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Exploring College Options

February 14, 2010

Bismillah.

Sooo… homeschoolers and college. How do you do it? Do you get a diploma? Will colleges and universities accept homeschoolers? Perhaps we could opt for a GED? CLEP? Dual enrollment? What’s up with AP? Aaaahhhh!!! The list is never ending. And researching all the possible options causes anxiety, increases your stress, and well, frankly, you’ll probably never get all your answers most of the time.

Right now, I am graduating from high school and will be attending college in the fall, insha’allah. I’ve gone through the entire process on my OWN. No parents help, nothing, except advice from friends here and there, online research, talking to the principal of the Islamic school, hearing stories from other homeschooled college graduates… things like that. I do think I’ve gotten a pretty good insight into how things work. My goal is to present all the possible options I am aware of.

Let me make a very important note on diplomas. You don’t need one. This is no doubt the most important concern parents have. But let me clarify again. You don’t need an official diploma. You must, however, meet all the credit requirements and have a well organized TRANSCRIPT. (I now wonder whether the transcript I sent in was good enough. Ya Allah!)

It’s very important, I think as a homeschooler, to have a head start on college through dual enrollment and AP courses. They will both save time and money and grant high school as well as college credits. It is DEFINITELY the way to go. You will save almost TWO years worth of college tuition. Dual enrollment is available in many community colleges and university. You’ll have to contact the college for specific information, but I’ll give you a gist of the program. Basically, you will be taking college classes during your high school years and it will allow you to earn high school credit ALONG with college credit. It is FREE. You just have to spend some money on textbooks 😀 but that’s not a biggie. AP courses (Advanced Placement), on the other hand, are a lot tougher than college courses. They’re meant for people who are SERIOUS. And when you apply to a university with lots of AP credit, it boosts your application because it shows that you’re willing to accept challenges and face them. I love taking AP. Yeh, I think they’re fun, hehe! You can take AP courses online, you can develop your own curriculum after intense research on what is used, though that might be difficult unless you can get an expert in the field to help you out. I tried studying AP Psychology on my own by reading the textbook and taking practice tests and stuff, but it was too late :(. I started half way into the school year and with so many other AP courses, it wouldn’t be possible for me. But if you give yourself time and have the right resources, I believe it’s possible for homeschoolers to prepare for AP exams on their own terms. Oh yes, the AP exam. In the month of May, AP exams are administered and this is what counts most. Your score on the exam. For more information on AP courses and exams, check out: About AP from CollegeBoard.

Another great option is taking CLEP. It’s ALMOST like AP, but less rigorous. Say you’re well-read in a certain subject like World History, but you can’t prove it. You’ve studied it passionately during your high school years and you think you know more about the history of the world than you’re supposed to for your level (a.k.a you’re at a college level ’cause you’re an awesome nerd)… then CLEP it :D! You’ll get college credit for it. And again, this will help you finish college earlier than most people. Isn’t that cool? The exam doesn’t have a specific date, you can take it whenever you want. And it doesn’t cost much either. Click HERE for more info on CLEP from CollegeBoard (CollegeBoard dominates the test world, doesn’t it :D).

Ah, the glorious, majestic SATs… one can never escape from it’s splendor. Seriously, you can’t. Well, you can. But they’re easy. I think you should still take it no matter what. Oh and for the record, people make a big fuss about it, but its not a big deal. You don’t need to take an expensive SAT prep class. Just get The Official SAT Study Guide and practice and practice and DRILL your brain and get acquainted with the test. Become best friends. The more you practice, the better. It’s that simple. Oh but hey, I haven’t taken it yet! But I will be in March, inshallah, and the practice tests are… pieces of cake. I enjoy them. If you have problems with Math though, then you might want help (like me! May Allah bless the brain of my awesome math tutor cum friend with more brain cells which she can kill with her ninja math love). It’s also a great idea to take the PSAT before taking the SAT. It’s just a practice and it doesn’t count for anything much, unless you want to get the National Merit Scholarship… which I never really figured out. The requirements and all… Lastly, don’t get carried away with all the tests and exams!!

And my advice to you :)… forget GED. It DOES have stigma associated with it and it’s the road people who DROP out take. The GED doesn’t show that you’re competitive and WILLING to accept academic challenges. And from what I know of it, it’s VERY easy. 75 minutes for 50 questions… Seriously, that’s a piece of cake.

As for scholarships, all you need are community service hours and proof that you are indeed needy/worthy of receiving a scholarship. It’s best to apply for EVERYTHING you can and you might just get accepted in something or the other.

Just a note. I’m not trying to make anyone feel as though they have to rush through high school or college but honestly, I believe it’s BEST to finish as soon as you can because there’s more to life than just academic accomplishments. Oh and like they say, one can never stop learning, for knowledge must be acquired from the day we are born to the day we die. We must learn to APPLY what we learn and not just store everything in our brains. And implementation can be in the form of perception and how you think. So when you’re done with school and you’re only 18 or 19 or 20… You’re…. well, free :D. You’re not restrained to a system anymore. You can learn on your own terms once again (from homeschooling to college to homeschooling yourself once again… make sense?).

And that will be it. Please feel free to add any other helpful ideas or info! And if you have any questions… I love questions :D.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 1:33 pm

    I saw this blog…great article. It’s obvious that you spent quite a bit of time researching it.

    I was homeschooled too, and used the CLEP option that you mentioned to get a head start on college. I took it a bit further than you mentioned, as I didn’t just test out of a subject or two that I already knew well, I also took several CLEPs that I had to study specifically for. Basically, I used CLEP as a form of Dual Enrollment. I am currently on track to graduate this summer, just before my 19th birthday, with a BSBA from a fully accredited state college.

    The approach I took to earn my degree is not normal, but it is by far the most efficient way to earn a degree.

  2. February 15, 2010 4:36 pm

    jazakillah khair!!! this was very helpful though I have to reread agaiun and make heads and tail about AP, dual enrollment, CLEP…ok so here we go, questions..but before that i justw ant to say masahaallah!!!!! you’re my hero! 😀

    ok questions:

    1. so, would you suggest enrolling in a correspondence high school program or doing your own (is that what you’re talking about when you say we don’t need diplomas)?
    2. any tips on making a transcript? (for me though,,how does one start) 😀
    3. so am i understanding this correctly? – you do high school not with a high school correspondence program, but you keep tabs on the transcript, and while doing this, you do dual enrollment and AP courses to get a head start on college. OR take CLEP instead of doing AP courses. and then SAT, but before that take PSAT. So,. after all that, you just apply to a 4 yr univ right away? that’s where I am lost. 😦

    again thank so much for this!!

    • February 19, 2010 5:14 pm

      1. It’s your choice :). If you find a correspondence program you REALLY like… and the curriculum is good, gooo right ahead. But if you want to design your own curriculum, then that works to. And yup, when you do your own curriculum, you don’t really need a real diploma. Correspondence programs generally award diplomas anyways.
      2. Oh yeah! I’ll post that sometime soon. It’s not as hard as you might think it is as long as you understand the concept of “credits”.
      3. Yes, you keep tabs on everything you learn… you can do ALL three. Take a few dual enrollment classes, maybe one a semester, a few AP courses in a year (about 4 or 5)… And CLEP a few, if you want. Say for example, you do dual enrollment and take one course: Sociology… and at the same time, about four AP classes (AP Lang, Lit, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics)… now you have almost 18-21 college credit hours. ALMOST a semester. And say, during the summer you CLEP Pre Calc or College Algebra… You’ll be able to check off a lot of your general education requirements and start taking courses for your major.

      As for the SAT and PSAT… take the PSAT BEFORE you take SAT… and take the SATs 2 or three times… I wish I’d known that before :D. One time’s enough though, if you have a good score.

      I hope that was helpful i/a.

  3. February 18, 2010 12:24 am

    Assalam Alyom:

    You said your finishing high school. What kind of school? Are you homeschooled? I am very interested in online high schools as I need it for my son next year. Please feel free to email me with what you used and the pros and cons. Umnour1@yahoo.com.

    Um Nour

  4. February 18, 2010 11:43 pm

    JazakAllah Khair for this!! I always wonderedd..
    love the new look =)

  5. February 21, 2010 3:25 pm

    Nice article, looks useful (I don’t know the American system)
    Loved the 2nd comic about the aptitude test 🙂

    -Nahyan

  6. March 29, 2010 2:57 pm

    Nice! I honestly don’t see the point of AP anymore. The dual-enrollment courses, which are, ahem, EASIER, allow you to continually and easily gain college credit while you’re in the course.

    While AP classes are so much more difficult, yet you only can gain a college credit if you pass on test (AP Exam) which is extremely hard. Ya Allah, may Allah help us to fix this or find a better system.

    • March 30, 2010 12:47 am

      AP totally rocks :D. The sound of it, you know. “I’m taking AP courses”… nah, I’m joking. AP is harder, but that’s when you really learn. I don’t recommend taking AP for subjects you loathe.

  7. March 31, 2010 12:12 am

    Masha’Allah, thanks for an awesome article! I started college as soon as I got out of Hifzh (only two years of high school done at that stage) and once you get past the admissions lady, you’re fine lol. People make it out to be really hard, but if you work diligently at a community college for a year or two, and transfer to a state university, people will notice. Google’s founder went to the University of Maryland, where I’m planning to transfer Insha’Allah, and he just did so well in his work that Standford came knocking for him.

    From my experience, most employers and society in general care about the university that you get your graduate degree from. So relax for the undergrad – just do as good as you can and don’t sweat it 😉

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