For many students the college admissions process can be daunting. For homeschoolers it can seem especially formidable. Homeschooled college admissions can seem particularly complicated, and you may be asking yourself: How will I measure up in the selective admissions process? Should I even bother applying to select schools? It's important to keep in mind a few things about the application process. 1. Admission Officers are trained to look for reasons to select applicants, and 2. The details about your education matter! These days homeschooling can be an advantage to help you stand out in the crowd but pay attention to the details!
Homeschooling has been on the rise for many years, and according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the US Department of Education, that number represents as many as 3% of US children ages 5-17. For many parents homeschooling represents a better option than traditional K-12 public schools, quells concerns about school safety, and is an answer to the prohibitive cost of private education. (US News). While there is no standard set of homeschool guidelines, homeschool laws can vary considerably state by state. (State by State Guidelines). Make sure you follow your state guidelines! Further, many components of a college application that are typically submitted by a high-school counselor must be submitted by you (or your parent/caregiver). Admissions consultants can be a great resource to help, and admissions to ivy league can be a reality for many homeschool applicants.
Homeschooling, it’s in the details
What’s a homeschooler to do?
1. Details about your academic curriculum are important.
Make sure to submit full descriptions of the curriculum, and how grading was assessed.
2. Take and submit standardized tests, including either ACT/SAT scores. Colleges and universities may look more heavily to your ACT/ACT scores, and while many are now test optional, it is a good practice to submit standardized test scores. Consider taking SAT II subject tests and submitting those scores as well, especially in subject areas relevant to the area of study you are interested in. These scores can further demonstrate your academic readiness to handle the rigor at select institutions.
3. Consider taking community college courses. As with standardized test scores, courses from community colleges can demonstrate a more traditional evaluation of your academic ability. You can also utilize your instructor in these courses to write one of the two required letters of recommendation (LOR). Most colleges and universities prefer letters of recommendation from someone other than your parent/caregiver.
4. Highlight community engagement; being active and involved in something outside your academics can and help demonstrate those non-quantifiable characteristics colleges hope candidates bring to their campus. Local service projects, volunteer work and travel can all be great indicators of a readiness to dive into topics in great details, with a more hands on approach and to work collaboratively.
5. Participate in organized activities; 4-H, music, sports, scouting are a few examples. Membership in these disambiguates the question of socialization often associated with homeschoolers—afterall, we know that most times, homeschoolers are more socialized and better ready to contribute to the college community. (You can also use coaches, mentors, and clergy to write LOR!)
The homeschool advantage
Use your homeschool education to your advantage. Never underestimate how important telling your story is in the college application process. The things that make your educational experience different set you apart. The details of your education, the details of your interests, and the details of your application matter.