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Numbers show homeschooled students are extremely underrepresented at UT

The number of homeschooled students in the United States is steadily increasing and has been since the 1970s. The number of homeschooled students attending large universities, however, is not changing noticeably.

The University of Texas at Austin has a total undergraduate enrollment of more than 50,000 students. The overwhelming majority of these students attended a public or private high school, where they were given a class rank.

An applicant’s class rank is often a critical deciding factor in the admissions process, which seems to give the population of students who were home-educated a disadvantage when applying for admission.

According to National Home Education Research Institute, there were about 2 million school-age children being homeschooled in the United States in 2010. Despite there being enough homeschooled students in the nation to populate the city of Houston, homeschooled students attending college appears to not be a widespread occurrence. An Internet search for the number of homeschooled students that attend college yields little and inconclusive results.

Some homeschooled students don’t apply to four-year universities for various reasons.  Many feel that the probability of being admitted to a large school is small simply because of their academic background, but Patty Prado, Assistant Director of Admissions at UT, says this is a misconception.

“Homeschooled students at UT are not really treated that much different. There’s not a separate application, and there are not certain requirements that are different,” Prado said.

Prado, who has worked in the admissions office for 10 years, tells both ranked and unranked students that giving as much information about themselves as possible can only help them during the application process.

Prado said homeschooled students are separated into their own group for review in the beginning of the admissions process.

“This is where we take all the information that they share with us to see who comes to the top. From there, they move into the review pool with all the other students, from a ranking high school or not, to find out how they look within the major or college that they are interested in.”

UT received about 140 homeschooled applicants for the 2013-2014 year, according to Prado. Of them, roughly 40 were admitted and 20 were enrolled, hardly enough to fill a lecture hall on campus. These numbers remain fairly consistent, meaning UT has less than 100 homeschooled students that enrolled here directly. Because the application process is different for them, this number doesn’t include the homeschooled transfer students.

The applicants who were not admitted were denied for the same various reasons students from ranking high schools are denied, and there isn’t any one or two reasons that stand out among them.

“In my experience with homeschooled applicants, they are extremely bright…I’ve really enjoyed reviewing homeschooled files and being a point person for these students and their parents,” Prado said.

“I think sometimes they worry that they won’t do well in the process because we may favor a student who goes to a ranking school…but I let them know that, no, in many cases our homeschooled applicants are very strong students and they do great here.”

Prado’s biggest piece of advice for homeschooled applicants who want to attend college is to plan early, pursue academic and non-academic interests in whatever way possible, and prepare to articulate those experiences and interests.

Journalism junior Anna Daugherty was homeschooled for her entire academic life until college. Because it seemed like the easiest route, she attended a junior college for two years then transferred to UT. She originally wanted to study linguistics, and out of the few schools that offer a bachelor’s degree in linguistics in Texas, she thought UT was the best fit. Later, she decided linguistics was not for her and changed to journalism.

The reason her mother chose to do homeschooling was to give Daugherty and her siblings a more one-on-one experience.

“My mom made sure we were really involved in other stuff too. I did city theatre, I did a lot of stuff with my church and I had a part-time job,” Daugherty said.

Aside from thinking the college application process would have been less complicated, Daugherty doesn’t wish she attended a public or private school. Daugherty said she is grateful for the experience.

“I think everyone should try [to go to college]… I haven’t figured out how you would overcome not having a class rank,” Daugherty said.

“Just do whatever you have to do, even if that means going to a community college. It probably takes a little extra work but it’s worth it.”

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Texas wine production flourishes in drought-ridden area

A fruity, sweet aroma fills the brightly-lit tasting room on a Saturday afternoon. A crowd of people clutch their wine glasses as they gather around the bar. On every wall, framed awards and clippings of magazine and newspaper articles are displayed. The vineyard’s pest control cat, Cotton, is asleep on an office chair in the corner.

A table in the center of the room holds various gifts: cheese plates and knives, jewelry, measuring cups, wine aerators and pastry mixes. The rustic decor, cream walls and red brick floors give an instant feeling of warmth.

James Nobles, the tasting room/office manager at Fall Creek Vineyards, rings up customers. Though he is busy, he connects with each customer as though they were the only customer in what is actually a very long line in front of the register. He quickly fills orders for cases of wine while happily holding a conversation with the patron. He is a skilled multitasker.

The vineyard was established in 1975 by Ed and Susan Auler. The first vines were planted that year and production started in 1979. Last year, they sold about 60,000 cases of wine, making Fall Creek the third largest winery in Texas.

Nobles grew up on the vineyard. His father has been the production manager for 33 years.

Fall Creek Vineyards is located in Tow, Texas, about 80 miles northwest of Austin. This area of the hill country is struggling with severe drought. Rainfall has been scarce. The water level of Lake Buchanan, which is adjacent to the vineyard, is dropping every year. The water is currently 26 feet below what it should be.

Boat ramps are completely exposed. Floating docks are resting on the ground. Rentable cabins that used to be considered “waterfront” are now at least half a mile away from the water.

According to Sherry James at Jesse James Real Estate, property values in the area have dropped five percent since 2008. Despite the buyers’ market, there are more people leaving the area than coming in.

“There are numerous homes on the market and there’s just not many selling. And it’s mostly because of the water. So we just pray for rain,” James said.

Tourism used to be a large part of the local economy, but James said there are nearly 100 small motels for sale around the lake. “A few have sold, but they have sold for less than half [of their value],” James said.

While the community grapples with issues caused by the lack of water, Fall Creek Vineyards is thriving. The ground is dry and cracked everywhere else along Lake Buchanan, yet the soil along the rows of grape vines at Fall Creek is muddy. Fall Creek doesn’t pump water from the lake; they use water from a well to water their vines.

“The drought situation in Texas hasn’t affected us… Red grapes typically love a dry climate. The drier the climate, the more it forced that vine to be strained. And so therefore you end up having a more robust red [wine],” Nobles said.

There are several wineries in the area and it is the only business that’s truly booming. The relationship among the wineries is a symbiotic one. Instead of fiercely competing, they work together and help each other.

“We’re a brotherhood. We couldn’t exist without each other,” Nobles said.

“One of the things that I think is really distinguishing us from California is the fact that when you go to California now, it’s kind of over produced…when it started about the wine. In Texas, It’s staying about the wine. And I think there’s something that’s very beautiful about that, but it’s all coming from the family network that we have.”

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