I used to believe that the primary purpose of K-12 education was to get kids into college. And the primary purpose of college was to allow them to get good jobs, or to get into graduate school to get better jobs in the future. I also bought into the argument that I needed to support the public education system to be patriotic, to increase the competitiveness of the nation so that we could beat the Russians/Japanese/Chinese. Listening to politicians, you might have been led to believe the same. Sadly, what I never heard was that the purpose of education was to allow children to grow as individuals, to become self-sufficient, or to become productive members of society. I never heard that the purpose of education was to spur creativity, to maximize self-confidence, or to allow children to reach their full potential. It wasn’t until I began talking to homeschool families and reading works from dismayed educators such as John Taylor Gatto and John Holt that I came across such novel concepts. It wasn’t until I was able to discern the difference between schooling (which the government throws at us) and education (which homeschooling enables) that I was able to divorce myself from the belief that the goal of primary/secondary schooling was post-secondary schooling.
I no longer believe that college is a necessary precondition to a meaningful life. In fact, I believe that most graduates come out of college further removed from reaching their full potential, both intellectually (which is remarkable given the very low base) and financially. They don’t come out worse off because the colleges are failing them, but rather because their primary/secondary schooling experiences retard their desire to learn and grow. Most simply go through the motions of college in order to get a degree, and maybe a job, because that is what they were conditioned to value most.
While college is largely wasted on the graduates of standard brick and mortar schools, it is far more valuable to homeschooled students. Homeschooled students typically haven’t lost their thirst for knowledge, are willing to take full responsibility for their own education, and are mature enough to capitalize on the opportunities that college presents.* Fortunately for homeschoolers, not only are they better equipped for the college experience than traditional students, but they are better positioned for admission into college.
My interest in decoding the admissions process began in 2003. As a non-traditional candidate applying to Stanford and Harvard for business school (7% and 11% acceptance rates, respectively), I could leave nothing to chance – I knew I had to submit perfect applications. I read books written by admissions consultants, spoke with current students at both schools, and pored over internet forums focused on MBA admissions. Since then, I have helped a number of other people also gain admission into these two schools, as well as other highly selective graduate programs (e.g., Duke, MIT, University of Pennsylvania). I have helped mentees get placed into selective private schools with full tuition. I have worked with admissions offices at the United States Military Academy (West Point) and Stanford University. I have interviewed admissions officers past and present at the most selective colleges in the nation. I know what it takes to get into these schools.
No student is as well positioned to break into the most selective colleges than is the homeschool student, save perhaps one: the child of rich/famous/connected/faculty/alumni parents. Assuming that the status of the parents is fixed, in order to get into the most selective schools students must exhibit intellectual vitality, must do something very well or have a well defined passion, must have outstanding numbers (test scores), and must be well prepared for post-secondary academics. Homeschool students have tremendous advantages in each of these categories, and if approached properly, the chances for success in the admissions process are substantially higher through homeschooling. In the next week or two I will explain why.
* In my next post on this topic I will discuss why homeschool students should consider attending college, particularly selective colleges.