Written by Charles Zito, Academic Coach & Test Prep Guru
Given recent global concerns, online and home-based learning has become the standard
for students around the world. This standard might be the wave of the future for many, given the
sweeping uncertainty of this pandemic. Already, many U.S. high schools and colleges are
planning to offer online-only courses this coming fall.
But some students were already doing their learning at home before this began: the (less
conspicuous) population of home-schooled students. These students face unique challenges when
they apply to large universities that have standardized applications in place, which are largely
geared toward applicants from conventional institutions.
If you are a home-schooled student applying to colleges this fall (or beyond), you aren’t
necessarily at a disadvantage. But there are some important things to keep in mind. In your
application, it will be vital to demonstrate the legitimacy of your coursework, the motives behind
your choice of home-schooling, and how home-schooling has uniquely contributed to your
scholarly development. Students should also sign up for college admissions tests (the ACT or
SAT) in a timely manner, even in the midst of test cancellations and uncertainty, and prep for
these exams accordingly.
College admissions counselors will want to know why students have chosen to go the
home-schooling route. More is better when providing details that paint a picture of your
coursework, motivations, and accomplishments! What’s more, since some home-schooled
students are ineligible for awards and recognition from school administrations and regional
competitions, they will have to find other ways to stand out and highlight their abilities and
successes. To do this, don’t neglect community-based extra-curricular activities (e.g., club
athletics, mail-in writing competitions, musical groups), volunteering opportunities, and
independent projects. These will allow home-schooled students to exhibit a well-rounded pursuit
of interests that may contribute to a college's culture and diversity.
Home-schooled students might also wish to pursue various opportunities available to all
students navigating the pandemic right now, including online courses through Coursera,
Outlier.org, or MIT’s OpenCourseWare, pre-college virtual programs, and online volunteering
through the United Nations.
For home-schooled students, personal statements and essays are especially important in
the college-application process. These give students a chance to convey–in their own voice–
their interests, character, goals for the future, and values. We encourage home-schooled students
to start thinking about their responses to personal statements and supplemental essays early,
preferably the summer before their senior year, to ensure a holistic college application. Good