Sarah Rainsberger

Former Toronto math tutor. Friend of the homeschooling and unschooling communities.

Tidying Things Up

Just a heads up to those of you subscribed to this site that it’s going to be undergoing some changes and I’m going to be taking down a lot of current content.

Don’t worry, the main university info stuff will remain, although it will be consolidated onto one page. You’ll still be able to check here for (relatively!) current university homeschool admission and Advanced Placement credit policies. Some general content, mostly the information “pages” will also remain.

What’s leaving the site is whatever was posted as a “blog entry.” In time, some of that information might find its way back on the site as a dedicated page, but for now it’s being cut.

If you think there’s anything you’d like to snag a copy of before it goes, I’ve uploaded a big pdf of most of these posts that you can download. It’s not the prettiest thing, but it was something I could quickly throw together with free tools.

I will also eventually be changing the RSS/email subscription name, so if you subscribe to this website by RSS or email, that subscription may cease to work. You’re welcome to resubscribe, but bear in mind that the nature of future blog posts will change to reflect things I’m currently working on. This site won’t focus exclusively on university admissions for homeschoolers anymore, although that will still be a big part of the information housed here. I can still be found answering questions on the Higher Ed for Home Learners Yahoo! Group, so if homeschool university admissions and homeschool through highschool are still your thing, you know where to find me!

Thanks for being a subscriber, and maybe I’ll see you on the “new” site!


Have You Been Visiting for Even More Information?

PLEASE NOTE: is currently experiencing technical difficulties. I am aware of the issue and am working on it! (March 22, 2013)

Just a reminder that more general student-related content like Grade 12 math resources for western Canada (BC, AB, MB) and a great deal for student entrepreneurs will be posted at my other website,

There is also material of interest to homeschoolers specifically, such as the alternative (i.e. homeschool) admission policies of Ontario universities, but of course, is geared to all students so not everything will be exclusively homeschool related.

Here are a few more posts up on to give you an idea of the content, and whether it’s a site you want to visit:

Ontario University programs not requiring ENG4U for admission Dealing with procrastination Is March Break the best time to visit prospective universities?

And I have added some of the older articles from this site, including articles such as Is it worth going to university? 6 ways to turn your interests into extra-curricular activities for your university application

So if you subscribe to this website by RSS or email, or if you visit here every now and then, consider doing the same for!

Alberta Homeschool University Admission Requirements

I was doing some more research into Open Universities and while I was on Athabasca’s website, I thought I might as well knock another province off the list.

Athabasca University has an open admissions policy - no formal schooling or credential is required to apply. The admissions page states that applicants should be 16 years of age, but student may apply even earlier with parental permission. For that reason, it is a great choice for homeschoolers, and many may wish to consider Athabasca instead of following a homeschool high school education/program through to completion.

You’ll have to do some work on the University of Lethbridge website to find their policy on homeschool admissions. First, navigate to their main high school applicant page. Once there, in the bottom left of the screen you’ll find a search box where you can ask a question. Just type in the word homeschool and click ask, and you’ll be directed to the following information:

Q: Admissions: What are the admissions requirements for home-schooled students? A: Admission requirements for home-schooled students include proof of recognized secondary credentials, or some other means of satisfying the requirements of a U of L admission route. For more information on this route of admission, contact Recruitment and Student Life

Unfortunately, this information does not appear to reside on its own, directly accessible page. (And yes, you’ll notice some meta data in the code where the answer is provided.) So while it’s not the greatest set up, the information can be found.

The University of Calgary does not have any homeschoool admissions information in the usual places, but if you navigate into the school calendar (published annually and includes all university policies, courses, degree requirements etc.) then you will find there is a short blurb about homeschool applicants in section A-13. Usually these sections remain consistent year after year, so when in doubt, look for section A in the university calendar (often found from the Registrar’s website) and probably subsection 13 (give or take) will be the homeschooling admissions policy.  The curent calendar reads:

University of Calgary Calendar 2010-2011 Undergraduate Admissions A.13 Home Schooled Applicants A.13 Home Schooled Applicants Home schooled applicants can qualify for admission by presenting provincial (diploma) examination results in appropriate subjects (Alberta or British Columbia) or by satisfying the requirements given under College Entrance Examinations. Applicants must normally possess a high school diploma and present acceptable scores and average on the five appropriate SAT tests.

Similarly, the University of Alberta will require you to do some digging to find the appropriate information for homeschoolers. In fact, I can’t find any mention of homeschoolers on their website at all.  Again, going through the official school calendar from the Registrar’s website gives us at least something to go on.  The calendar states that the university recognizes three categories of applicants: matriculated applicants from high school, matriculated applicants transferring from another post-secondary institution and non-matriculated applicants.  Of these three categories, homeschoolers fall into the third:

14.3 Nonmatriculated Applicants

    The University of Alberta gives special consideration to nonmatriculated applicants for admission to some undergraduate programs. To be considered for admission as a nonmatriculated applicant, a student must be 21 years of age or older by the first day of classes of the term in which admission is sought. Specific Faculty requirements for those Faculties that do consider nonmatriculated applicants for admission are outlined in §15.     Nonmatriculated applicants must normally complete specific Alberta Grade 12 courses (or equivalents) appropriate to each Faculty with a grade of at least 50% in each required course and a minimum overall average of 70%. There is a limit on the number of nonmatriculated applicants accepted into each program; there is no guarantee that candidates meeting the minimum criteria will be accepted. Students are considered based on their academic merit and interview results where applicable. Notwithstanding the basis of admission, all students, once admitted, have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities.     The application deadlines for nonmatriculated applicants are the same as for high school applicants (see §12).  

For these and other institutions in Alberta, including university colleges, technical institutions, public colleges, bible colleges and apprenticeships, visit the comprehensive listing of institutions and homeschool admissions policies at Education Unlimited.

What We Can Learn From Bard College at Simon’s Rock - an “Early College”

Simon's Rock - The Early College: What if you wanted to start College Right Now?

I learned about Simon’s Rock “early college” even before I was very familiar with Canada’s open universities.  I think that’s why, although I always try to give personalized options and guidance to those who ask for my help, I’m just so keen on using our open universities as a way into Canada’s post-secondary system.

Bard College at Simon’s Rock doesn’t have an “open” admission system: students must apply and convince the admissions department of their suitability for the school.  But, there are no arbitrary admission standards.  You don’t need to write the SAT.  You don’t need a high school diploma.  (In fact, this school mostly accepts Gr. 10 and Gr. 11 students.) You don’t need to meet a certain GPA requirement. There isn’t a particular credential or indicator that all applicants must have.

Admission, for homeschooled and schooled alike, is based on academic information such as transcripts (official or otherwise), standardized test scores (if desired) and writing samples. The application also requests recommendations from anyone involved in the student’s education (home or otherwise), an interview with the student and anything the student wishes to share in support of their application (such as volunteer work, employment experiences, research).

Yes, I like that they’ve created a great example of a flexible admissions policy.  But even more so, I love that it’s specifically created for younger students and that it counters the tendency in today’s education system to hold students hostage in high school until a pre-defined, age-appropriate time for college or university studies.

Is every 16 year old ready for college? No. But, I bet a lot more of them are than we or even they realize.

I didn’t get much out of my partially-earned B.Ed., but one name I was exposed to was Lev Vygotsky. Although Vygotsky himself never used the current educational buzzword “scaffolding”, his concept of the zone of proximal development (the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help) informed the practice of instructional scaffolding: carefully constructed learning supports that are gradually removed when no longer needed.

With some thoughtful (as in, provided with thought) additional support, our students are capable of working at a higher level than their current abilities would suggest.  In order to promote academic development we should absolutely be providing challenges just beyond a student’s comfort zone, and it’s OK if a student needs a little help to meet those challenges.

Here’s where my background as a tutor kicks in, because of course, most of my time was spent simultaneously challenging and supporting my students. I’ve had to endure years of criticism that I was “doing the work for my students” or “creating dependencies” upon my services, but that’s simply not the way good tutoring works.  Traditional education models focus on the challenging but not the supporting.  If learning via support mechanisms were truly valued, then student assessments wouldn’t continue to over-emphasize “eyes on your own paper” test results. Yet, it’s often through support (from parents, teachers, mentors, and peers) that students become able to face and meet even greater challenges.

And let’s be clear on some of these nefarious, independence-killing strategies of support that I would employ:

  • asking questions when a student is stymied (often as innocuous as: “What do you think you should do next?” or “What do you know how to do that you could do here?” or even just “What are you thinking?”)
  • choosing for the student which question to attempt next (whether or not the teacher assigned it), maybe because it reinforces a concept just talked about or because it introduces a new idea or because it although it’s been dressed up to look different, it actually uses the same skill just mastered
  • suggesting that a student write the question down in a different way to help with clarity and organization (for example, writing in “landscape” orientation for a certain notorious category of problems where students can never, ever fit one single line of math across the width of a page)

So what does this have to do with early college or open universities?

Kids can handle academic challenges, even really tough ones, if we’re smart about providing a support system.

This support system doesn’t have to be formal.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be anything more or wildly different than you’re already doing in your home education. It just has to be sufficient for the academic challenges at hand.

If simply turning a page sideways is enough to vastly improve one’s success rate in working with trigonometric identities, then we should seriously consider, really, how much (or how little!) it could take to support our 15, 16 and 17 year olds in an early college endeavour through one of Canada’s open universities.

Then, our kids could just be in university instead of worrying about how to get in. Instead of spending their “high school” years with curriculum packages, 12U credits, SAT scores, porfolios and home made transcripts, our kids could just be learning at the university level, receiving their university education and working towards a university degree if they so choose.  Or, they could use their university classes to transfer into a traditional college or university after a year or two and be no further behind than others their own age.

This won’t be everyone’s chosen path.  But, I think it should be one of the options that home educating families evaluate before making their post-secondary plans. What if your child really did decide that he or she wanted to start university right now? There are places, like Simon’s Rock, where this is happening in a formal setting. But you can make it happen right in your own home, whenever you want, without jumping through anyone’s admission hoops.

What if we rephrased our current thinking from, “How will my child get into university?” to “When and how will my child decide to take advantage of the guaranteed, immediate access s/he has to Canada’s post-secondary education system?” (If, of course, he or she chooses to make use of it at all.)

I look forward to discussing this at the Kitchener Waterloo Christian Home Educators’ Conference in a few weeks!

Saskatchewan Homeschool University Admission Requirements

I know, it’s bad blogger form not to post anything for weeks then make two posts on the same day.

But, I thought I’d share the news that both major universities in Saskatchewan have homeschool admission policies! (The other degree-granting institutions in SK offer degrees through one of these two universities, so I’m only including the two here for admission purposes.)

University of Regina’s Homeschool Admission Page

Home Based Learner Applicants in this category must supply the following to the Admissions Office:
  1. A completed Application for Undergraduate Program Admission
  2. The application fee.
  3. A statement of identification as a home-based learner and a letter of intent (sample) outlining their educational goals and objectives, and including relevant extracurricular activities (arts activities, athletics, community service, employment) as they pertain to university preparation; a Home-Based Learner Profile can be found under Printable Forms.
  4. A Home-Based Learner transcript detailing grade 11 and 12 courses (sample 1 and sample 2).
  5. Evidence (as noted below) of having achieved the following:
    1. a minimum combined score of 1100 in the SAT I (Critical Reading and Math portions only) or a minimum average of 24 in the ACT ; and
    2. One of:
    • A minimum grade of 60% in one university course in a relevant admission subject; the course may be taken from the University of Regina as an accelerated student or another accredited university
    • A minimum grade of 65% in one 30-level high school course taken through a provincial correspondence school or by challenging a provincial departmental examination; the course must appear on the official provincial transcript of high school grades
    • A minimum grade of 4 in an approved Advanced Placement course
    • A minimum score of 650 on one SAT II subject examination
    Evidence of achievement is provided by the following documents, to be sent directly from the responsible institution or agency to the Admissions Office (documents are not accepted from applicants unless otherwise indicated): test scores: official statement of results from the testing agency 30-level high school course: one official provincial high school transcript (accepted from applicant) University of Regina course: no evidence required; applicants should note attendance on the application form Other university course: two official university transcripts AP course: official statement of results from the College Board
An interview with a Faculty advisor may be required by the University or requested by the applicant. Successful applicants will be admitted to the Faculty of Arts (with a condition of “mandatory advising”), the Faculty of Fine Arts or the Faculty of Social Work. Home Based Learners applying to other faculties may ask to be admitted to the Faculty of Arts to qualify for transfer to their faculty of choice (see post-secondary transfer requirements). Further details can be found in the Admission Profile for Home-Based Learners.

University of Saskatchewan’s Admissions Page (click the tab for Home Schooled Applicants)

The University of Saskatchewan offers applicants who have elected to complete a home schooling program the following options:
  1. Admission to all direct-entry colleges by successfully writing the Saskatchewan Learning provincial examinations (or equivalent) and obtaining Adult 12 standing in the required subjects and meeting the required admission average
  2. Applying for Special (Mature) admission at the age of 21
  3. Applicants will be considered for admissions into the Colleges of Arts & Science and Agriculture & Bioresources based on the provision of one or more of the following assessment tools:
    • A Home Based School Transcript with details of all Grade 11 and Grade 12 courses taken
    • Independent third party examinations including nationally normed standardized achievement tests such as a minimum score of 1100 in the SAT I or a minimum average of 24 in the ACT
    • An educational portfolio
Please note: An interview may be requested The University of Saskatchewan reserves the right to request additional information at the institution’s discretion.

Manitoba University Admission Links

After collecting Ontario links, some provinces seem easy! Since there are only four universities in Manitoba, I thought I’d include them on the website.

Two of the four universities do have stated homeschool admission policies (quoted and linked). The other two do not mention homeschoolers so I have emailed the admissions departments and I will update when I receive a response. They both have mature student admission at age 21, and the University of Brandon appears to accept a GED in place of a high school diploma, should you choose to go that route.

University of Winnipeg 2010-2011 Admissions guide (pdf download)

Home School Home-schooled students will be considered for admission to The University of Winnipeg on an individual basis. Each applicant must provide proof of completion of Grade 12 or its equivalent including Mathematics and English.

Canadian Mennonite University Home School Admission Page

Home-Schooled Students Home-schooled students who are 21 years of age or older may be considered for admission as Mature Students. Students who are under 21 years of age and have not, or will not, receive a certificate of graduation through a public or an accredited private secondary school system, may apply for admission under one of the following two options: Students who have successfully completed a provincial secondary school study program must submit a final mark statement and a graduation certificate from the Department of Education of their home province to demonstrate that they meet CMU’s regular admission requirements. Students who have been home-schooled on a private basis must submit a written declaration or transcript prepared by the primary educator outlining the secondary level courses completed, the type of program, material used, and the length of the program. To be eligible for consideration, such students must have achieved a minimum of 60% or “C” grade average. After the student has completed a minimum of eighteen credit hours of coursework, or at the end of the first academic year, whichever occurs first, the student will be evaluated in accordance with CMU’s academic performance policy and the student’s status will be changed to regular status if the student has achieved a minimum GPA of 2.0, or to probationary status if the GPA is less that 2.0. The student must fulfill the Academic Writing Requirement within the first term of study. Students admitted as Home-Schooled students are ineligible for Academic Entrance Scholarships, but they may be eligible for a Leadership Scholarship or one of the Specialized Entrance Scholarships in the areas of music, athletics, or church service.

Brandon University Admissions Page

Students who have followed a home schooling curriculum not officially sanctioned by the Province of Manitoba may be considered on a case by case basis upon appeal to the Curriculum and Academic Planning Committee. Normally, however, such students will only be admitted if their application is accompanied by a letter from a duly authorized representative of the Manitoba Department of Education stating that he or she has reviewed the student’s performance and finds that he or she has attained the equivalent of Manitoba high school graduation.

Students who have been home schooled in other provinces or states also may be eligible for admission provided their application is accompanied by written confirmation from a duly authorized representative of the provincial or state department of education stating that they have completed a program of study that would be acceptable for university entrance in that province or state.

University of Manitoba Admission Requirements Page

According to the University of Manitoba’s admission website, students may apply as a mature student at age 21 in lieu of a high school diploma. No specific homeschool policy is indicated. I have written to them to ask for further information.

Accredited by Whom?

Go to any homeschooling conference and you’ll see vendor booths selling high school programs. They could be correspondence courses, online courses or credit services. Most homeschooling parents and students know to ask about accreditation, but unfortunately, they usually ask the wrong question.

I have overheard sales people at these booths using potentially misleading phrases such as “equivalent to a high school diploma” (hint: if it’s equivalent to something, it’s not actually that thing). But perhaps the most confusing word for parents out in the alternative high school diploma industry is accredited.

YOU MAY NOT NEED ACCREDITATION, BUT WHEN YOU NEED IT, YOU REALLY NEED IT Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe everyone needs an accredited program to get them through their high school years. I don’t believe that an accredited program is, based on that fact alone, automatically superior to one that is not accredited. If I were homeschooling high school aged children right now, I personally wouldn’t choose to use an accredited program unless I was educating under constraints that made its use necessary. (Stay tuned for a later post on that!)  Remember that you might not even need a high school diploma at all, even if you want to go to university.

But, if you’re asking whether or not a program is accredited, that probably means you have come to the conclusion that your child needs or wants the benefits of accreditation. And if so, then you need to ask, ”Accredited by whom?” or you may as well not ask at all.

HANG OUT A SHINGLE, AND YOU’RE A CERTIFICATION BOARD I’m bringing up this topic again because of an article I read this morning in the Boston Herald regarding U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul’s claim to be a board certified doctor. It turns out that Paul is indeed certified … by a medical organization that he himself founded and currently heads. The Boston Herald article explains:

Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green and an opthamologist, says he’s certified by the National Board of Opthamology. But, Lori Boukas, a spokeswoman for the American Board of Medical Specialties, said the organization considers certifications valid only if they are done by the two dozen groups that have its approval and that of the AMA. The American Board of Opthamology said Paul hasn’t been certified since Dec. 31, 2005.

From what I gather from this article, the American Medical Association considers certifications issued by the American Board of Opthamology to be valid, but not those issued by the National Board of Opthamology, the latter being an organization that Paul created himself because he took issue with the certification practices of the former.

I’m not implying that there’s necessarily anything shady about forming your own accrediting body, but you can see how it creates confusion. If you were a budding opthamologist, then you would really need to know that the American and National Boards are two different entities, viewed differently by the American Medical Association and probably, therefore, by future employers. While both boards can offer you certification, those certifications are not equally accepted in the medical profession. Presumably there’s a professional organization to advise doctors and medical students. But surely the average patient would be clueless about these certification issues. (“Oh, you are certified by the National Board of Opthamology?  Sorry, my insurance only covers visits to an American Board of Opthamology certified doctor.”)

QUESTIONING (PRESUMED) AUTHORITIES We see shades of this outside the world of certification. “Super Objective Scientific Plastics Research Organization” (whose website you may visit while researching toxins in plastics) is nothing more than “Petroleum Giant Inc.“‘s PR department with carefully selected pro-plastic information. The “Stop Bill C-crackdown-on-natural-medicine” website is funded by “The Acai Berry Scammers of Canada” … who may in turn be simply a crafty department of “Big Pharma Monopoly Inc.” who have the resources to pull off the best double scam in history: reap the profits from selling supplements advertised as natural (but that don’t actually work) and then expose said natural medicine scams to create laws that make it impossible to sell herbal remedies, leaving pharmaceuticals as the only option.

(As you can see, my years of asking, “Who is really behind this?” have sharpened my creative skills!)

DO YOU KNOW WHO’S ACCREDITING YOUR CHILDREN? Most of us are aware of the need to question who is behind the sites we visit online and how objective or reliable its contents are. But, when it comes to certification and accreditation, we can really be fooled by authoritative sounding organizations and institutions. We still tend to think that it means something if a person or program is certified or accredited. It may, or it may not.

ACCREDITED HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS IN CANADA Fortunately (for simplicity’s sake), in Canada there really is only one accrediting body for high school credits: the provincial Ministry of Education. If you are inquiring about earning Canadian high school credits and want to ensure they are the official credits that count towards an official high school diploma, the answer you want to hear is that the program is accredited by the Ministry of Education. You want to hear that the program offers a ministry- or government-accredited high school diploma, not an equivalent diploma. There is only one “high school diploma” in each province, whether earned through correspondance, through a private school, at an alternative education centre, through a combination of night and/or summer school classes or at a regular public school - it’s the government-sanctioned, provincial diploma issued by the Ministry of Education.

ACCREDITED HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS IN THE UNITED STATES In the US, however, there are a handful of organizations with super-serious, boring names that do accredit US high schools on behalf of the US government. Not surprisingly, there are also a few organizations with super-serious, boring names that offer accreditation to schools and programs who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for accreditation through the government-recognized organizations. So, if you’re considering a US-based program that claims to be certified, you have a little more work to do to figure out which body certifies the program and then whether that body is one of the government-recognized ones.

RECOGNITION OF HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS BY CANADIAN UNIVERSITIES Canadian universities only recognize high school diplomas from the US that the US government would have recognized themselves. Students with a differently-accredited US diploma can not apply as regular high school students. They can, of course, apply for alternative admission (for example, as homeschoolers) and their diplomas can be considered in the admission process. But, Canadian universities can only accept a US government-recognized high school diploma to satisfy the “has a high school diploma” requirement. If you have one of the “other” diplomas, you do not, in the Canadian university’s eyes, have a “high school diploma” and you can’t apply as if you do.  So, that accredited diploma you earn may not come with the door-opening credentials you expect because of the organization offering the accreditation.

CONCLUSION Not everyone needs accreditation for their high school level studies.  But if you do in fact need a government high school diploma, then you need to find out who is accrediting the program and confirm that the diploma is government-recognized.

Related Posts: High School Credit Courses Do I Need a High School Diploma? 7 Ways To Get Into University Without A High School Diploma Homeschool Diplomas - Fact vs. Fiction

Do I Need a High School Diploma?

You may find yourself at a disadvantage without any educational credentials, so it’s a good idea to plan to achieve some level of formal, recognized education. Most homeschoolers do in fact have their sights set on some form of post-secondary education such as college, university, internship or professional programs.

But, homeschoolers pose an interesting problem to post-secondary program admissions because they often want to attend these formal, accredited programs after an informal or unrecognized course of study in the high school years. Certainly, most people use a high school diploma to gain entrance to these programs. But just because most people do it, does that mean it’s required?

So, before I answer the common question, “How do I get a high school diploma as a homeschooler?” I thought it would be a good idea to make it clear that, depending on your situation, you might not need a diploma at all.

ARE YOU ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION? People often write me asking how best to go about earning a high school diploma in their particular situation. But, for most people, the high school diploma isn’t really what they want.

What they really want is to open the doors that a high school diploma typically opens. Do you want a high school diploma for its own sake, or do you want to get into university? Do you want to qualify for a particular college program or internship?

Furthermore, if you could achieve that larger goal without a high school diploma, would you still want to focus on the high school diploma?

ONLY YOUR MOST ADVANCED EDUCATIONAL CREDENTIALS MATTER If you plan to earn a university degree, no one will care about your high school credentials. If you plan to earn a professional degree (law, medicine, teaching) or a graduate (Master’s, PhD) degree, few will even care about your undergraduate (first) university degree.

If you are not planning on attending college or university, then you will likely want a high school diploma (or GED, an equivalent exam-based credential). Most jobs require at least a high school diploma or GED, and without credentials of higher education, the high school diploma becomes more important.

But, if your goal is a university degree, then the question you should be asking yourself is, “What do I need in order to be accepted into university?” Fortunately, we already know that most Ontario universities will admit you without a high school diploma as long as you have fulfilled their other admission requirements. (And, an “open university” such as Athabasca University will admit you without any prerequisites.)

But what about advanced degrees and professional programs? The same reasoning applies: if your goal is law school, start your educational planning by asking yourself, “What do I need in order to be accepted into law school?”

WORK BACKWARDS TO FIND THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE The typical educational path to law school looks something like this:

high school diploma -> university degree -> law school

But, did you know that a university degree is not a pre-requisite for law school? And, since a high school diploma is not required for university entrance, neither credential is actually required for admission to law school. (There are educational requirements that you must satisfy, but neither a diploma nor a degree is one of them.)

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider a high school diploma or a university degree if you want to go to law school (or medical school, which has a similar entrance process). But it means that you have options, and you may wish to explore them to find the path of minimum formal schooling that will allow you to focus on your education instead.

JUST TO GO TO UNIVERSITY? THE SHORT ANSWER IS, “NO!” We do know that there are several ways to get into university without a high school diploma, but some college or technical programs may not support these methods. In short, though, if your educational path relies on a university education, then you can feel confident that you can avoid a high school diploma if you so desire.

RULE OF THUMB BASED ON THE LEVEL OF STUDY YOU EVENTUALLY WISH TO ACHIEVE High School Education, but nothing further: While you may never need formal proof of your high school level studies, there is a good chance that at some point you will want to present formal educational credentials to an employer, an investor (if you start your own business) or to an organization (if you must meet certain criteria* to join or volunteer). Of course, you can still be admitted to university if you find you do need credentials down the road, but it will typically take years to earn a university degree. If you need a piece of paper, and need it quickly, you’ll probably choose to write the GED exams instead. Even then, there is studying involved and waiting until a test is offered, so be aware that while your opportunities may not be limited, the speed with which you can act on them might be.

Undergraduate Degree (your first university degree): No you do not need a high school diploma because alternative admissions are possible. Professional degree (law, medicine, teaching, veterinary): You need some level of university study, but since you don’t need a high school diploma to get into university, therefore no you don’t need a high school diploma for professional programs, generally speaking. Graduate Degree (an advanced academic degree such as an MA, MSc, PhD): You need an undergraduate university degree, but since you don’t need a high school diploma to get into university, therefore no you don’t need a high school diploma for graduate degrees, generally speaking. College/Technical/Apprentice Programs: In Ontario, these programs often do require a high school diploma unless you wait until age 19 or 21 (depending on the school) to apply as a mature student. Read admissions information carefully and look for “high school diploma or equivalent” to see whether there may be a loophole or some flexibility. JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN BUCK THE SYSTEM DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD As you can see, it is possible to follow an advanced academic career without a high school diploma through alternative entrance to an undergraduate program.  But, it is important to make sure that the alternative path you choose is actually preferable to simply earning the high school diploma. Some people will prefer being assigned a curriculum, having lessons planned and work graded externally to the more independent options such as studying for standardized tests. Some students will benefit from the social experience of attending a high school (even if only in an “it’s like watching a sociological experiment” kind of way!) and others may find that the high school really is the resource hub of the community with the best music, athletic or science equipment, and therefore opportunities, in town. Responsible academic planning is as much knowing when to take advantage of a well-worn path as it is knowing when you can safely cut corners.  As always, think about which path offers the best combination of challenge and support for your child; a solid high school education requires both.

==================== * a local husband-and-wife bowling tournament in our old neighbourhood required you to submit a marriage license with your application to prevent contestants from pairing up with ringers. So, you just never know when you might need an official piece of paper!

But What About PEI?

Funny you should ask!

Although it’s not in Ontario, neither am I now, so how about the university you probably never thought you’d consider: UPEI? Added bonus, now I can say I’ve collated the university admissions for a whole other province! Whew, I think I deserve a break now! :)

In their own words:

“UPEI offers undergraduate degrees in Arts, Science, Education, Business, and Nursing; and graduate degrees in Veterinary Medicine, Education, Arts, Science, Business and Applied Health Sciences Research. We also offer a Pre-veterinary Medicine stream and a brand new Computer Science gaming program.

We are a university on the move. We are consistently in the TOP 10 in the Maclean’s rankings of 21 primarily undergraduate universities, we were Canada’s TOP university for student-faculty interaction in the 2006 National Survey of Student Engagement, and we ranked #1 for research publication effectiveness by RE$EARCH Infosource.”

PEI may only have one university, but it has a dedicated homeschool application page that is easily reachable from their admissions page. I’m looking at you, straggling Ontario universities! And it’s a sensible URL at that. So, consider the Gentle Island. They won’t hold it against you that you’re “from away” (for too long).


The basic entrance requirements for home schooled students are the same as for all other students. Home schooled students can meet the requirements by: * attending a local high school for Grade 12 or the final year of schooling; * taking the Grade 12 academic entrance subjects through a correspondence program acceptable to the University; or * presenting Advanced Placement test scores on an official transcript for the entrance subjects.

Added bonus: I hear there’s a pretty good math tutor in the area …

How Early Do I Have to Start Planning for University?

(This is a part of the document that I used to hand out at my Ontario University Admissions seminar.  Just thought I’d get it up online.)

The answer to this question depends in part on how your intend to enter university.  Below you’ll find some general tips and suggestions for your high school program that address credit courses, standardized test prep, “top six” and portfolio-based options.  Of course, these are just some general, brief guidelines to get you thinking about the process.

To earn the OSSD: start taking credit courses in “Grade 9” and plan to take roughly 6 – 8 credit courses per year for four years.

To write Standardized Tests (SAT/ACT): follow a challenging English/Math program of your choice through “Grades 9 and 10” and begin specific test prep in the fall of  “Grade 11.”

To take 12U credit courses (“Top Six”): follow a challenging English/Math program through “Grades 9 and 10” and begin with one or two 12U credit courses in fall of “Grade 11.” Finish the rest of the six courses in “Grade 12.”

To prepare a Porfolio: document activities (begin to prepare a transcript with course names, descriptions, lists of texts used, tables of content followed) starting in “Grade 9.” Start producing samples of graded, admission-level work (projects, essays, tests) in “Grade 11.”

To enter an open university directly: follow a curriculum according to interest and ability in “Grades 9 and 10.”  Choose more challenging/advanced programs in areas of future specialization.  For interests in humanities, develop solid writing skills early.  For interests in social studies, develop advanced reading comprehension early.  For interests in math/science/engineering/technical areas, develop solid math skills early.  Begin your first course or two in “Grade 11.”  Choose an area of strength or interest to start.  Look ahead to courses you might take over the next 2 years and if need be, study specifically to prepare for those courses.  Complete 4 – 6 courses over the course of 2 – 3 years.  Then, decide whether to continue studying by distance or transfer as a university transfer student to a traditional university setting.

General Admissions Timelines - “Grades 9 and 10”

Decide on an admissions strategy to aim for: Standardized Tests, 12U credit courses (“Top Six”), Portfolio/Transcripts, Mature student entry, transfer from an open university

Research admission policies: Homeschool policy already in place? Homeschool contact person at university? Contact universities to confirm policies and establish relationship.

Personal thinking/planning about future

  • Am I a “science” person?  A “history” person?
  • Do I have a specific profession in mind?
  • Do I want to attend university right after high school?

Begin formal documentation for portfolios/transcripts

  • Consult Ministry of Education course descriptions for curriculum topics by grade
  • Collect samples of work, externally-evaluated if possible
  • Keep exhaustive list of activities and use edu-speak to translate into courses

Start regular, academic writing

  • Argumentative/persuasive writing
  • Report writing
  • Grammar and style
  • Research and documentation
  • Organization and structure

Analysis of texts and literature (fiction and non-fiction)

  • Reading for meaning and content
  • Understanding tone, perspective, and bias
  • Use of figurative language
  • Themes and character development in works of fiction

Regular diet of pre-algebra/algebra

  • Basic arithmetic and order of operations
  • Integers, fractions, decimals
  • solving equations
  • rate, ratio, percent and proportion
  • linear and quadratic functions
  • linear and quadratic equations and systems of equations
  • analytic geometry
  • polynomials and factoring

Establish/Develop areas of academic interest

  • Having an “academic speciality” can go a long way to being noticed as a university applicant.
  • Put together your own “survey course” in a particular field
  • Explore professional/industry/career organizations in that area and familiarize yourself with their suggested links/resources

“Grade 11” – credit courses or personalized study program for standardized tests

Attend university fairs (usually in the fall)

Visit university campuses – when students are there!

Language Development

  • Continue regular writing and revising – style and sentence variety
  • Work on improving, enriching vocabulary – consider studying lements of Latin, Greek
  • Read challenging texts, including those which are open to interpretation
  • Studies in current events/world issues
  • Elementary Logic, especially logical reasoning and fallacies for the purposes of evaluating arguments, identifying faulty reasoning
  • Traditional Grammar Study for clear, concise communication

Mathematics Development

  • Humanities students: Continue studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation
  • Business students: this should be a pre-calculus year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability—if  possible, write AP Statistics exam this May—(or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
  • Social Science students: studies from Grades 9 and 10, working towards proficiency in these skills, and/or SAT preparation with an emphasis on statistics and probability (or with the intention of pursuing this next year)
  • Science students: this should be a pre-calculus year (physics students should also consider this a pre-linear algebra year)
  • Math/Computer science students: this should be a pre-calculus and pre-linear algebra year. Completion of the equivalent of 11U Mathematics (Ontario) or Algebra 2 (U.S.) should be the goal.

Standardized Test Route

  • Start prep for SAT (and any AP exams) in the fall
  • Write SAT (May or June)
  • Write one or two “easier” AP exams (May)

Credit course route

  • Take one or two 12U courses in first semester (easier ones)
  • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester

Research universities – Method A:  By School

  • Close to home vs. far away?
  • Finances and Scholarships?
  • Size of campus/classes?
  • Size of city/town?

Research universities – Method B:  By Program

  • Where is the program available?
  • Co-op or internship possibilities?
  • Specialization or general?

“Grade 12” – STANDARDIZED TESTS or 12U courses Visit OUAC website in the fall

  • Contact OUAC in September re: applying as a home schooled student to receive appropriate login information or paper applications
  • download copy of INFO (available late Sept/October) for specific program requirements and application information

Language Development

  • Read and respond to challenging, classical texts – explore the universal themes of classic works and the elements of language used by the author to communicate his or her message
  • Use academic journals (instead of newspapers) to explore current issues
  • Choose some subjects to be studied “from the textbook” and develop the skill of learning independently from a textbook (perhaps choose a text you may be using next year in university – e.g. intro to psychology)
  • Attend local seminars held by museums or local colleges/universities
  • Join or form a book club with deadlines for reading and discussion dates

Mathematics Development

  • Humanities students: No further mathematics is typically required beyond studies from Grades 9 and 10, and/or SAT, but you may wish to consider preparing for a SAT Subject Test (Math I) or your university program’s breadth requirement in math/logic/statistics
  • Business students: study calculus (formally or informally) this year with an added emphasis on statistics and probability if not previously studied.  Plan to write SAT Subect (Math I or II) test and/or AP Calculus  & Statistics in the spring, if not previously written.
  • Social Science students: plan to write SAT Subject Test (Math I or II) and AP Statistics in the spring, if not previously written.
  • Science students: study calculus (formally or informally) and possibly linear algebra.  Write SAT Subject Test (Math II) and/or AP Calculus in the spring
  • Math/Computer Science students: study calculus and linear algebra (formally or informally) with the intention of writing SAT Subject Test (Math II) and/or AP Calculus.

Standardized Test Route

  • Revisit prep for SAT in the fall if you wish to rewrite this year (Before Dec.)
  • Start AP and/or SAT II preparation in the fall
  • Write AP exams (May)
  • Write SAT II subject exams (Spring)

Credit course route

  • Take two or three 12U courses in first semester (ideally, have 6 done!)
  • Take one or two 12U courses in second semester, if desired/necessary

Other academic options for Grades 11 and 12

  • Volunteer placements
  • Internships, job shadowing
  • Online university/college courses (for credit or “open study” such as MIT)
  • Competitions and contests (e.g. music, academic)
  • Special camps/activities hosted by universities or community groups
  • Offer tutoring and/or mentoring to younger students
  • Outside certification courses (e.g. cooking, technology, athletics, public speaking, technical writing, swiming) in areas of interest and/or teaching classes in these areas
  • Specialized research project