Question: College is a dream for me. But, I was homeschooled through high school and my parents decided not to let me take the SAT or ACT tests. Our family income is under 25,000 a year. Nothing has been saved for my college tuition. I took a "gap year" for personal health reasons, but it is now almost June. Is (non-community) college a completely hopeless dream for me?
Although there is a growing list of test-optional colleges, the fact that you didn't take the SAT or ACT will be a huge liability. Because you are a home-schooled student who requires significant financial aid, colleges will be looking for some objective measure of your academic strength. Without either official school grades or standardized test scores, many colleges will not want to take a risk on you ... especially if you need a lot of money from them to enroll. (Did you take any Advanced Placement exams? It would help a lot if you did. This would give colleges some way to compare you with other candidates.)
It is also very problematic that you are considering college for this coming September (at least I think that's when you plan to start). As you've noted yourself, it's now almost June, so many admission and financial aid deadlines passed long ago.
However, there are a number of four-year colleges that are still accepting applications. As you can imagine, the ones that will take you and be able to provide you with adequate financial aid are not going to be very selective. If you are a strong student---or feel that you could be one, in a traditional classroom setting--then you might want to consider shooting for the following year--September of 2011. You can take the SAT or ACT in the meantime. You will have far many more options if you wait.
But ... if you're very eager to start college in the coming fall, you'll probably have to aim for a school with Open Admissions (all applications accepted) although I can't promise that these institutions will be able to meet your financial need at this late date.
To find colleges that may still be accepting applications, try the College Board "Matchmaker." Go to: http://collegesearch.collegeboard.com/search/adv_typeofschool.jspUnder the "Admissions" heading, check "Open Admissions." Many of the colleges that you'll see on the "Results" list will still be accepting applications. You can also try again, this time selecting "More the 75% accepted." Although not ALL of the schools on your results list will still be taking applications, a large percentage of them probably will be. You can compare your list with the roster of test-optional colleges that you'll find at the FairTest Web site here: http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional
You can also check the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Space Availability Survey to see which colleges are still accepting applications, even though their deadlines have officially past. You'll find it here: http://www.nacacnet.org/PublicationsResources/Research/SpaceAvailabiltySurvey/Pages/SpaceSurveyResults.aspx. Note, however, that many of these colleges will not admit you without SAT scores. (There is a June 12 ACT test date and you can try for "standby" testing since you've missed the registration period. See http://www.actstudent.org/regist/standbytest.html. The final SAT of the year is even sooner--June 5. You can read about the standby option here: http://sat.collegeboard.com/register/how-to-register?fmExpandStandBy=yes#standbyRegistrationHeader ) If you have test scores by the end of June or early July, you may have a better chance of getting into those colleges with late closing dates than if you have no test scores at all.
Most colleges have application requirements for home-schooled students that don't apply to those from traditional high schools. You will probably have to prepare a detailed summary of your home-school curriculum including books read, materials covered, etc. You may be asked by some colleges to take the SAT Subject tests in addition to the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT. Since you said you took a "gap year," colleges will also expect you to explain what you did during this time off.
If you are able to enroll in a less-selective or non-selective school for the fall ... even a community college ... and you do well there, then you will position yourself to transfer into more selective colleges. But you should take the SAT or ACT before you apply to transfer. This can help with admission and also with merit-based financial aid.
Bottom line: You can definitely fulfill your dream, but you're going to have to be patient and perhaps look ahead to September 2011 rather than trying to rush into this for the coming fall.
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