There are many advantages to applying to college as a homeschooler. For example, you can display a more dynamic curriculum through your school profile and demonstrate the qualitative and quantitative effectiveness of your homeschool education through your essays, transcript and counselor letter. This is in contrast to public school students whose transcripts and school situation have been decided for them.
When applying to college as a homeschooler, you have the opportunity to show how being a homeschooler has given you unique experiences that 90% of all other traditional schoolers have not had. Additionally, you can demonstrate how it helped you maximize and leverage your flexible schedule to be an ambitious self-starter who takes initiative and responsibility for your education.
Table of Contents:
- Standardized Testing
- Recommendation Letters
- Maximizing Flexibility
- Dynamic Curriculum
- Counselor Letter
- School Profile
Because you don’t have standardized grades that public schools have when applying to college as a homeschooler, colleges want to see some sort of objective/universal metric that measures your academic ability.
This is why it’s so important that you take classes from community colleges, accredited online schools, and AP or IB placement tests in order to show colleges your ability to succeed. The MORE the better.
As a homeschooler, you haven’t been offered the same kind of extracurriculars as most traditional school students. Instead of school clubs, government, and newspapers, you have to come up with more creative and dynamic ways to get involved in your community and explore your interests.
For example, instead of starting a club, you can start an online blog. Instead of writing for your school newspaper, you can volunteer for your public library. In most cities, homeschoolers are allowed to join sports teams at their local high school. Alternatively, you can join a program in your community.
Remember: this is the global age; if there are a lack of resources locally, there’s always opportunities to discover online. For example, during COVID, I started a project writing an experimental multimedia novel that incorporated different genres of writing and visual media.
One of the most important things to remember when applying to college as a homeschooler is you should not have a member of your family write your recommendation letter. Some people who may write your recommendation letters include:
- Professors from classes you’ve taken
- Tutors (online and in person)
- Sports coaches/instructors
- Volunteer Supervisors
- Work-related supervisors
- Any supervisor affiliated with a nonprofit or registered organization who you worked with for an extended period of time (at least a few months)
If the college asks specifically for academic recommenders, you will have to stick to just professors and teachers (usually those who teach core subjects like math, English, social studies, and science).
Maximize Flexibility / Homeschool Advantages
Because the key feature of homeschool is that you create your own schedule and learn at your own pace, colleges are highly interested in how you’ve spent your time and what you’ve learned/accomplished through a more flexible learning environment. When applying to college as a homeschooler, you would demonstrate these accomplishments/knowledge through your extracurricular list and personal essays.
Perhaps you used that time to pursue an internship or job, or helped out with family responsibilities (Here is where you might be able to tie in the reason why you or your parent/guardian chose homeschool in the first place.) Or you used your flexible schedule to really develop a skill like violin or photography. Maybe you traveled a lot and learned many new things by being exposed to new environments all the time. You should highlight your initiative in shaping your own education.
One of the biggest advantages you have when applying to college as a homeschooler is the dynamic/variable nature of your curriculum. Your education can come from Coursera, all sorts of online classes, universities, etc. For example, your P.E. might be rock climbing at your local rock climbing gym. Your literature class might be a combination of horror literature and experimental science fiction. Your foreign language can be Persian.
Your education is not limited to school’s resources, but enhanced by the creativity of you and your academic counselor’s imagination. The important thing is that colleges need to be able to see that. What unique and creative ways have you carried out your education, and how has that given you a mindset that will add intellectual diversity to a university?
When applying to college as a homeschooler, you don’t have official transcripts. However, you have a few options on how to make your own transcript. You can either get help from a professional homeschool organization or transcript company or you can just do it yourself.
The best homeschool transcript is an amalgam of all the sources of your education compiled onto the first page—showing that you’ve fulfilled the necessary 4 years of requirements in your core classes, the foreign language requirement, and two years of electives (this varies by state).
The key thing about your homeschool transcript is that aside from the titles of classes, dates, and grades listed on the first page, you’ll want to explain in as much detail as possible the course descriptions, textbooks used, class goals, metrics of evaluation, and as much information that is needed to help college understand the academic rigor and nature of your classes.
For example, let’s say for your senior year literature class you took a really difficult online course on James Joyce’s Ulysses (one of the hardest books to read in the English language). You’re going to want to help the college understand just how hard it was and how much intellectual effort you devoted into it. You might include a link to the essays you wrote for that course. You might include the theories or frameworks you used to analyze the book.
You can also be creative in how you title or build your classes. For example, let’s say you took 3 online courses in poetry and this took you the equivalent of a whole school year. If it was intellectually challenging, you could combine these 3 courses and call it “Honors English: Poetry from the Middle Ages to Modernity” and that would be pretty intriguing to colleges.
As a result, your transcript can be from 5-25 pages long, depending on your situation. In the case of the transcript, more information is better than too little.
Your counselor letter comes from the parent or homeschool coordinator in charge of your academic education. Here is your opportunity to explain (persuasively) in 1-3 pages why the student was homeschooled, what the homeschool experience looked like and why they’ve done so well. Context matters to colleges. They want to know what kind of learning environment you’ve had.
Were you struggling to make ends meet and carrying only your education at the same time? Do you live by a museum where you go to learn about art every week? The counselor letter should be a confident endorsement of the student. It should assert how and why this student has succeeded in homeschool and why they will continue to succeed in college.
The Common Application (the most popular college application platform) offers a “homeschool tab” where you can input information about your homeschool experience and environment that helps college admissions officers understand the methods, context, evaluation, strategies and other factors involved in creating your homeschool experience.
This will be a 1-3 page document including:
- The school’s goals
- Educational philosophy: what values does your learning emphasize? Self directed learning? Creative projects? Collaboration?
- Reason for homeschooling
- Credentials of instructors and institutions
- Description of school location and environment
- Instructional strategies and tools
- A typical schedule
- Neighborhood and other learning context
- A robust portfolio of writing samples, projects, exams, and other work that demonstrates the legitimacy of what you’ve learned