Wednesday, July 2, 2008

You don't need a diploma to go to college

Say, what?  Come again?

A few years ago I got a call from our local high school in September.  It was the attendance office.  "Where's your daughter?"

Since she was attending college in another state, I asked, "Why are you expecting her there?"

"We don't show her as having graduated from high school," said the tired voice.  She clearly had been making truancy calls all morning, already, on the first day of school.

"She didn't," I said, "but she's in college right now, so I guess she won't be in high school any more."

Silence.  Then "How can she be at college if she doesn't have a high school diploma?"

"Well," I answered, "I guess you don't need one to go to college."

Which, my friends, is true.  My daughter, the high school drop out, graduated from college after three years.  Now, to be fair, she racked up some credits at the local community college, concurrent with her junior and senior year in high school, while still taking some classes of choice at the local high school.  But she opted out of high school graduation in the 9th grade when we pulled her out of a required 'transitions' class for 9th graders, designed to ease their path into high school, with such topics as library research and some school and community awareness topics that included knowing where the restrooms and exit doors are, and who did what and ran which club in the school.  Oh, and there was a lesson on where the index of a book was and what it was for. 

Do we really need 3 - 4.5 hours per week to teach this stuff to 9th graders?  Never mind that she was a straight-A student in middle school in the gifted program there as well.

I told them that I wanted her in an academic class.  The principal told me that he was NOT opting ANY freshmen out of the transitions class for any reason.  So I made her a homeschooler for that hour, with the understanding that since this course was required for graduation that she would then not be graduating from high school.  She was fine with that.  We cobbled together her high school education using some classes at the high school, some from the local community college in a program our state makes available to high school juniors and seniors with free tuition, and some homeschooling.

As long as that 'transitions' class was a requirement for graduation, and had to be taken in the 9th grade, I guess she would still be eligible for classes at the local high school forever.  I wonder if that's a theory worth testing.

So, come her senior year of high school, she researched and picked five colleges, and got accepted to three of them.  In August, off she went, to the one that offered her about a 3/5ths scholarship.

I learned later that I was supposed to name a graduation date, so I picked the day she registered to vote.

For a long time, a high school diploma hasn't meant that the student could read or write.  For that reason, most colleges DO NOT CARE if the student has been issued a high school diploma from a state-approved school.  Their criterion is the student's transcript, SAT or ACT scores, and some application materials that they require.  Homeschooled students can write their own transcript.  More on that, perhaps, in another blog.  Homeschooled students DO need to have a graduation date.  So pick one, and be sure to have a party.  When you fill out the FAFSA, answer 'yes' for diploma.  Your homeschool diploma is completely legitimate.  If asked, enter the graduation date you picked.

Know, that when your student gets to college, that there will be placement exams in several subjects.  No matter what courses your student has taken in high school or elsewhere, these exams will determine where your students starts in a sequence of courses such as math or English.  If remedial work must be done, these exams will identify that.

Once again, let me reiterate, that your job as parent is to get your student the BEST education you can.  Local public high schools often have some very strange hoops for kids to jump through, such as silly classes, standardized tests associated with the No Child Left Behind Act, senior projects, etc.  These can be worthwhile, or they can be worthless.  If  your child didn't get a high school diploma because s/he failed to jump through one of these hoops, apply to college anyway. 

You don't need a high school diploma to go to college.  You DO need a graduation date.  Be sure to have a party and take some photos.

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