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“Brilliant” opportunity for early college experience for homeschoolers

 Dear Holly, 

Thank you so much for your time and effort spent today talking about home schooling in Arizona. I hadn’t realised that community colleges accepted home schoolers at such a young age. I will have to look into the courses that my two teenagers might be able to take alongside the work they do at home. Brilliant.
This is an excerpt from an email I received from a homeschool mom who attended my workshop on Getting Started with Home Schooling this past Thursday.  Her comments reminded me that a lot of people don’t know about the community college option, so it seems like a good time to share a few points. 
  1. Beginning at age 12, homeschool students in Arizona may take community college classes.  They do need to take the ASSET test, which is a placement assessment for math, reading and English that is used in the community colleges.  (Sample questions and preparation materials can be found here.)  Students who score high enough on the test to place into the 101 or higher level classes are able to get Dual Enrollment credit–high school and college credit for the same class–as long as they haven’t officially graduated from high school.
  2. Students as young as 8 who are advanced may take community college courses.  Parents are able to take a class with the student at any time.
  3. College credit looks REALLY good on homeschool transcripts since colleges want to know if the student is likely to do well with college level work.
  4. Many homeschoolers obtain numerous college credits this way, and some even have an associates degree by the time they finish high school.
  5. If you plan to go on to a university, you need to check with the admissions office ahead of time to see how they will view the college course work.  EAch one may have widely differing policies.  Arizona State University allows students to take unlimited college classes while still in high school prior to official graduation, and still be counted as an incoming freshman, eligible for freshman scholarship.  If even one class is taken post-high school graduation, the student becomes a transfer student, only qualifying for the transfer scholarships.  However, Grand Canyon University allows up to 24 college credits, taken during high school or post-high school, for the student to still be considered an entering freshman.
  6. For transcripts, it is best to submit the community college transcripts, in addition to other coursework, for university admissions.
  7. When putting college credits onto the high school transcript, 1 semester of college work is equivalent to 1/2 credit of high school, even though the college class covered a full year of high school material in half the time.  The credit count is based on Carnegie units, or amount of seat time in class, with 120 hours being the standard for one credit.
  8. Typically, a dual-enrollment student is not eligible for financial aid at the college, although I have heard of some students in Maricopa County getting some funding.
  9. Once a student has graduated from high school officially, doing well on the ASSET test will qualify him for the Presidential Scholarship–a full tuition waiver for 4 semesters.  The student may also qualify for the honors program at the school..
  10. Community College classes are likely to have 20-30 students, or fewer, making a more personal experience than the university classes which could be up to 300 students.

Using the local colleges can be a great way to get a taste for the higher academics, or to access classes as a homeschooler that need a group environment or provide instruction in a course that the parent is not comfortable doing on her own.  I have known students who went directly to the junior colleges from 8th grade, and skipped high school entirely. 

A large portion of the general studies needed for a four-year degree may be obtained there for a fraction of the cost at the university.  In Maricopa County, Arizona, at least, the smaller colleges often have liaisons and cooperative programs for students who will move on to the state schools.

As my new friend said in her email, “Brilliant!”



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