An Alternative Path to College Admission

The Record

By Kara Yorio
September 21, 2014

College admissions offices have a difficult enough job choosing among applicants, comparing kids from public schools and private schools, large schools and small schools, big cities and small towns. It’s rarely apple to apples. Throw in a home-schooler, however, and the comparisons become a little more difficult.

“The challenge of assessing the academic record of a home-schooled student is they don’t have a transcript with grades typically. So the academic assessment tends to weight the standardized testing a little bit more heavily for home-schoolers,” said Meg Caddeau, an independent college admissions consultant at Ivy Wise and a former assistant dean of admissions at Princeton and Amherst. “If kids have done some interesting projects or been able to do even a summer program where they’ve’ been in an academic setting, that, of course, is going to be looked at pretty carefully.”

Being home-schooled is not necessarily a disadvantage, though, she said.

“Admission officers are always trying to see to what extent the applicant is taking advantage of the educational opportunities that are available,” Caddeau said. “If that’s choosing to be home-schooled so if you love marine biology you can really focus on that and maybe take an online course or spend time doing some kind of field work in addition to your other coursework, that might be really compelling.

“But if there seems to be some other reason why someone’s opting for home schooling, that could raise some red flags for admissions people.”

Caddeau recommends that home-schoolers who want to go to college take Advanced Placement tests along with the SAT.

“That would be another way for them to demonstrate their mastery of subject material,” she said. “As an independent counselor if I was working with home-schoolers, that is exactly what I would tell them to do.”

Another issue for home-schoolers applying for college is the letter of recommendation. While Caddeau has seen some written by parents, that is obviously not ideal even if the college doesn’t have a rule against it. (Many colleges post guidelines for home-schooled applicants on their websites.)

“If I were advising home-schoolers, I would say in addition to your home-schooling program, make sure you’re involved in some group activities,” said Caddeau. “Whether it’s through sports or drama or some sort of community service where you’re getting to work with other people so that then you can ask someone who has known you in that context to write a letter on your behalf.”