Stanford, Cornell & Dartmouth Tell Mommyish How Those Homeschoolers Go Ivy League

In 2007, more than 1.5 million students were homeschooled, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And while I don’t have any facts to back it up, I would bet that the number has increased in the last five years. Homeschooling advocacy is everywhere, and the public education system in this country continues to suffer. Educating your children at home has become less of an oddity and more of an accepted alternative means to learning.

A lot of the stereotypes of homeschooling are falling away. Most people recognize that homeschooling won’t lead children to become socially inept. We know that it’s possible to provide a well-rounded education outside of the classroom. We’re ignoring the old assumptions that homeschooling only occurs in conservative families who don’t approve of the liberal education complex. Parents are accepting that while it may not work for everyone, homeschooling is really just another educational path that a family or student can choose.

Once we move past all those old stereotypes, however, it’s interesting to take a look at homeschooling and the way it changes a very important aspect of high school education. Here at Mommyish, we couldn’t help but wonder how the practice was viewed by college admissions offices. After all, one of the most important things high school does is prepare a student to enter the university of their choice. Would homeschooling help or possibly hurt those looking to attend the most prestigious colleges in the country?

So we decided to contact admissions representatives around the country and gauge just what type of hurdle, if any, homeschooling presented for prospective students. Would these teens be evaluated differently? Would their self-motivation be given special weight?

“You have to remember that you’re dealing with an overall picture, not just a single aspect,” warned a Stanford admissions representative. (We realize Stanford isn’t technically Ivy League, but it is obviously and extremely prestigious program.) “The high school alone won’t ever be the deciding factor, even if it’s homeschooling.” As any high school senior will tell you, college applications are complex. They include a myriad of factors from test scores to essays to recommendations. Every student hoping to attend an elite school is going to need to create the whole package, an overall view of success and ambition.

However, that doesn’t mean that homeschoolers won’t need to focus their efforts in different areas. Cornell representatives were pretty straight forward about the ways that homeschooling can effect the admission’s focus. “We see very, very few homeschoolers,” they qualified, “but I think we would have to put more emphasis on standardized test scores. We would expect multiple tests to be taken. Really, there would just be no way to trust the GPA and grades.” While the sentiment makes sense, it could also be worrisome for students. Some families choose homeschooling because they don’t like the way that traditional education focuses on test scores. If they’re using alternative education and refusing to teach the tests, it can be a little scary to hear that the tests will weigh heavily on admissions.

Speaking of alternative education, the reason behind the homeschooling will also need to explained for admissions offices, whether that’s through an essay or a personal letter. “We’re going to want to know what the reason for homeschooling is,” a Dartmouth rep explained. “Was the student busy with another demanding pursuit, like playing music? Were they traveling with their family? Was there a lack of resources in their area? Somewhere in the application, they’re going to need to explain.”

If kids are going to explain, parents are going to have to help. After all, the adults involved are really the ones who make the decision. Kids just have to adapt from there. So moms and dads might want to think about just how they’ll explain their decision in essay form.

Then, there was a common homeschooling refrain that still looks to make an impact in college. Multiple admissions offices mentioned the importance of some form of extra-curricular activity for homeschooled kids. “We’re going to want to make sure that they can function in a social setting,” said one counselor. “Normally, activities don’t matter a whole lot. It’s nice to see that there are some outside interests, but it doesn’t matter what. For homeschoolers, that would be a little more important.”

In the end, the admissions process really does seem to come down to the essays, just like my old English teacher claimed. Each and every representative told me that nothing beats a compelling and unique essay. So the best advice for homeschoolers hoping to go Ivy League? Turn those classroom tales into a gripping essay and get plenty of sleep before your SATs.

(Photo: intoit/Shutterstock)

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