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Ivy League Homeschool Admissions

Columbia University Library

Can homeschoolers get into Ivy League colleges?

Yes, but as for all students it is very competitive. Students who want to be successful in highly selective admissions are advised to start early and carefully build their academic profile during the high school years. In this article you will find information about the homeschool admissions requirements for every Ivy League college.

What is the Ivy League?

Many people are surprised to learn that the Ivy League is actually an athletic conference. It includes eight private colleges located in the Northeast part of the United States. The colleges that make up the Ivy League are Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

Are Ivy League colleges the “best” colleges?

All eight of Ivy League colleges ranked in the top fifteen of the U.S. News and World Report rankings. While the Ivy League carries prestige in the eyes of many, these are far from the only highly selective or high ranked colleges in the United States. There is really no reason to think just because a college is in the Ivy League athletic conference that it will be a good fit for your student, or that if one Ivy League college is a good match that others will be as well. Every student should consider their own unique set of abilities, preferences, interests, and career goals when making college decisions. In college one size does not fit all.

Harvard University

Harvard University

Is it difficult to get into an Ivy League college?

Yes. Admissions rates at highly selective colleges are very low. For the high school graduating class of 2016 Harvard admitted about 5% of applicants, Columbia 6%, and Princeton about 7%.  Brown admitted just nine of every hundred applicants. Among the students rejected are many students with high ACT and SAT scores. Any student who is considering highly selective colleges needs to be realistic about the odds of admissions but keep in mind it is not a random lottery. Students who have developed a very strong high school record including rigorous coursework, high test scores, and amazing extracurricular activities have the best odds of admissions.

Ivy League Homeschool Admissions Policies

Brown University
Brown states that “students who stretch themselves in one or more academic areas will stand out among applicants who chose a less demanding route. We are looking for students who are exceptionally eager to learn and willing to accept academic challenges.”  Brown advises homeschoolers that the Secondary School Report form should be filled out by the “persons most responsible for guiding your overall learning.”  They request that homeschoolers detail why they opted to choose homeschooling rather than a traditional public or private school. Brown admissions also expects homeschoolers to be able to provide a detailed accounting of their homeschool curriculum choices and to provide supportive documentation in the form of additional testing. Brown admissions also notes that, “we would prefer to see letters of recommendation from instructors who have taught you in a traditional classroom setting and who can speak to your abilities and potential in an objective way. For these reasons we would prefer not to receive letters of recommendation from your parents, immediate relatives, or from academic tutors in the paid employ of your family.”

Columbia University
Columbia gives homeschool applicants the same evaluation as they give other students. They consider “academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, extracurricular distinction, special talents and abilities and many others.” Columbia’s homeschool admissions policy asks for students to submit a detailed document explaining their curriculum, letters of recommendations from outside teachers, and they request students submit SAT subject scores in their area of interest if possible.

Ivy Admissions 2015Cornell University
Cornell admissions are highly selective with Cornell admitting less than 15% a year of applicants. Cornell makes it clear there is a not a single formula to be admitted. Like every selective school they are looking for academic acheivement and strong test scores. Their admissions site asks students to consider “Have you challenged yourself with the highest-level courses? How have you demonstrated your passion for learning?” Homeschooling students interested in engineering will also want to look at Columbia’s College of Engineering special requirements.

Dartmouth College
Admissions reassures homeschool applicants by noting they “receive a number of applications from home-schooled students each year, so there is no need to worry that we are not accustomed to home-schooled applicants.” Dartmouth does “holistic admissions” of all applications. In addition to the typical requirements of homeschool curriculum and outside letters of recommendations, Dartmouth homeschool admissions policy notes students can demonstrate foreign language proficiency with the AP or SAT subject test.

Harvard University
Harvard’s policy is to hold homeschoolers to the same admissions standards as other applicants. Harvard advises students to distinguish themselves in some way during the high school years. “Some show unusual academic promise through experience or achievements in study or research. Many are “well rounded” and have contributed in various ways to the lives of their schools or communities. Others are “well lopsided” with demonstrated excellence in a particular endeavor—academic, extracurricular or otherwise. Still others bring perspectives formed by unusual personal circumstances or experiences.”

Princeton University
Princeton’s homeschool admissions policy provides helpful guidelines to prospective applicants. The policy makes it clear that Princeton expects rigorous academic preparation but it understands that homeschool applicants may document that preparation differently. “The more you can document for us and describe what you have done during your high school years, academically and otherwise, the better. Feel free to go beyond the questions on our application forms if they don’t cover everything you think is important for us to know.” They require a detailed curriculum statement and request three letters of recommendation. Homeschoolers should also expect to take the ACT with writing or SAT. Two SAT subject tests are recommended, but are not required. Homeschoolers are well advised to realize successful applicants are likely to demonstrate a strong record with additional SAT subject tests or APs.

Yale UniversityUniversity of Pennsylvania
Penn admissions looks for “students with a demonstrated record of academic excellence, a commitment to seeking challenge, and a range interests and talents. In terms of academic credentials, our primary focus is on the high school transcript, but we also take a close look at standardized test scores, correlating them with high school performance. Additionally, Penn seeks to attract students with intellectual curiosity, interdisciplinary mindset, and the desire to engage with faculty.”

Yale University
Yale Homeschool Admissions expectations include

  • Testing – Homeschoolers are advised to take more than the two required subject tests.
  • Recommendations- Three, “perhaps a teacher from a course you took at a local college, someone who has mentored you in a tutorial, the local librarian with whom you’ve discussed books over the years, someone in whose lab you have done research, etc. Letters from an online instructor are acceptable but can be difficult to evaluate.” Yale makes it clear they do want applicants to only submit letters written by parents.
  • Strength of curriculum – No set number for each subject, but strength expected in all major disciplines
  • Personal qualities – Look for evidence of “social maturity” and the ability to “integrate well” with others.

It important to note that college admissions policies change frequently. While it can be generally useful to look at requirements years in advance, applicants should expect to look at policies in detail the year they are applying. For the most up-to-date information homeschoolers should always check with individual admissions offices.

Consultations Available
Success in selective college admissions is aided by careful planning and record keeping. Support from early in high school can help improve outcomes. Please check our Homeschool Success Services page for more information about how an individual consultation may help simplify the college admissions process for your homeschooler.

18 comments

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  1. Harris Walker

    HI,
    I was considering dropping out of school and homeschooling. I can i still go to an ivy? I’m a very smart kid but sometimes don’t have the work ethics.
    -Harris

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hi Harris,
      No matter where you go to school it will require work and effort to get into a highly selective college and even with hard work there are no guarantees. Whatever you decide about schooling, I hope you can discover enjoyment with learning. Best wishes!

  2. JohnDavid

    Are APs required to get into an Ivy?

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hello,
      Colleges don’t have a specific requirement that homeschoolers take a particular number of APs. There is though the expectation that homeschoolers will provide some form of external evidence or validation of their learning and high school transcript. This can come in many forms and APs are just one of them. So, every homeschooler interested in Ivies or other highly selective colleges needs to look at their strengths and interests and be prepared to present a clear and compelling case for admissions.
      Best wishes,
      Barbara

  3. tatianna

    Hello , im switching out of regular school for online schooling. Will I be able to get into an ivy league school if I work hard and take ap courses?

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hello,
      There are absolutely homeschooled and virtual schooled students who are able to get into Ivy League and other highly selective colleges. All students who want to be admitted to a top college should plan their high school years thoughtfully. Colleges want to see students who have taken challenging courses and done well, score high on tests, and have well developed extracurricular activities.

  4. Celine

    Hi, I’m beginning homeschooling as a sophomore and I’ve been searching up online programs. I was wondering what are the top online class programs that are recognized and get students into top colleges (ivy leagues). I recognize that I should take the most rigorous classes; however, most online classes don’t seem to offer honor classes and many ap classes. There are a couple that I know of, but their tuition is incredibly high. Currently, I’m looking into Brigham Young University which the tuition is around $1700 for 6 classes, but I do not know if Brigham Young University Online High school is a rigorous, valuable program that could place me into top colleges. Please let me know if you know of any information to my questions. Thank you.

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hello,
      Yes, it is the case that some of the most challenging and highest quality online high school options (such as Stanford Online High School) are very expensive. Some of the less expensive programs such as BYU are not as rigorous and may not provide as strong a foundation. It is important to understand though that many homeschoolers opt to homeschool independent of these programs and still put together a very challenging and effective high school education. It is an option to use free and low cost options such as – Coursera, state provided virtual schools, state dual enrollment or PSEO programs, and self study. AP and SAT subject scores provide a helpful form of validation for homeschool studies. There are homeschoolers who homeschool high school on a tight budget and still get into a top college.
      Best of luck!
      Barbara

  5. Esther

    Hi, I’m in 8th grade and homeschooling as of this year. In China. I know I could get recommendation letters from international school teachers. I’ve been to two Model United Nations Conferences these last two years. I was wondering what other courses or credits I might need and how to get them. Online school would be an option, but as of now the only subjects I use textbooks in are math and science. I’d especially like to get into any Ivy League school. I have some legacy at Yale. Could I get some explanations on requirements? (mandatory credits, AP courses to consider, helpful extracurricular activities, etc.) Thank you!

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hi Esther,
      Thanks for your question. It sounds like you are doing a great job about thinking about your options for high school. There are many paths that can take students to selective admissions. The key is to build a strong record in every area including academic, testing, and extracurricular activities. It is also great you are nurturing relationships with outside teachers. You may find the four year plan under the “free” tab at the page to be a good starting place.

  6. Kamili

    Hi, I’m a 12th grade international homeschooled student seeking to apply to Ivy League universities. Do we need a high school transcript to apply?

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Dear Kamili,
      Yes, you will need a high school transcript as well other homeschool documents and test scores. Every school has different requirements so you’ll need to check their websites carefully.

  7. Alison Bingham

    Hello! I really hope to get into an ivy league school one day. My biggest concern is that my home school doesn’t offer AP classes. Just general and a-g courses. I’m in all a-g classes, except for math. I know that an a-g course is some sort of california approved college prep course. But im not sure how that translates to out of state or ivy league colleges? I am willing to put in the work but im just confused and worried as to how the whole thing works.

  8. Isabella

    Hello, I am a part-time homeschooler (sort of, not really?). Meaning that I take some classes through virtual school and some at a private school, but they are all accredited courses, and issue traditional grades. Do you suggest applying to Ivy Leagues as a homeschool student or a regular student? I am not going to receive a high school diploma from either institution and because I am part-time cannot have things like class ranking or honor roll.

    Thank you!

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Hi Isabella,
      Most students in your situation would apply to college as a homeschooler. During the admissions process you will information about your outside courses that you take through the virtual school and private school. This is not an uncommon situation as many homeschoolers outsource some, or all, of their high school courses.
      Best wishes,
      Barbara

  9. Molly

    What if you where in a school , but decided to be homeschooled your finale year ? When filling out an Ivy League aplication , do you have to give a transcript for the time you where in school ? Or do you not .I have taken my SAT’s and will have plenty of reccomandations from tutors , coaches and mentors on scientific projects I took on .

    1. Barbara Hettle

      Dear Molly,
      You will need to provide transcripts for all of the high schools you’ve attended – public, private, and homeschool. It is important to explain to admissions the reason for your change in school environment too.

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