Last year, Haley Renemar had no idea how to get into college. Monday, she began her collegiate experience at ACU.
Renemar, freshman convergence journalism major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was home-schooled from kindergarten up to high school graduation last year. Her parents preferred the rigorous, personal atmosphere of home education over “indoctrinating” public school education, she said. However, when it came time to apply to colleges, the Renemars didn’t know where to begin. After attending a convention hosted by the New Mexico Homeschool Association, they hired a college coach to prep Haley.
“If I hadn’t have had her help, I wouldn’t have been able to figure that kind of thing out, because my parents didn’t really know,” she said.
Renemar said her college coach prepared her for the ACT, prompted her to create a resume and helped organize a list of thirty schools meeting specific criteria Renemar was interested in. After her college coach suggested ACU, mainly because she once roomed with someone who attended and loved the university, ACU passed through evaluation and landed itself a spot on Renemar’s top ten list.
“It was really helpful having my counselor keep calling me a lot. And I really, really appreciated that, because the other schools didn’t really care,” she said. “I could tell the other schools didn’t really have a high want for me.”
More than 4,000 students attend ACU, each with their own educational background. Recruitment processes differ for each student, including home-schoolers.
Home schooling in America
About 40 years after the home schooling movement reared its head in the schooling system, America is seeing the results through significant rises in the amount of home-schooled students in the past decade. ACU, home to about 140 home-schooled students last year, is just one of thousands of universities reaching out to this demographic.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the amount of American home-schooled students increased from 1 to 1.5 million from 1998 to 2007, causing many colleges and universities to transform their recruiting systems. ACU is not excluded from these universities.
Many factors contribute to the decision of home-schooling a student. One of the most accepted reason revolves around religion, but parents’ own aspirations of teaching their child more than the public school system, frequent traveling and living restraints may cause students to enroll in homeschool.
Logan Smith, junior biology major from Houston, said he attended a private Christian school before his parents began to home-school him in fourth grade, looking to personally influence his religious and educational upbringing.
“Home-schoolers are a different breed, they or their parents are very driven,” Smith said. “Being home-schooled is not as easy as it seems. You have to have a certain amount of drive.”
Janine Morgan, instructor of Bible, missions and ministry, said she home-schooled her daughters for a portion of their elementary school years with a more self-serving vendetta.
“There was a kind of a purpose, a real focused purpose in life,” she said. “And for somebody that had kind of lost what their purpose in life was, it was really appealing to me.”
She said the home schooling was short-lived, having only instructed her daughters for one year until the experiment tired.
As the number of home-schooled students entering college has increased, universities have struggled to recruit those students. Home-schooled students at ACU said the university was helpful in their recruitment, but could be more proactive in the future.
“I’m glad that they didn’t treat me like a different person, I got treated like everyone else,” Smith said. “But I thought there might be something else for us, like scholarships for being homeschooled.”
The advocation for home schooling can be seen as far back as Wisconsin v. Yoder, a Supreme Court case of 1972 in which Amish parents fought to take their children out of the public school system before eighth grade. The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Yoder supported parents’ rights to “establish a home and bring up children,” as well as to “worship God according to the dictates of [their] own conscience,” forming the backbone of modern home schooling.
Scope of Movement
Home schooling is now legal in all 50 states.
And, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the amount of students educated at home is increasing exponentially, making the number closer to 2 million.
The movement across America is not exclusive to one race, a yearly income or an age group. Instead, many White, Black, Hispanic and other races are included in the census. The students may have one or two parents, with a yearly income anywhere from less than $25,000 to more than $75,000.
Tamara Long, director of enrollment, said ACU has seen a slight, if any, increase in enrolled home-schooled students. Many families of students don’t label themselves as strictly home-schooled.
“It’s not they’re not being forthcoming, it’s that they actually have a name for their home school,” Long said. “They treat it as an academy, so identifying home school families is difficult.”
She said there are about 160 home-schooled students enrolled this year.
As these students learn, develop their education and grow into young adults, they will be applying to colleges all across the nation. A separate tab under admissions on www.acu.edu was created specifically for home-schooled students applying to the institution. It explains the required fields of the application process, such as letters of recommendation and transcript requests.
But as an up-and-coming university, ACU will have to continue to recognize and act on these educational changes to better advertise the university’s assets to the home-schooled students.
David Pittman, director of recruitment, said the university is taking those steps.
“There are a lot of families, probably more than before, that are going to home schools,” Pittman said. “We kind of changed the way that we worked with this specific demographic a couple years ago.”
He said a tour day was set up specifically for home-schooled students and families, allowing them to connect with current students who made a similar transition. ACU also targeted and placed ads in major home school publications.
Many students were taken out of public and private school because their parents were searching for a deeper exploration of education. Such was the case with Logan Smith.
“I went to a private Christian school before being home-schooled. My parents pulled me out to make sure I was getting more attention, as they did with my brother,” Smith said.
Pittman said home-schoolers, much like Smith, would be most likely to flourish in ACU’s community.
“It’s a smaller, private place where, obviously, we have values of faith and relationship, but also that it’s a smaller community feel,” Pittman said. “So it’d be less of a jump from the university experience for more home school students that may have only been in class with siblings for their entire life.”
Impact on Higher Education
Because of this shift in preferred methods of education, ACU may lose key ways in which it connects with future students.
Home-schooled students don’t have school administrators to talk with, they don’t get to participate in career days and aren’t frequently scouted for their athletic or academic performances.
Instead, the impersonal and mechanical method of snail mail is most common in reaching these students.
Smith said the main reason he is at the university today is because he pursued the opportunity all on his own.
“I actually marked boxes on SAT for interest in certain schools, and then received a lot of information through snail mail,” Smith said. “After I found ACU I contacted admissions and they started to send me things in mail.”
Miriam Quigley, junior speech pathology major from Guatemala City, Guatemala, experienced a situation similar to Smith’s. Raised as a missionary’s child, she only heard about ACU through her mother and brother, who graduated from the university themselves.
“ACU was one of the first places I applied, because my family kind of told me to,” she said. “I sent in my SAT and AP scores, and ACU was the first place to mail me back.”
As for the rest of the 1.5 million students in the homeschooled atmosphere, they may not hear about ACU and its exceptional programs in time.
When asked about what he would change in his recruitment experience, Smith said it wouldn’t hurt for ACU to make the case of being an exceptional university to homeschoolers in addition to others.
“Because you have to be self-motivated it’s hard for ACU to try to reach that demographic because these people are looking for certain things and are going to know when they’ve found them,” Smith said. “It would be good to increase awareness of ACU in that demographic.”
Renemar focused more on life after admittance, and said more communication with families about the process of entering the university would be helpful.
“After I was admitted, I still hadn’t made the decision, so it was really helpful that they called me. That’s an awesome thing they shouldn’t change, they should definitely keep that,” she said. “But just getting us in touch more with the residence assistants or the people that are going to be involved with us, because I think it made my parents a little nervous to drop me off without any contact phone numbers or anything.”
While the university’s current tactics are effective in nature, they may become outdated as the demographic of future students evolves.
Many home-schooled students would integrate well into the ACU community, living out the motto “Exceptional. Innovative. Real.” as efficiently as publicly or privately schooled students. As Smith said, self-teaching and self-motivation are large aspects of home-schooled students, causing them to adapt in ways different from their peers.
“Because of my organized background I felt comfortable coming to a Christian school,” Smith said. “I knew what I wanted and when I saw it, I got it.”
Quigley agreed, and said home education made many students more independent than their peers in public schools.
“Many home-schooled students know that if they haven’t been taught a certain way, they’ll learn that way,” she said. “Each homeschooler has an individual response to what they’re being taught, which makes they’re learning different from other students.”
As the amount of home-schooled students continues to increase, it is ACU’s responsibility to adapt and create better ways to recruit these young men and women.
The university does not have any plans to drastically change its outreach to home-schooled students, but it will continue to adapt to the need, Pittman said.
“Homeschooling is only going to become a larger thing, a more common thing,” he said. “And so, as it continues to evolve to be a bigger thing, we will continue to change what we’re doing in our strategies to keep up with that.”
As for Renemar, she said she’s already learned key lessons after attending university classes for two days.
“It’ll be a challenge trying to balance out how not to do everything,” she said.
With encouraging teachers, a larger student body and a handful of associations to join, Renemar said she feels right at home on campus.