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Homeschooling stigmas within college admissions


As a proponent of homeschooling as a superior method of education for many (if not most) students when compared to public schooling, I was shocked to hear nothing but false and negative stereotypes from former admissions officers from three selective colleges earlier this week. The representatives came from Davidson College (NC), Princeton University and Wellesley College (MA). Having been spoiled by speaking with people within or close to the admissions process from Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Cal Tech, the University of Chicago and the Service Academies in past years, all universities that embrace homeschooling, I was not prepared for the arrogance and ignorance displayed by these three individuals.

The conversation started when I told one of them of my interest in homeschooling as an alternative to traditional education. The individual I was talking to quickly pulled the other two into the conversation, and the three immediately began to snicker at the notion that homeschool applicants could do well in the college admissions game.  The one from Davidson College went so far as to indicate that they don’t even seriously consider homeschool candidates.

When I pushed them to give me more detail as to why their former employers (and alma maters) were dismissive of homeschoolers, I was stunned to hear one of them actually use the argument that homeschoolers believe the world is 6,000 years old. It was blatantly obvious that their misguided stereotype of homeschool students was that they were religious conservatives who refused to accept any origin of the universe or of the species that was not explained through Creationism. I then tried to point out that not all homeschoolers were overtly or devoutly religious, and in fact many homeschoolers were pretty progressive such as many that came from Austin, TX. At that point the former Princeton employee said, “oh, we love kids from Austin!” The problem wasn’t that the kids were homeschooled, the problem was that they applied an unfair religious stereotype against homeschoolers, and they clearly weren’t interested in that type of diversity at their schools. I found this pretty interesting because a former senior admissions director from Stanford University, a university that treats homeschool applicants quite well, welcomed the opportunity to have religious diversity on his campus as he believed that such perspectives were valuable and led to great discussions among undergraduates.

They then moved onto the argument that homeschoolers are usually academically unprepared for college, that they tend to be overly focused on singular subjects, and that they do not have diverse academic interests. However, they were unable to present me with any compelling arguments that the homeschool students that have been accepted do not perform well academically. Further, intense focus and excellence on a particular subject of interest tends to be appreciated by schools such as Harvard, Stanford and MIT – not exactly safety schools for Princeton, Davidson and Wellesley (although I am sure most Princeton people will argue otherwise).

After it was clear that their academic excuses were insufficient, they moved onto the socialization argument. Claiming that their colleges are residential colleges wherein the student body must get along with other students, homeschoolers simply do not fit in. Again, this highlighted their bias against homeschooling, and their arrogance. When pushed to articulate why homeschoolers don’t fit in, their best explanation was that homeschoolers haven’t been forced to interact with only kids their age, and that they are more used to interacting with people of varying ages. At this point I gave up on the conversation, as there are none so blind as those who will not see.

When I got home I looked at the various schools’ websites to see if any of them addressed homeschool applicants. Only Princeton had one that I could find. And while neither Princeton nor Wellesley seemed to have many detractors in the homeschooling community, Davidson College was singled out quite a few times as being anti-homeschooling.

So what does this mean for the homeschoolers out there who want to go to highly selective universities? Well, considering that most schools are eager to bring in the best talent they can find (not accounting for the various buckets they must fill), don’t be deterred. Most schools are eager to review your applications, and if you took advantage of your homeschooling situation, you will stand out and have a much better chance than most public schooled applicants who simply took the courses that were offered to them. Don’t judge Princeton too harshly, as I have found that they are not nearly as anti-homeschooling as their former employee seemed to suggest. And while the jury is out on Wellesley, I think it would be a great idea for homeschoolers to strike Davidson from their list of potential colleges.


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8 Responses to " Homeschooling stigmas within college admissions "

  1. Beth says:

    I have homeschooled for 13 years and both of my boys are at a high academic liberal arts college. Four years ago, my oldest son had an interest in Davidson College. Our experience was over the top, “we don’t like homeschoolers and therefore we are not interested in you.” I saw this blog post and thought I would give you first-hand confirmation to your assumption regarding Davidson. I would like to mention that this attitude came mostly, if not solely, from their head admissions representative who has entirely too much power.
    Fortunately, most top tier schools, in my experience, are not anti-homeschooling, though there are still some out there. I agree, that your more forward-thinking, progressive schools actually embrace the diversity that homeschoolers bring. I am also glad for your clarifying comments regarding Princeton, as I have not noticed their being anti-homeschool.
    Thank you for your candidacy.

    • Thanks, Beth, I appreciate the feedback. We will see a radical shift in attitude by schools toward homeschoolers in the next ten years. I predict that homeschool admissions will make up 15-25% of all admits at the IVY PLUS within ten years. I’ve got a plan for making that happen.

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  6. Randy says:

    I can definitely concur with your observation about the arrogance and ignorance of Davidson Admissions.

    I took our homeschooled daughter for a campus visit in 2009. While discussing the process with admissions, we definitely got the impression that homeschoolers weren’t wanted there. She never bothered to apply and instead attended Duke.
    Duke was very welcoming of homeschooled applicants, saying that they added to the diversity of their campus.

    Going to Duke turned out better for her anyway. Her homeschooled brother, started a PhD program at Duke the same year. He had just graduated from Cornell, another homeschool friendly university.

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