to visit schools personally or speak to those in management positions before settling for the ambiguous website information or after speaking to the person answering the phone who has no idea what homeschooling is.
I wholeheartedly recommend you begin reaching out to schools as soon as you or your teen have an interest in applying and learning about SAT (or ACT) optional policies to get a clear idea on what their policies are. Policy is not ‘one size fit all’ when it comes to homeschool students. There is no federal policy regulation on homeschool and few states have policies that are clear or consistent across state schools. When you throw private universities and colleges into the mix, it becomes even more confusing.
In closing, research is key to understanding how the policies impact you. On the surface, making standardized testing optional sounds fantastic. But, upon closer inspection, the rules are a bit different for those of us who homeschool.
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman started So Our Youth Aspire (SOYA) in 2006. She is a cultural critic, educator and homeschooling mom. Learn more at khadijahali-coleman.com