Homeschooling continues to be a rising trend with over two million students currently being homeschooled in the United States. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the population grew by 62% during a recent 10-year span.
While homeschooled students are a small minority in the American educational system, comprising only 3.4% of students, research suggests that the education they receive is often of very high quality. Many people are surprised to learn this, and this may be because the term “homeschooling” is misleading. Learning at home is only part of the student’s experience. These students are also involved in their local social environment and enjoy external educational experiences in which there are opportunities to excel.
All colleges, even the most selective ones, are tolerant of educational variety. Homeschooled students have been admitted to and have been performing well in top-tier institutions since the homeschooling trend began. More than 900 colleges have admitted homeschooled students.
Many highly selective institutions, including Stanford, MIT, and Harvard, recruit homeschoolers. Sometimes this is to foster diversity but often it is because the homeschooled are known to perform quite well academically in college. This may be due to the fact that, freed from standardized testing and rigid schedules, homeschoolers are better able to pursue and excel in their areas of interest without neglecting other core subjects. However, homeschooling is not, per se, an advantage in gaining admission to top-tier schools. It’s just that it’s no longer a disadvantage.
Be ready to adapt to the fact that the homeschooled comprise a square peg in a round hole with respect to standard college admissions practices. Homeschoolers unconventional educational structure poses challenges in a process that, for the most part, employs methods designed to standardize the purely academic factors.
To increase the probability that your homeschooled student will be admitted to a top-tier school, consider the following:
- Transcript: Maintain a portfolio of the student’s educational experience. This will be invaluable when creating a transcript for submission to colleges. This transcript may be similar to what you need to submit to the state for certification but, for college applications, more detail is needed.
- CLEP Credits: The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows a student to earn college credits by doing well on qualifying examinations. This demonstrates preparedness for college level work.
- SAT Subject Tests: Some top-tier institutions require the submission of Subject Test scores, but most do not. Homeschooled students should consider submitting up to three strong test scores to demonstrate high proficiency even if they are not required. Most schools will consider them as admissions factors and, as is the case with CLEP credits, they will show the student’s readiness for top-tier college work.
- Special Requirements: Some of the schools that will be on your list of targeted colleges are likely to have special requirements for homeschooled students. Learn what these requirements are well enough in advance so that you can accommodate them.
- Admission Factors: Admissions offices acknowledge that certain factors are weighed more heavily for homeschooled applicants than for others. These include SAT and ACT scores, which provide for the fair peer-to-peer comparison of applicants. In addition, letters of recommendation from personal advocates other than parents carry more than typical weight, as do a homeschooled student’s essays and personal statements.
- College Fairs and Interviews: In order to better understand the process for homeschooled students at targeted colleges, attend regional College Fairs at which those schools will be represented. On-campus interviews are also a good way to learn about an institution’s requirements.
- Online Education: Although online college courses may serve many worthy purposes, using them as a homeschooled student to demonstrate college level capability is not among them. Because you have been homeschooled, admissions reviewers can be expected to want to see that you are also capable of performing well in a traditional classroom setting with other students. Online courses don’t provide this information.
Remember that while homeschooled students are just as eligible for admission as schooled students, the procedures that you will need to follow are different.