College application tips for homeschoolers

October 20, 2021

Write a killer essay. Nail the opening sentence. Help them get to know you.

You’ve heard these pointers (we hope!) related to college applications. But what about teenagers who aren’t in typical school environments? In 2019, 2.5 million K-12 students were homeschooled across the U.S. By 2021, that number soared to 9 million! 

Homeschoolers have an impressive record excelling in college. Yale, Princeton, and MIT are a few prestigious universities that have special admissions pages for homeschoolers. Studies consistently report homeschoolers scoring higher on tests and graduating college at a higher rate than public or private school students.  

The day-to-day experience of homeschoolers varies widely, so you might be wondering if the college application process is any different. The steps are essentially the same at most universities. So you might wonder why homeschooled teens seem to do so much better getting accepted.

College admissions officers want to learn about a student’s intellectual vitality, unique experiences, and how their education will impact the world. The very nature of at-home learning sets up homeschoolers to demonstrate each of these. 

Accreditation and Transcripts

Generally, you don’t need a GED or diploma to apply to a college or for financial aid. You need to show that you follow your state rules for education, and your transcript will closely mirror standard school transcripts. The earlier you get started on this, the better.

Khan Academy offers some helpful pointers in this video from a homeschool graduate. 

Extracurriculars

Teens are inclined to blend in, so stories about extracurriculars are often muted. But this is your chance to give a 360-degree showcase of your life journey. 

The backyard farm, online business, 4-day academic schedule, chores around the house, overseas trips – think of what you can include that others can’t. 

Recommendation Letters

Recommendation letters serve as proof to the claims about the type of person you are. This is probably the most overlooked opportunity for teens, especially for homeschool students. 

Did you audit biology class at the community college? Ask the teacher for a letter. Did your project-based learning include organizing a fundraiser for a local nonprofit? Ask the executive director for a letter. Did you tutor other students? Ask their parents for a letter.

Stand out!

Embrace the unique aspects of homeschooling! Universities want to know what makes you different from other candidates, especially if they can share in the story. 

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to conform to public and private school applicants! The college application is an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you’re a unique fit for the college of your dreams.

BONUS: Homeschool scholarships

There are many financial aid opportunities designed for homeschoolers. Check out the resources at the bottom of this page.