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.
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 2021 (college class of 2025). Harvard admitted about 3.4% of applicants, Columbia 3.7%, and Princeton about 4%. Brown admitted just five of every hundred applicants. Among the students rejected are many students with extremely high ACT and SAT scores and great grades. 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
Note: Due to limited testing availability during the pandemic many colleges have adopted test optional policies for the Class of 2022. Families are encouraged to check each college’s website for the most up to date information
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 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. Columbia’s admissions site also makes it clear they are considering applicant’s character looking for traits such as open-mindedness, honesty, and empathy. Homeschooling students interested in engineering will also want to look at Columbia’s College of Engineering special requirements.
Cornell admissions are highly selective with Cornell admitting about 8% 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?” “What special talents or interests have you developed?”
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’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’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.
University 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 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 not 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.
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.