Admit-A-Bull // Official Admissions Blog

Homeschool Guide to Admissions


How to Apply to College as a Homeschooled Student

When you’re homeschooled, learning becomes a part of everyday life. You read Shakespeare on the sofa with your corgi. You study marine biology on your family fishing trip. You devote yourself to painting cityscapes or writing a novel or programming the world’s first AI dog — because homeschooling lets you follow your passions.

This nontraditional approach to school can be incredible, but it also makes college applications more confusing. How do you distill your unique coursework into a transcript? How do you prove what you’ve learned to an admissions office? We’ve got you covered with these tips on how to apply to college as a homeschooled student.

Look Up Admission Requirements

Here’s some good news: USF doesn’t require extra materials from homeschooled applicants. If you want to be a Bull, your application process will be the same as anyone else’s:

  • Submit the application
  • Pay your fee or fee waiver
  • Complete the Student Self-Reported Academic Record (SSAR)
  • Send in your entrance exam test scores (ACT, SAT, or CLT)
  • Submit your final high school transcript once it’s ready

But be prepared that some schools might ask you for a few extra steps: “While most colleges don't have a separate application for homeschooled students, they may require additional academic information. Families should be prepared to provide a detailed syllabus for each class and explain the grade equivalency,” according to this article in U.S. News & World Report. In addition, save samples of exceptional work, like essays you’re proud of, to use in a portfolio.

Diversify Your Experiences

Extracurriculars often look different for homeschooled students. Rather than taking a structured class, you might spend your time pursuing hobbies, like baking every technical challenge from The Great British Bake-off. Instead of volunteering through a formal program, you might serve your community by helping your elderly neighbor shop for groceries every week. This informality can make it tough to list your extracurriculars on an application (USF doesn’t ask for this, but other schools may.)

To help yourself out, keep a running list of your activities and any skills or life lessons you’ve gained. What experiences have shaped you into the person you are today? What pursuits have challenged you or broadened your perspectives? Where have you demonstrated leadership abilities?

If you live in a state like Florida, you can also diversify your extracurricular portfolio by enrolling in public school extracurriculars, like high school sports teams. Reach out to your local public school to find out what’s available to you.

Homeschooled students should also consider dual enrolling at their local community college, says Andy Telatovich, associate director of freshmen recruitment at the University of South Florida. Not only will dual enrollment let you earn college credit while in high school, it will show admissions officers that you can succeed in a college environment.

A student writing in her notebook.

Use a Transcript Template

Transcripts are often a sticking point for homeschooled applicants. For one thing, you probably have a mix of educational credits.

“A lot of homeschool students complete courses through different means: through dual enrollment, through virtual school, home instruction, or maybe they started out in a brick-and-mortar high school,” says Telatovich.

But schools don’t want you to submit five separate transcripts. Instead, you’ll need to compile all the data into a comprehensive transcript document. USF has a template that can help you or your homeschool administrator compile your information into one document.

A comprehensive homeschool transcript is important because:

  • It gives the admissions team an accurate picture of what courses you’ve completed and what courses are in progress.
  • It shows that you meet state academic requirements.
  • It helps admissions reviewers properly weight the courses. For example, dual enrollment classes are weighted more highly than high school classes, because you are taking college credits.

As a homeschooler, you might find that you’ve worked ahead. If you’ve taken high school credits in middle school, just record them in the ninth-grade section of your transcript, even if you completed them earlier.

Maintain Good Grades

Here’s a pro tip from Telatovich: Get good grades in junior year. Some schools, like USF, require you to submit your academic record before the first semester of your senior year is complete.

“Your junior year is your last year to increase your GPA,” Telatovich says.

Of course, you can’t stop there. Once you’ve been accepted, you still need to maintain academic rigor through your senior year, because schools will be checking your final high school transcripts.

If you’re already applying for college and your GPA is low, that doesn’t mean your academic career is over. You may want to start at a community college to bring your grades up. USF even has a partnership with community colleges so you can earn your associate degree somewhere else and transfer to USF to finish your bachelor’s.

Take College Entrance Exams Early

Although some schools no longer require college entrance exams, it’s best to take the SAT/ACT so you have more college options. In Florida, for example, it’s written into state law that entrance exams are required, so schools like USF can’t waive them, explains Jerome Thomas, associate director of customer service for USF.

A good rule of thumb, Thomas says, is to take the SAT/ACT three times:

  • The first semester of your junior year
  • The second semester of your junior year (when most students typically score the best)
  • The first semester of your senior year

USF super scores your results, which means we only look at your highest submitted section scores across all test dates.

“Testing multiple times, if you’re able, gives you a better chance for scholarships and to be admitted,” Thomas says.

Note that if you’re applying to a Florida state school, you can also take the CLT. However, this entrance exam is still not accepted at many schools, so double check admission requirements before you commit to this test.

Homeschool student using a laptop.

Ask for Letters of Recommendation from a Non-Relative

USF doesn’t require a letter of recommendation for undergrad applicants, but many other schools will.

“Avoid having a family member write that letter of recommendation, especially if it's required for the admissions review process by that school,” suggests Telatovich.

Don’t worry if you haven’t had any teachers besides your parents. Instead, look for someone in your life who can speak to your character and abilities. Consider these sources:

  • Your tutor
  • Your extracurricular instructor
  • Your boss
  • Your camp counselor
  • Your mentor

Use the Application Essay to Express Yourself

Again, USF doesn’t require an essay or personal statement for undergrads, but you should be prepared to write one for other schools. Use this as an opportunity to help admissions officers get to know you better — choose a topic that lets you express your passions, personality, interests, and writing skills.

Although this isn’t required, you might also mention why homeschooling “suits your academic needs and how it will help you achieve what you want to achieve,” suggests a college admissions counselor cited in this U.S. News & World Report article.

Ask Questions

Remember that at USF, your application process will be no different than anyone else’s. “Everything is equal,” Thomas explains. “We view [homeschool applications] the same as someone who went to public or private school.”

We know the application process can be overwhelming, but we’re here to help. Our admissions officers are friendly and always happy to answer your questions. Reach out to us online, or give us a call at 813-974-3350. We look forward to seeing your application!

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