College, University, and Homeschoolers

Submitted by Doug Reid, April 1999 (then BCHLA Treasurer)

BCHLA recently undertook a survey of BC post-secondary educational institutes to determine their attitude towards admission of homeschooled students. From the responses we received, and our review of college calendars, some generalizations can be made.

  1. Few institutions have admissions policies specifically for homeschooled students, but most colleges and university colleges are willing to review a homeschooled student’s qualifications on a individual basis. Some institutions even asked for results of this survey, as they are considering setting up some admissions criteria for homeschooled students.
  2. The major universities are still quite rigid in their admissions criteria, and are not willing to consider anything other than high school graduation. If you want to attend a BC university and do not wish to enroll in a high school, you will probably have to attend a college or university college and then transfer to the university after two years. An exception to this is Trinity Western University, which has a special admission policy for homeschooled students. Write to TWU to request information and the specific admission form for homeschoolers.
  3. No institution is willing to use standardized test results (such as SAT or CAT) as criteria for admission.
  4. Many institutions will now accept results from Advanced Placement courses. (AP courses are offered worldwide and are normally considered equivalent to a first-year university course. Your local high school may offer the courses and the final exam, though you may have to register with the school to take them.) If you are entering grade 12, you may want to consider taking one or more of these courses. By taking these courses you can achieve two results: you demonstrate to a college or university that you are capable of post-secondary study, and you can gain credit for one or more first-year courses at the same time!
  5. All post-secondary institutions have a ‘Mature Student’ admission category. The age requirement for this category varies, but is normally 19 for colleges and university colleges, and 21 to 23 for universities. If you plan on travelling or working for a while before applying for admission, you may be accepted under this category.
  6. Many institutions have a process called Prior Learning Assessment, in which the student is able to demonstrate that he or she has attained the necessary prerequisites to enter a particular program or course. This may be done in a variety of ways, including challenge exams (written or oral), personal profiles or portfolios, certificates or diplomas earned elsewhere, lab demonstrations, or documented life and work experiences.

So, what can you expect, and how can you make sure you get into the university or college of your choice?

First, expect to meet some stumbling blocks. Homeschooling is still relatively new in BC, and the percentage of homeschooled students is still very small. It is still easier to set criteria and expect all students to meet them, rather than set more subjective means of admissions. However, if you prepare yourself, you should be able to overcome the objections that an admissions officer can raise.

Here are some recommendations to help smooth the way:

  1. Get a copy of the university/college calendar and read it to determine its admissions policy. Note any special policies and consider how you may fit within that category.
  2. Contact the admissions office as early as possible — the beginning of your grade 11 year is not too early. That way, you will be able to plan ahead to meet both your objectives and the admissions criteria. Try to get an individual admissions policy for your child, in writing if possible. (I would recommend that a parent make the first contact to see how rigid the institution will be, as any negotiations may require a maturity beyond that of a teenager.)
  3. When you first contact the admissions office, the lower level admissions officers will probably be fairly rigid, trying to fit the usual admissions policy to everybody. Be polite, but insist that your circumstances are different and you need some flexibility. If the officer is not willing or able to do so, insist on talking to somebody who has the authority to make a decision on your application for admission.
  4. Recognize that the admissions office has to evaluate your ability to handle post-secondary courses. Have ready a detailed list of courses studied, the results of any tests taken, portfolios of work, etc., that will help the office in their evaluation. Most colleges and university colleges are eager to, as one reply put it, “hopefully … find adequate reasons for admitting those students.”

I have dealt with one institution (Okanagan University College) in gaining admission for my oldest daughter. I phoned them in January of her graduation year, and after getting passed up the admissions ladder, I eventually talked to a lady who was very helpful and willing to evaluate my daughter individually. The admissions officer asked for an outline of what she had studied and was currently studying, and then issued a letter of admission. The whole process took less than a month.

BCHLA would be very interested in hearing your experiences in gaining admission to a post-secondary institution, whether within BC or outside of BC. Your experience may help others, so please write us a note of what you had to do to convince an admissions officer that you could handle the post-secondary workload.