6 Ways Homeschoolers Can Help Their Admissions Odds
Whether it’s for religious reasons, practical concerns, or simply because it’s tough to find a school that seems like a good fit, a growing percentage of teenagers are being homeschooled by a parent or tutor. There are a lot of advantages to this approach: parents can directly oversee their children’s education, there’s no need to worry about crime or bad influences at school, and you have the flexibility of taking vacation time whenever you like. But there’s one concern that most families have a hard time escaping: once you finish your high school education at home, will any competitive college be willing to take a chance on you?
Because you have no formal GPA, you may feel like you’re putting yourself at risk of being rejected from top schools. But in fact, just the opposite could be true: Stanford University, in particular, is very enthusiastic about homeschooled students, and has accepted a far higher percentage of them than they have of the general student body. The admissions officers believe that homeschooled students who pursue unique independent learning paths have something that many other students lack: intellectual vitality.
Still, if you feel like homeschooling may be holding you back from a great college, here are some tips to help you get ahead.
Prepare well for the SATs, and take as many subject tests as possible.
If colleges can’t evaluate your course performance by their usual criteria, test performance becomes even more important. Make sure to prepare well for the SATs, and take the exams several times if necessary to achieve impressive scores. Though SAT subject tests are generally considered to be optional, you’ll want to take as many as possible, since they can serve as stand-ins for formal grades.
Get recommendations from people besides your parents.
Let’s face it: Mom isn’t exactly the most unbiased judge of character. Even if she teaches all your classes, schools will want to hear from others, too. If you’re involved in community service activities or are taking community college courses, get recommendations from the people guiding those activities.
Check out colleges’ homeschoolers’ admissions policies.
As applications from homeschooled students become more common, more colleges and universities are publishing standardized policies about how they evaluate the applicants. This page has a listing of many homeschool admissions policies, but if a college you’re interested in isn’t listed, contact the school directly and ask if they have any guidelines.
Use the personal essay to talk about your homeschool experience.
Unlike most students, you’re likely to have an education that’s heavily based on taking part in new experiences, rather than simply learning from books. Impress the admissions officers by showing them how your unique education has shaped your life and helped you to grow as a person—one who would surely be in demand at any top university.
Take part in campus interviews and college fairs.
Because many people have the (often false) impression that homeschooled students aren’t well socialized, take every chance you can to prove them wrong. If you’re interested in a particular college, try to arrange a one-on-one interview with an admissions officer, so that you can impress him with your intelligence and unique outlook on education. Attending college fairs offers another opportunity to network with college officials, and can give you an opportunity to find out more about how you will be considered as a homeschooled student.
Make sure your transcript passes muster.
In many states, you have a lot of leeway as to the focus of your home education. You’re free to spend time beekeeping as a science project, or take trips to the ocean to study marine biology. However, whatever you’re doing, colleges want to make sure you’re actually learning—so, along with standardized tests, you’ll want to make sure your academic transcript presents an impressive overview of what you’ve accomplished in your studies. Your family may consider hiring an admissions consultant (typically a former admissions officer) to look over your transcript and offer an honest appraisal.