By Matt Archbold
“We love homeschoolers.”
That’s verbatim what both Mica of The Catholic University of America and Arthur Ortiz of the University of St. Thomas in Houston told us. And it is a sentiment that is shared by the other colleges recommended in The Newman Guide.
Homeschoolers are a large demographic in many faithful Catholic colleges, given the burgeoning popularity of Catholic homeschooling.
For instance, about 35 to 40 percent of students at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen are homeschooled.
And at St. Thomas, Ortiz said the number of homeschoolers recently jumped from about 3 percent of students to about 8 or 9 percent. Moreover, Ortiz said homeschoolers receive about half of the full-tuition scholarships, because they are often “more well-read and more committed students.”
In its first years, as much as 30 percent of students at Ave Maria University were homeschooled. “We’d have struggled a lot more in the beginning if it weren’t for those great homeschooling families,” said Dr. Traina.
Hardegen noted that many homeschoolers are used to a small environment and lots of interaction with their professors, which is impossible at many larger colleges. At many universities students won’t see a professor until junior year, so homeschoolers feel comfortable at most Newman Guide colleges where there is greater attention on each individual.
In some ways, however, the popularity of homeschooling is making it more difficult for homeschooled students to prove their readiness for college.
Ten years ago, said Mayllen, homeschooled students and their parents were nearly all “mission driven,” and a 3.8 GPA indicated that the student was very strong. Homeschooling “wasn’t a cool option,” and therefore it showed that the student was “willing to walk their own path.”
“But now it’s not always the bravest student who pursues it,” Mayllen said. Families are homeschooling for a variety of reasons, not always with a commitment to superior academics and faith development. “We’re seeing a lot of high GPAs that don’t necessarily reflect the ability of the student,” he said.
Inflated grades are hurting the best homeschooled students, because counselors don’t know what to make of their GPAs. “ My advice to homeschoolers is to be sure to take standardized tests, and take a course not taught by mom or dad.” Hardegen said that she’s noticed that some homeschooled students aren’t as used to standardized tests as others who may have taken many standardized tests in traditional schools, so they might underperform. She says that just means counselors must really look at the entire student.
Mica suggested that homeschoolers think carefully about who writes their letters of recommendation. Most admissions counselors agree that having your mother or father write a letter of recommendation won’t be as effective as having a teacher outside the home, an employer, or someone with whom they’ve worked on extracurricular activities.
Mica agreed with Mayllen that it is helpful when homeschoolers take at least one course at a local college. Students can register as a non-degree student and take a challenging class like calculus or physics, then send a transcript of that along with their application. The student won’t receive credit for the class, but it’s a great way to show admissions counselors that they’re prepared for the rigors of college.
Matt Archbold is writer for Campus Notes, the online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society, a regular blogger for the National Catholic Register, and the founder of the popular Catholic blog Creative Minority Report.