|Home-schooled Sisters Find UST Ideal Setting For College|
The Rinaldi sisters – Elizabeth, Katie and Meghan – are among the expanding community of University of St. Thomas students who were home-schooled. Together, the Rinaldi family has found numerous parallels between the quality home school education they received growing up, and the classical, Catholic, liberal arts education offered at UST.
“St. Thomas is a very open and accepting community for home school students,” Elizabeth said. “Compared to other schools, the UST admissions process was more seamless for home-schoolers. Arthur Otiz and the entire admissions staff were very accessible and knowledgeable. They just seemed to understand the concerns we face and how our transcripts and applications are different than those of traditional applicants.”
Home schooling is a rapidly growing trend in education, with estimated numbers approaching 2 million in the United States. Ortiz, assistant director of admissions, specializes in assisting home-schoolers and their families. He also shares his home school expertise with universities nationwide.
In the 2008-2009 academic year, 14 home-schooled students were admitted as freshman at UST, contributing more students to the freshman class than any other single “feeder” high school. Ortiz said the relationship between the University of St. Thomas and the home school community is mutually beneficial.
“Home-schooled students typically score above the national average on the SAT and ACT tests.” Ortiz said. “They tend to be very well-read and have excellent writing and study skills, so home-schoolers are outstanding additions to the student body. Based on their educational background, many home-schoolers are attracted to the classical, liberal arts curriculum, average class sizes of 17 students, individual attention and the religious emphasis at UST.”
Essentially, homeschoolers are a natural fit at UST because the University’s strengths mirror their strengths, and their interests mirror our interests, Ortiz said.
“A lot of people are worried about the transition into college, but I feel my home school education prepared me academically for college,” Elizabeth said. “So much home-schooling is self-directed, and I was used to studying independently.”
The Rinaldi family is very devout in their Catholic faith, Elizabeth said. All three Rinaldi sisters are members of the UST Catholic Daughters Chapter. Elizabeth is a senior environmental studies major and political science, Catholic studies and philosophy minor. She has had the opportunity to work closely with Sr. Damien Marie Savino, FSE, chair of the Environmental Science and Studies Department (ESS). ESS takes an integrated approach to creation, rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition. The ESS program educates students as to the basic science underlying environmental issues, along with the moral imperative to care for the earth.
“The St. Thomas community celebrates your faith and provides a support system by providing Mass daily,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve also enjoyed learning from the Sisters and Fathers who serve on the faculty.”
Katie, a junior philosophy major minoring in Catholic studies, drama and Irish studies, transferred to UST after taking some basic core classes at Lone Star College-Cy Fair. She chose UST because she plans to become a neonatal surgeon, and the UST pre-med program enables her to combine her passion for science, the opportunity to explore liberal arts courses and her interest in theatre.
“Our mom really emphasized reading and being able to think and learn critically. UST’s core curriculum definitely nurtures and helps you develop those skills even further,” Katie said. “In the pre-med program, I get a solid science foundation. Adding philosophy and drama shows medical schools that you know how to think beyond the numbers and facts.”
Katie said her transition to college life was facilitated by finding a niche in the drama department.
“In my drama minor, I’ve been able to work on theatre productions,” Katie said. “I have met a lot of people and I’ve really been able to work with one-on-one with the teachers who really take the time to help cultivate your talent and love of performance.”
Meghan just finished her first semester as a freshman, and she plans on majoring in psychology.
“I lived in Péru my senior year in high school due to my dad’s job in the mining industry,” Meghan said. “I had a difficult time applying to colleges from abroad, but Arthur Ortiz made it really easy for me. E-mail was the only way to get in contact with me, and Arthur was quick to respond and very attentive.”
Meghan said she experienced some reverse culture shock coming back to the United States, being away from her parents and starting college at the same time, but she was comforted by the presence of her sisters. She said she was also able to assimilate easily into the St. Thomas community by getting involved in the honors program and Psi Chi, the psychology student organization.
Though each sister has found an avenue to explore their individual interests on campus, the Rinaldis still feel a common bond with their fellow home-schoolers at UST. With that in mind, the sisters have plans to create a UST home school student organization.
To learn more about admissions, view the Home School Admissions Web site.
For more information, contact Arthur Ortiz at email@example.com or 713-525-3848.