Monday, June 28, 2010

University of Victoria Admissions Story

by Kelly Green

Kelly Green is the home learning mom of four boys. Her two oldest children attend the University of Victoria (UVic) and are currently in the theatre department. Her oldest son began attending UVic in the fall of 2006. This is the story of how he got there without a high school diploma.


Our oldest son, age 18, is starting UVic this week as a first-year student in the theatre department. He is wait-listed for music, and is being permitted to take some music courses as electives, with the understanding that he will be auditioning again for music for next year. He has never been to school, does not have a Dogwood, and has one grade 12 course he did through SIDES, PMath 12.

The Strategy

We started working with UVic 2 years ago through the Registrar's office, because our son very specifically wanted to go to UVic for theatre and/or music. Therefore, Camosun was not an option, because there were few or no courses that would transfer in those programs, especially theatre. We provided test results, in the form of the U.S. PSAT and SAT tests, some AP (Advanced Placement) exams he wrote through the U.S. College Board, (the same organization that also does the SAT), and a resume of his other homeschool work and activities in his specific fields. Other than that, he was judged on the basis of his auditions, just as any other student would be.

The registrar's office told us he is only the second "homeschooled" student (by that I mean no Dogwood, and virtually no distance ed.) UVic has ever admitted. They are working on a policy for homeschooler applications that they hope to have in place within the next couple of years. The reason I am writing is just to let people know that it is possible to work with UVic directly, and not have to go the mature student or Camosun route (although those are great if they work for you). Also, UVic sometimes allows high school students to take one or two courses, with special permission, if they can prove competence, and the professor approves. Our 16-year-old is taking Music Composition at UVic this year, with special permission. The most common subject high school students take, they tell us, is math.

The University Senate Committee on Admission, Re-registration and Transfer (SCART)

When we went to the registrar to discuss a process by which a homeschooler might apply for admissions, we were told that the way to do it was to submit an Extraordinary Application to SCART--that is the University Senate Committee on Admission, Re-registration and Transfer. This committee considers all the applications from students who do not, or cannot, enter the university in the usual or traditional way. They meet periodically, and one of the things they do is consider and vote on these applications.

As I mentioned before, our application consisted of letters from us and from our son stating why we believed he was an appropriate and prepared candidate for university, a resume listing all his related work and activities, and relevant test scores, in our case the PSAT, SAT and AP exams. Other people might submit provincial exams, if they have taken them. We also promised them future test scores, as he was taking two more AP exams in the spring 2006, and his PMath 12 transcript (he finished the course and took the provincial in June this year). 

In our case, SCART approved his admission with two provisos:

1. That we submit the appropriate transcripts as they became available, before school started, and
2. That our son was, in fact, accepted by one or both of the departments to which he was applying.

This second one was crucial, as he was applying to faculties that take students only by audition, and not to an undeclared humanities or sciences program. In the end, he was accepted by one of the departments. If he had not been, we would be repeating the process this year.

Advanced Placement

Also, just something that might be of interest to people, the Advanced Placement (AP) exams are challenging, but lots of homeschoolers in Canada and the U.S. take them and do well. UVic offers credit for scores of 4 or 5 on the tests (5 being the high score given, 1 being the lowest). It is possible to take up to 15 credits (one full year) into UVic through AP. Our 16-year-old already has achieved the full 15 credits, so he will start UVic as a second-year-student when he goes. Our oldest son tested out of his complete English requirement with his AP score. The College Board web site has lots of information on the tests and how to prepare for and take them. Here in Victoria, St. Michaels and Oak Bay High, among others, offer a selection of the tests every May. They are given once each year, during the first two weeks of May. If you have a secondary student who is interested in this approach, this is a good time of year (fall) to consider it.


The question is sometimes asked, is there any advantage to a formerly home-educated student choosing to pursue a Dogwood?

My answer is that not only is there no perceivable advantage, but there is, in fact, a considerable disadvantage. (There is one exception to this statement, which shall be explained below.)

In BC, most universities admit students purely on the basis of marks. If, in a given year, the required mark for a particular school is an 87 percent average, and a very able student happens to end up with an average of 86 percent, that student is simply out of luck. I have known a number of regularly schooled students who have had to alter their plans for post-secondary studies because their marks came in just under the average demanded by their school of choice.

Home educated students can put themselves at a great disadvantage by choosing the Dogwood route. Post secondary schools will consider a home educated student with a Dogwood as just another student. Their application will be considered, like any other secondary student, on the basis of marks alone. This eliminates any advantage that that student's particular educational path, pursued individually, might have gained for them in applying for post-secondary study. A student who is a gifted musician, artist, linguist or mathematician becomes, in such a situation, just another set of numbers. The whole point of home-based education is that the individual both has control of their own learning process, and can pursue their own individual "genius." Not having a Dogwood forces the post-secondary institution to consider the student as an individual, and to look at them in their entirety--considering, for example, portfolios, letters of reference, remarkable projects the student may have worked on, and such ordinary things as test scores. What post-secondary institutions usually find, in the case of home educated students, is that they do, indeed, bring a variety of gifts to the institution of their choice. This is why such students are often sought by more progressively minded post secondary institutions in, for instance, the United States. British Columbia universities have not, frankly, caught up with the times. The only way they will consider the real gifts of any potential student is if that student does NOT have a Dogwood diploma. This very lack forces the institution to "think outside the box."

The only case in which a home-educated student benefits from having a Dogwood (with reference to the exception mentioned above) is in the event that the student is so academically gifted that their marks are far and away better than the "competition" for the available university spots. This does happen with some frequency. However, many other students are better served by avoiding the Dogwood, and challenging the university to consider the particular genius the student has developed via their alternative educational path. In most cases, having the Dogwood makes the student just one more number in a sea of numbers.


© Kelly Green 2006, 2012 -- reprinted with permission

Kelly Green is also the author of a new book that is a retelling, including historical perspective, of four of Shakespeare's history plays, Plantagenet Plots.