The idea that elite colleges are recruiting homeschoolers gets a lot of buzz . You may have read the claim that it is easier for homeschoolers to get into top colleges. The assertion is that Ivy League and other highly ranked colleges see that homeschool applicants score higher on tests and are more creative. This article looks at the evidence for the idea that top colleges are seeking homeschoolers.
I heard about a homeschooler who got into Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Caltech…
While it is absolutely true that homeschoolers have been accepted into the best colleges in the country, it is important not to draw sweeping conclusions. Every applicant is a unique individual. The fact that a college has accepted a homeschool applicant before tells you that they don’t have their doors closed to homeschoolers but it doesn’t tell you a lot about your own child’s odds of admissions.
Colleges send materials to homeschoolers
Any parent who has been through the college admissions process in the last few years can confirm that marketing is alive and well in college admissions offices. This marketing includes emails, glossy brochures, and phone calls. Many parents report they start to see the steady stream beginning after the student takes the PSAT. This observation makes sense because the College Board sells student contact information directly to college marketing offices. While it is true that homeschoolers get mail through this marketing, public and private school students do as well. All students should understand what college mail means and what it doesn’t. Getting an application in the mail from the University of Chicago doesn’t mean their admissions office has any real information about you or that you have a good shot of getting admitted.
Colleges have admissions officers dedicated to homeschool applicants
College admissions offices vary in how they read applications from homeschoolers. The most common arrangement is that all applications from public, private, and homeschooled students are divided up by geographic region and read first by an admissions officer familiar with schools in that area. Other colleges have all of their homeschool applications read by a single admissions officer. Homeschool applications can be trickier for admissions to evaluate because homeschoolers often lack standardized GPAs. Unlike private and public school students, homeschoolers also can’t be easily placed into context based on the general reputation of their high school or a comparison to other students at their high school. It may be easier for an admissions officer who has read more homeschool applications to be able to compare applications.
Colleges websites have webpages for homeschoolers
Again this is true. Many colleges do have specific admissions policies for homeschoolers and they often include information about these policies on their websites. This reflects a growing awareness that homeschooling is common and that colleges will receive applications from homeschoolers. Instead of these policies being a sign that homeschoolers have a better than average odds of admissions, they are in fact a sign that homeschoolers need to plan and do their research because each college has its own unique set of standards and expectations for homeschool applicants. Some expect homeschoolers to take more or different tests or to submit detailed course descriptions or additional recommendations
Why colleges engage in marketing
All colleges actively recruit public, private, and homeschooled students. Marketing to students has become a big part of the college admissions game. Colleges want applications from as many qualified applicants as possible. This gives admissions the greatest opportunity to build a strong and diverse class of students that will represent a wide variety of talent in fields including arts, sciences, humanities, and technology. Marketing also seeks to drive up the number of applications. Part of the USNews ranking of colleges is based on the percentage of students that colleges reject. More applications means more rejections, which makes a college more selective and more highly ranked. Colleges aren’t just targeting homeschoolers, they are targeting any student who will apply.
It is still a mixed bag for homeschoolers. We’ve made incredible progress in being accepted as applicants at competitive colleges, as reflected by this list of colleges that have accepted homeschoolers. But homeschoolers need to know that homeschooling is not enough to gain admissions. Homeschoolers have more freedom to develop interesting extracurricular experiences, but they also come up against the expectation that their test scores will be weighted more heavily than they are for other candidates. Homeschoolers are not immune from the general trend of the increasing difficulty to gain admissions to the most highly selective schools.
While homeschooling has become more popular and research demonstrates again and again that homeschooled children tend to be well socialized, some stereotypes still persist. Homeschool applicants are well advised to assume they do need to try a little harder to demonstrate in their college applications they’ve been well socialized, are open minded, and are active in their communities.
It is absolutely possible for homeschoolers to be competitive candidates for Ivy League and other highly selective colleges. Homeschoolers should know that colleges expect to see students who have taken advantages of the opportunities available to them to develop a competitive academic profile including classwork and testing, extracurricular activities, and community service.