Community colleges are part of the success story of many homeschoolers.
That's because community colleges can play an important role in helping homeschoolers meet their post-high school goals.
These state-run education institutions commonly offer two-year associates degrees. Depending on the state and the individual college, they often also offer vocational training, adult education, remedial education, registered nurse programs, certificate programs and more.
Most community colleges also offer classes to high school students, including homeschooled teens, as our article on homeschool dual enrollment explains.
While dual enrollment during high school is popular among homeschoolers, some people also take community college classes after they complete homeschooling, either right away or years later.
Community college after homeschooling
For many homeschoolers, community college after high school may provide:
- vocational training to help with direct entry into skilled work
- a next step if they are not ready to "go away" to university
- a less expensive alternative to four years at a university
- a way to work and take college classes part-time and close to home
- time and opportunity to improve academic and executive function skills
- a way to bolster a high school transcript that has gaps, especially in "college prep" subjects
- a possibility of "making up for" lower or no SAT/ACT scores
- opportunities to participate in clubs and extra-curricular activities
- career counseling and planning
- college transfer advising and planning
- good grades that show a student is prepared to do well in a college environment
- a path to transferring rather than seeking admission as a freshman to a four-year college or university. (Caution: some universities and some majors don't accept transfer students, though many do).
- a guaranteed transfer program (an "articulation agreement") into a state university, sometimes even into specific majors (Caution: where this program is available, there are typically many meticulous requirements students must meet).
Students typically don't have to compete to get into community colleges, which are considered "open admission" or "open enrollment." That said, degree-seeking students who have graduated from homeschooling usually do need a high school diploma or GED to enroll in community college in most states. In most states but not all, a homeschool diploma granted by parents or a parent-created homeschool transcript is considered proof of homeschool graduation for this purpose.
In some states and for some community college programs, students just need to be over 18 to enroll.
Ask the admissions counselor at the college you want to attend what you need to do to enroll in the program you are interested in. Your state homeschool organization can probably also give you guidance as to what is typically required of homeschool grads by community colleges in your area.
(Students who are homeschooling during their high school years may follow different enrollment procedures for dual enrollment in community college classes).
Parents of homeschoolers must take their responsibility seriously to create and keep permanently accessible homeschool records for any of their children who homeschooled in high school. These records will be needed if their adult children decide to attend community college, trade school, a four-year college, or even some jobs at any point.
Placement in classes
Community colleges usually require placement tests or use specific "multiple measures" (like high school transcripts) to decide if their new and prospective students in some degree programs need to take remedial classes before or while starting on college classes. These classes are designed to help students improve their math, reading, and writing skills, so they can do college level work successfully.
Students may feel discouraged that these classes do not count toward graduation or completion of a program, and they are not typically covered by financial aid.
Homeschooled adults who get placed into these non-credit catch-up classes should not feel alone. The Center for Community College Student Engagement reports that 68 percent of community college students have had to take at least one of these developmental classes. Keep in mind that most of those students attended public school.
Non-credit classes can make some community college students feel they're getting off to a slow start in meeting program requirements, but they may also help fill in gaps so students are more likely to succeed.
Students who are placed into non-credit classes should discuss concerns with their college advisors and find out if the college offers academic support services.
Students who are placed at or above college proficiency can begin taking for-credit classes as soon as they enroll.
And keep in mind that not all programs require placement tests, and not all community colleges require them. Check college websites and talk to the advisors at the college.
Academic counseling for all ages
As we discussed in our article on Alternatives to College, one alternative to going to university at 18 is to work or enlist in the military and then decide to attend college—later.
Community college counselors can help older students (often called "non-traditional students") understand what classes they need to take and how to enroll if it's been a few years since they wrapped up homeschooling.
Students who did not learn chemistry or precalculus as homeschooled teens can still move into higher education by taking those classes in community college. If students need help with writing skills or math skills, community colleges have classes and programs to give students a chance to catch up. Again, keep in mind that most of the students in these community college classes and programs will have attended public school. Academic advisors can help guide students through these classes.
Community college counselors may also be able to offer advice if you are a homeschooled adult who does not have transcripts.
Counselors at the community college are trained to help students understand how to transfer from a community college to four-year institutions where they can complete bachelors degrees.
Attending community college is usually significantly less expensive than attending a four-year school, but rates vary a lot from state to state. Knocking out a few years' worth of general education requirements at community college may mean a big savings over the cost of attending a four-year college for four years in order to get those gen ed classes.
That said, sometimes the four-year colleges and universities offer certain merit scholarships exclusively to freshmen. Transferring too many community college credits might make a student ineligible for those university scholarships because they are not entering as a freshman—even though it may be their first year at the university.
At some universities, community college classes taken while dual enrolled during high school (before high school graduation) won’t impact merit scholarship eligibility.
Many students will save more money by taking community college classes for several years than they might receive in merit scholarships from a university, but that’s not true for everyone. An advisor in the financial aid office can help students think about which is the better financial scenario.
Many community colleges have tuition-free programs funded by grants and offered to students who meet eligibility requirements. The community college website and the college financial aid advisor can tell you about any grants that are available, which may cover much of the cost of an associates degree at a community college in some states.
Community college students can also save money by living at home or living in lower cost areas while taking classes. Apartments and cost of living can be more expensive in many university towns.
Community college students often combine attending school part-time with working, which means they are able to earn an income while taking classes. Many colleges offer online college classes that work well for students who are employed and attend college.
Some community college students find their employers will even pay for some community college costs, so it's worth asking about.
Financial aid and federal loans are available for community college students, even those who attend part-time. Students need to consider on an ongoing basis whether they are making progress toward a degree since loans can really add up.
Transferring to four-year universities
When contributors here at TheHomeSchoolMom asked our network of friends about four-year colleges and universities their children had been admitted to, many parents took the time to mention that their homeschool grads first attended community college. Others mentioned the value of community colleges in helping their young adults receive vocational training, fill academic gaps, or gain employment.
Community college course planner
For students taking courses for college credit, it is worth tracking the credits carefully to see how they apply to a degree or credential, even starting in high school with dual enrollment. Our Community College Course Planner is a spreadsheet that tracks the courses taken and allows input of course/credit requirements for the chosen degree program to help the student stay on track with course choices.
Keeping track of the classes you have taken and the ones you need to complete can help you make progress toward an associates degree or certificate. If you hope to transfer to a four-year college, our Community College Course Planner will help you track your progress.
People choose to enroll in community colleges for many reasons once they finish their homeschooling. Community colleges are truly integrated into the landscape of homeschooling in the U.S.