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Indiana University: Earn a College Degree at Home

Homeschooled students are accustomed to studying on their own schedule, at home, so it’s not surprising to learn that some of these students want to keep their independence when they go on to college.

Indiana University gives these students the opportunity to earn their college degree from home. By taking courses through the undergraduate Independent Study Program, students can earn an Indiana University Associate of Arts in General Studies (60 semester credit hours) or Bachelor of General Studies (120 semester credit hours).

General studies students pursue an interdisciplinary plan of study that encompasses three areas of learning:

• arts and humanities

• social and behavioral sciences

• mathematics and natural sciences

They complete required course work in these areas. In addition, they complete electives that suit their individual needs, and they may concentrate their course work in specialized fields. Graduates of the program go on to graduate and professional schools, and they pursue a full range of careers.

Below is a story about general studies student Natalie (she asked that we not use her last name). Natalie is a homeschooled student who earned her high school diploma by taking independent study courses through Indiana University High School. She was so pleased with the high school program that she enrolled in the General Studies Degree Program. Read on to learn about Natalie’s independent study experience.

Meet Natalie

General studies student Natalie believes there are two components to education: Book work and social interaction. The book work is a given, but social interaction is something that students must cultivate for themselves. A distance education student living in Florida , Natalie does both very well.

Natalie, 17, has always preferred completing her book work through home study. When asked why, she doesn’t hesitate to answer. "In one word," she says, "the flexibility. With home study, I can set my own schedule and do volunteer work and travel."

Natalie asked her parents if she could complete high school through home study. In theory, they wanted to say yes, but they didn’t feel they could take on the responsibility of teaching Natalie. When Natalie’s dad brought home an Indiana University catalog, they knew they had found a solution. Natalie enrolled in the Indiana University High School diploma program. "We liked having real teachers, lesson plans, and feedback," she explains.

The bright and energetic Natalie — who went from sixth grade into high school — graduated from the diploma program at age 15. She began her college career by taking traditional courses on a small campus, but then decided to transfer into Indiana University ‘s General Studies Degree Program. "My parents and I liked the wide range of courses," says Natalie, "and IU is a respected university. We lived in Indiana for 12 years, so we knew about its reputation."

Natalie prefers to take online courses rather than correspondence courses. Although she likes the written feedback she gets from instructors in correspondence courses, she loves the ability to upload her assignments directly to the Web. Having taken online courses from other universities, Natalie says that IU’s courses are superior. "They are set up differently from other online courses," she explains. "Each course has many different components. The instructors create an online framework for you. The courses provide a lot of help, so you’re able to digest more and learn better."

Natalie says she has had some excellent instructors. Currently, her favorite instructor is her creative writing teacher. "I love to write," she says. "This instructor gave me a warm welcome to the course. She turns lessons around quickly and offers constructive criticism and personalized feedback by e-mail. I recently submitted a poem for her to review. She liked the poem but said that a different title would really make it ‘pop.’ I thought about it and realized she was right. I like being challenged to ask myself, ‘What can I do to make myself better?’"

As Natalie talks about her instructors, it’s clear that she values the interactions she has with them. In fact, it’s clear how much she values all social interactions in her statement: "Education isn’t just the book work, it’s also the social interaction. Students who attend classes on a traditional campus can take advantage of several opportunities for social interaction. With home study, you must create your own extracurricular activities."

And create she does. A recent transplant to Florida, Natalie has wasted no time in identifying volunteer opportunities. She’s a tour guide at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida’s state art museum. The museum grounds include the Ringling’s mansion, Cà d’Zan, where Natalie also leads tours. She’s recently volunteered for the Sarasota Film Festival, where she’ll assist the events coordinator.

In addition to her volunteer activities, Natalie participates in several other extracurricular activities. In February 2004, for example, she was featured in the ABC Family Channel’s program, Switched. The concept behind the show, Natalie says, is to take two teenagers and have them switch lives for four days. Natalie traded places with a younger high school student and had to return to traditional school. "I went to a punk rock concert," she exclaims, "and I’m a classical music person!"

In addition, Natalie bakes, and someday she wants to own her own bakery. She’s been exploring Sarasota and introducing herself to the various bakers around town. Last year, she was a finalist in the Johnson and Wales University high school recipe contest. Johnson and Wales, Natalie explains, has a prestigious culinary school. Contestants in the recipe contest, she adds, are high school students from all over the country. After being named a finalist, she traveled to Providence, Rhode Island, to participate in a bake-off. Her recipe, which she created, was a low fat maple-pecan pie. As a result of the contest, she received a $3,500 scholarship to Johnson and Wales.

As Natalie looks to the future, she speculates that she may return to a college campus one day — to take advantage of the social opportunities. For now, she is content to enjoy the flexibility of home study: "Indiana University ‘s independent study courses, provide an excellent, quality education. If you work hard and do your work well, you’re going to learn a lot."

For more information about earning an IU degree or diploma through independent study, call 800-334-1011, send e-mail to scs@indiana.edu, or visit the Web at http://scs.indiana.edu.