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 are some recent acceptance rates:

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.

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.


  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,

    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

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