Hi! I've been home schooled since second grade and I am currently a graduating senior. I will be attending Carnegie Mellon University this fall for Electrical and Computer Engineering. I know how difficult it can be to navigate college admissions as a home schooled student (or parent!), so I'd like to offer up my perspective and experiences. If you're not interested in details about my education but still want advice, I've bolded the Advice header so you can find it easily. Thank you!
First of all, about me:
SAT Score: 2330 Composite
770 M, 760 CR, 800 W
SAT II Scores:
Math 2: 790
Biology E: 760
English Language: 730
US History: 720
Unweighted GPA (out of 4.0): 4.0
AP Human Geography: 4
AP Biology: 4
AP English Literature: 5
AP USH: 5
AP English Lang: 5
AP Macroeconomics: TBD
AP Physics C MEM: TBD
AP Calculus BC: TBD
AP Environmental Science: TBD
I took online classes intermittently from second grade to eighth grade, and I was part of the CTY (Center for Talented Youth) Program. Starting in ninth grade, I took almost all of my classes online because I was taking AP courses. I started attending a charter school part-time at the beginning of my junior year, and I'm taking 2 classes there again this year.
I won't go in-depth on my academics in middle school because they're not very important! However, my advice is to enroll in advanced programs like CTY so you can build up the skills you need to succeed in high school. It's difficult to jump from a D student to an A student if you haven't been working at an A level all along.
My freshman year was interesting because I had really no idea what I was planning to do! I knew I had to take AP classes to get into a good college, but I found it easy to get caught up in distractions. I ended up applying for an internship with a local senator, and I was hired shortly. It was an unpaid internship, but it really helped me gain life skills and confidence in my abilities. I had to present in front of many officials, and I was working in a legislative office with professionals. Look for internships that you can start building your resume with. (More tips on this later, as this internship actually just landed in my lap more or less!)
As a home schooled student, your resume is everything. You don't have teachers to lobby for your success (besides your parents!), and you don't have official grades (most of the time) to back up your knowledge. Getting experience and making connections is extremely important!
After freshman year I attended a CTY summer camp, which I received credit for. I also organized, raised money for, and hosted my own benefit concert. I raised over $3,000, which I then donated. If you're planning on doing a leadership project, I would highly recommend waiting until later in high school. As much work as my concert was, I didn't really talk about it in my college applications at all because it had happened so long ago. That being said, don't completely slack off suring your first two years of high school! You need to look impressive all the way through, but save major projects until later.
I started at a charter school for my junior year, and I really enjoyed the structure that was provided. I know many home schooled students are very self-motivated and can work on their own, but I really need structure, so changing up the pace and working with actual teachers really helped me grow as a person. Achieving certified grades was an INCREDIBLE asset to my college applications, and I highly recommend taking online classes or working with a charter school if you are planning on attending higher education. I actually have a home schooled friend who, while very smart, was rejected from almost every school he applied to - even though he had good grades and moderate scores! Colleges had no way to prove his scores, so they simply rejected him. Don't let colleges look at you and say, "Oh, their mom probably gave them that A+." You need proof of your education (more below on this).
I started working on my college applications in the summer before my senior year because I ended up applying to 16 schools. :) I was too worried that I would get rejected from all of them, so I overcompensated! In addition, I found an internship at a university near my house, and I also found another internship that was specific to engineering. To find my engineering internship, I emailed company after company from the yellow pages. Only two responded, but one offered me an unpaid position! All businesses love and appreciate unpaid volunteers/interns. The best way to get experience is just to offer to work for free, and you may have to ask many companies! I emailed a short customized message, and always attached my resume.
I was accepted to Rice University, Wellesley College, Olin College of Engineering, USC, UCLA, Carnegie Mellon University, UCSB, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. I was wait listed at Washington University, UCBerkeley, and Princeton.
(I included all these details because I always loved reading the SPECIFICS of each person on CC, sorry if it's too long!)
One thing I've noticed from the home schooling community is that very few home schoolers attempt to tackle math and science. The ones that do almost always excel, but home schoolers tend to lean more towards English and humanities. DO NOT FORGET TO PURSUE ALL SUBJECTS! You really don't want to close any doors for yourself later, and the jobs in STEM fields pay the best later. Online classes are a good way to keep up with challenging math courses.
Don't forget to get official grades or scores. Colleges are not going to accept your word alone on your GPA. In fact, your GPA barely matters (although it will matter if it's bad, don't get low grades!) because it's almost a matter of opinion in home schooling. Instead, take SAT II subject tests, and take as many as you can. I only needed to submit about 2 subject tests to a few select universities, but taking more will not hurt you. That being said, try to get good scores on these tests, because they matter more for you than for other applicants. Your SAT scores should also be as good as possible, because colleges place more weight on standardized tests for home schooled applicants. AP scores are also very helpful, and you will need to justify your reasons for not taking them (expense, etc) if you want to apply to a great university. You can always self study for the tests, so not taking AP tests as a home schooled student makes it look like the rigor of the coursework has been neglected.