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.