College Admissions for Homeschoolers

By Jonah Sinick

Cross-posted from Quora and the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

If you’re considering home-schooling for high school, you’re likely wondering how it will affect your college prospects.

Public Colleges

It can be difficult or impossible to get into public colleges as a homeschooler, owing to bureaucratic requirements. For example, UC Davis writes:

The courses of homeschools and unapproved high schools are not accepted by the University of California and cannot be used to establish minimum UC admission requirements. If you are a homeschooled student or attended a California high school without a UC-approved course list, you must establish your academic record through test scores or as a community college transfer student.

While it may be possible to qualify for the UC system via test scores, it’s unclear what one’s prospects are for getting into a campus of your choice. See University of California and homeschoolers at The Well-Trained Mind.

Other public colleges are more receptive to admitting homeschoolers. For example, University of Illinois writes:

We encourage home schooled students to apply to the University…We are very interested in having talented, well-qualified applicants from a variety of settings. Home schoolers would provide a diversity of academic experiences to the campus.

If you’re considering home schooling, be sure to check out what the situation is at the public colleges that you anticipate applying to, in particular, those in your home state.

Private Colleges

Elite private colleges accept home schoolers.  The elite private college students who were home schooled appears to be smaller than the fraction of high schoolers in the general population who are home schooled. About ~3% of students are home schooled nationwide. By way of contrast:

  • Princeton reports that only 0.5% of Princeton students were homeschooled.
  • A University of Chicago student on College Confidentialreported that 13 students in his or her grade were homeschooled. University of Chicago’s class size is about 1,400, so about 1% of the students were home schooled.
  • MIT reports that less than 1% of MIT students were homeschooled.

Some possible reasons for the discrepancy are:

  1. The fraction of homeschoolers who apply to elite colleges may be significantly smaller than the fraction of members of the general population who apply to elite colleges. For example, MIT reports that less than 1% of the applicant pool consists of homeschoolers.
  2. It could be more difficult for homeschoolers to get into elite colleges on average.

On the second point, even if it is more difficult on average, that doesn’t mean that it would be more difficult for you personally. With suitable preparation for the admissions process along the lines described below, homeschoolers could have equal or better odds for getting in (though the situation is ambiguous).

Something that pushes in favor of homeschooling for admissions prospects is that if you homeschool, you’ll have more flexibility in regards to how you arrange your coursework (for example, you can pick which textbooks to use), and if you use this flexibility well, your chances of excelling could increase.

Some points to keep in mind, based on a reading of webpages of elite colleges about applying as a homeschooler:

  • Standardized test scores are weighted more heavily for homeschoolers. Some colleges encourage homeschoolers to take more than the minimum requirement of 2 SAT subject tests, and some refer to AP scores as a way for students to demonstrate their achievement. If you’re unusually capable of getting high standardized test scores, the case for homeschooling is strengthened.
  • Taking college courses at local colleges or summer programs seems to help establish a homeschooler’s academic record. It also gives a homeschooler the chance to solicit recommendations from professors who can vouch for his or her performance.
  • If you homeschool, it’s important to document your academic program.
  • Colleges expect that homeschoolers study the standard academic subjects (math, English, social studies, science and languages): if you homeschool, you shouldn’t design an overly idiosyncratic program that doesn’t include these things.
  • Some colleges want evidence that homeschoolers can integrate well with other students, presumably in the form of extracurricular activities that have a social component.
  • If you homeschool and can give a compelling reason for why you’ve done so in your college applications, this will strengthen your case for admissions.

Process

For our research, we looked at pages published by: YaleMIT,PrincetonColumbiaUniversity of ChicagoCaltechNew York University and Homeschool Success, as well as College Confidential’s forum with relevant threads. See in particularHomeschool students’ admission rate to Harvard/Princeton/Yale and How do homeschooled students attend Ivy leagues?.

Resources

You might find the following resources helpful for learning more about college admissions for homeschoolers:

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