COLUMBIA, Missouri (AP) -- Bombarded by choices at a college job fair, Sara Kianmehr quickly found her match: Columbia College, a small, private school that didn't mind that her transcripts came from her parents.
The college "was the only institution that didn't have a puzzled look and say, 'Home school,' and ask me a million questions," the 19-year-old junior said. "There was a big appeal."
With colleges and universities aggressively competing for the best students, a growing number of institutions are actively courting homebound high achievers like Kianmehr, who took community college courses her senior year of high school and hopes to eventually study filmmaking at New York University or another top graduate school.
The courtship can be as subtle as admissions office Web sites geared to home-schooled applicants or, in the case of Columbia College, as direct as purchasing mailing lists and holding special recruiting sessions.
After years of skepticism, even mistrust, many college officials now realize it's in their best interest to seek out home-schoolers, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.
"There was a tendency to kind of dismiss home schooling as inherently less rigorous," he said. "The attitude of the admissions profession could have at best been described as skeptical."
Home-schooled students -- whose numbers in this country range from an estimated 1.1 million to as high as 2 million -- often come to college equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in higher education, said Regina Morin, admissions director of Columbia College.
Such assets include intellectual curiosity, independent study habits and critical thinking skills, she said.
"It's one of the fastest-growing college pools in the nation," she said. "And they tend to be some of the best prepared."
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