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Highly Selective College Admissions for Homeschoolers

Princeton Is your homeschooler hoping to be admitted to a top ranked school such as Princeton, Columbia, Harvard, MIT, 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 are 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 acceptance rates for the Class of 2018.

  • Princeton 7.2%
  • Brown 8.6%
  • Harvard 5.9%
  • MIT 7.7%
  • Duke 10.7%
  • Stanford 5.1%
  • Johns Hopkins 15%
  • Caltech 8.11%
  • UC Berkeley 17.64%
  • University of Chicago 8.4%
  • Rice University 14%

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.

University of Chicago

University of Chicago

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 endorsement nd 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

Stanford University

Stanford University

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 who are aiming high 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.

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Success in selective college admissions is aided by careful planning. Please check our services page to learn how your family can benefit from working one on one with a homeschool college admissions specialist.

9 comments

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  1. Jackie

    My daughter just entered high school, so your info is helpful to me. She has some learning challenges which make taking some needed courses a bit hard for her. While she most likely never apply to top colleges, the info you presented is helpful.

    I stumbled across Let’s Homeschool High School recently and they have lots of great resources for high school. Between your info and their info, I think I finally have a good grip on where we need to head.

    Thank you so much,
    Jackie

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Welcome Jackie. You may also want to check out the Special Needs category of my blog. There may be some articles you find helpful there as well.

  2. Fynn

    Great article but don’t get too tied up with rankings, there’s a lot more to a good school and education than that. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/14/110214fa_fact_gladwell
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeleef/2013/10/18/wed-be-better-off-without-college-rankings/

  3. Amy

    We were told to wait on AP tests until senior year so we can be sure Jack will get good scores. Is that a good idea?

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hi Amy,
      Unfortunately the AP tests are just offered once a year in May. So, if he doesn’t take an APs until senior year it will carry less weight. Admissions will be able to see he’s taking challenging courses but you won’t have the validation of the AP score.

  4. Rachel

    What are some of the well known summer programs you refer to. And would you give some examples of a “special area of talent or extracurricular interest” that would be considered helpful. Thank you for the information, I am finding it helpful.

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for your question. There a quite a wide range of summer programs available and it depends on the student’s interests. Just a few examples of well known competitive admissions programs include Telluride Association Summer Program (TASP), Interlochen, Research Science Institute (RSI), Iowa Writer’s program, Ross Math, Program in Mathematics for Young Scientists (PROMYS) and Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer Research Program (SIMR). Some states also sponsor summer governor’s school programs which can be a great way to access free academic camp offerings.

  5. April Mathis

    My husband and I are on our way home from dropping our son off at Duke for camp. He will be entering 9th grade this fall, and I know I’ve got to get busy working on a specific plan for the next 4 years. I am in freaking out a bit after looking at the projected admissions rates for 2018, Thankful, though, that I found your blog! We use the Classical Conversations curriculum. I would like to add in an AP course this year. Do you recommend just 1 in 9th grade or more? I’ve heard of AP World History being taken by 9th graders and AP Human Geography. From my own experience with AP courses in high school, I know that the instructor can make a huge difference. Are there any sources that help homeschool parents find a well-regarded online instructor for the AP course they are purchasing? Many thanks! I’ll explore your blog a little further to see if you offer specific services for college application planning.

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hi April,
      Welcome. It is great you are starting to plan at the beginning of high school. It makes it easier.
      The admissions rates were for the college class of 2018 – so for students who will enter college this fall.
      It is hard to make a general recommendation about APs for 9th graders because there are so many individual factors to consider. I’ve had strong students do very well in APs in 9th. They were really ready, but not all students are. Late in high school, especially junior year, can be incredibly busy so having some APs completed earlier in high school can be a huge help particularly for students who get involved in demanding extracurriculars or dual enrollment work later in high school. I work with many homeschoolers who self study for APs and do just fine but that tends works better for certain subjects. I agree not all AP courses are equally strong. It is worth looking on homeschool lists to get reviews and feedback from previous students if possible. I also would not hesitate to ask an instructor about their pass rates.
      I do work one on one with homeschool families. Please check the services section. http://homeschoolsuccess.com/consulting-services/
      Best wishes,
      Barbara

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