Is your homeschooler hoping to be admitted to a top ranked school such as Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, MIT, Duke or Stanford? While there are homeschoolers and unschoolers who are successful in admissions to top colleges, including Ivy League colleges, homeschooling alone is not enough. Homeschoolers who are accepted to highly selective colleges typically have worked exceptionally hard at developing their talents and have very strong academic and extracurricular profiles. If your homeschooler has his or her eyes set on a highly selective school, here are few things to keep in mind.
Competition is Fierce
Discard everything you know about what it took to get into a top college a generation ago. There’s a new set of rules. Homeschoolers interested in top colleges often begin to plan before they enter high school. Successful homeschool applicants usually have performed well in challenging courses, have very high test scores, and have well developed extracurricular talents. Nonetheless, even many students with perfect SAT or ACT scores are rejected. Admissions officers report that the majority of rejected candidates would probably be successful if they were admitted; there are just too few slots. How tough are the odds? Here are some recent acceptance rates:
Homeschool High School Four Year Plan
A basic expectation for students who wish to be competitive in highly selective admissions is that they have a rigorous high school education with strong development in all of the core areas: math, English, social science, science, and foreign language. Homeschoolers are advised to make a four year plan as they enter high school. This plan may be revised, but it will create a foundation for core subject studies and ensure that the student has budgeted adequate time to complete the expected courses.
Competitive students will want to be able to take AP or college level courses in several subject areas. Homeschooling offers some advantages in building a strong academic profile because homeschoolers have the flexibility to choose if they want to do courses at home or to outsource to an online provider, community college, or tutor. Many families end up finding that a combination of these approaches best meets their needs. Also, homeschoolers have the advantage of flexibility to depart from the traditional calendar as needed. That allows for more in-depth studies in areas of interest and a more time to master any subject where the student struggles.
Most homeschoolers who have been admitted to top schools have been able to present clear documentation of their learning. Typically colleges wish to see more than just the parent’s word that the student has done great work and this is where “outside validation” comes into play. Outside validation can take many forms, including grades from community college courses, SAT subject test scores, SAT scores, ACT scores, AP scores, recommendations from professors, winning national level contests or awards, and participation in well-known summer programs. Homeschoolers who are aiming at top schools are advised to think carefully about how they want to present themselves during admissions.
Testing is Key
The emphasis on testing is a tough point for many homeschoolers because escaping the national obsession with testing is part of what motivates many to choose homeschooling. It is reality, though, that homeschoolers who are aiming for top colleges need to pay close attention to ACT, SAT, SAT subject, and AP scores. Test scores are weighted more heavily for homeschoolers than they are for other applicants. Even many colleges that are now test optional do not apply this policy to homeschoolers.
Do Colleges Love Homeschoolers?
It seems there is a lot of buzz in homeschooling circles that colleges admissions offices “love homeschoolers.” This can be easily overstated. What colleges are looking for are students who have developed their talents in the best ways possible given their individual circumstances. The fact that homeschooling is great and your kid is homeschooled isn’t enough. Homeschoolers who are admitted to highly selective colleges have truly exceptional records. These homeschoolers manage to compete with traditionally schooled students by developing a well-documented academic record with challenging courses and high test scores, but they have more than that. Most also have used the flexibility afforded by homeschooling to develop some special area of talent or extracurricular interest. There is no one size fits all approach. Students with these types of goals are advised to start early and make careful decisions throughout high school.
Highly Selective Homeschool Admissions
Bottom line: It is absolutely possible for homeschoolers, and unschoolers, to be competitive for top colleges. There are homeschoolers every year who are accepted at some of the best colleges in the country. If your homeschooler has these ambitions, plan early and help them prepare a competitive academic profile. Encourage your homeschooler to take advantage of the wonderful flexibility and opportunities afforded by homeschooling.