Please match our two 17-year-old-partially-homeschooled twins

Same info for both kids:

Demographics: White, non-Hispanic. Not first-generation college students. But, for what it’s worth, one parent is an immigrant (now US citizen). Kids are both dual US-UK citizens. No legacies, no athletes.**

Schooling: US high school up to 9th grade. 10th grade homeschool. No community college, dual-enrollment, or anything. DD took the equivalent of 4 years foreign language; DS took 3 years. Cannot quantify in years the other subjects (see below).**

Coursework in 8th-9th grade: advanced science, math (algebra, geometry), history, English, Spanish (2 years), computer programming, electronics. Ranked 3 (DD) or 7 (DS) out of a class of 400.**

Due to limited academic opportunities at our local public school – we mapped out their 10-12 grade schedule and saw that they would not be able to take enough of the right courses – we decided to homeschool the remainder of high school.**

Coursework in 10th grade: They continued their college-prep schoolwork they’d begun in 9th grade. They passed 7 CLEP subjects (college math, pre-algebra, college composition, western civilization, Spanish with writing, psychology, sociology). They would have taken more CLEP tests, but, in March, 2020, all testing was cancelled. They studied a lot of math (advanced algebra, trigonometry, pre-calc and calculus) and took the AP calc BC exam at the end of that year (2020).**

GPA: 4.0/4.0 (from both 9th grade and 10th grade). Unweighted? I’m not sure what that means. Their school used a 100% system, and they got 99.9% or 99.8%. They earned all As in homeschool.**

At the end of 10th grade, they met all their state graduation requirements, so they obtained a superintendent’s letter to that effect, in June, 2020. So no more homeschooling. Instead of learning to drive and/or getting a job, our graduates decided to engage in a year of self-study, and signed up for a massive number of AP exams, courtesy of this same local school, who graciously allowed them to sign up for more AP classes than were available to their own students.


SAT – taken in one sitting (10th grade, age 15) but will be retaking this fall**

DS: 1530 (750 EBRW; 780 Math) (expecting re-test of 1570 or higher, based on practice tests)**

DD: 1520 (750 EBRW; 770 Math) (expecting re-test of 1570 or higher, based on practice tests)**

Advanced Placement tests (1 taken in 2020, the rest taken in 2021):**

DS – 14 APs – (12 @ 5 [Physics C E-mag, Physics C Mechanics, Calculus-BC, Statistics, Chemistry, Biology, English Language & Composition, US History, US Government, Human Geography, Psychology, and Macroeconomics], 2 @ 4 [Microeconomics & Environmental Science])**

DD - 12 APs – (8 @ 5 [Physics-C E-mag, Calculus BC, Statistics, English Language & Composition, Human Geography, Environmental Science, Macroeconomics, and Psychology], 4 @ 4 [Biology, Spanish, Microeconomics, US Government])**

GED - They passed the test in July, 2021 (couldn’t take earlier due to covid shut downs)**

Majors/area of interest:

DS – He’s seeking a good computer science program (or mathematics); he wants to get his degree and get out in the world and start working. He has a real science bent, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he changed his mind in college and ends up pursuing graduate studies.**

DD – She’s seeking linguistics or anthropology or psychology degree program; I think she’s graduate-school bound (based on her interests alone) and capable of advanced scholarship.**

What’s wrong?

Problem #1 – limited or no EC’s – They had limited ECs in 9th grade (wrote satirical pieces for school paper; participated in the model UN, joined the comedy club) but since then have had minimal ECs – DD loves reading classical literature (has read all of Shakespeare), psychology, learning obscure languages, gardening, taking walks, playing guitar. DS loves all things computer, programming (perl, python, MYSQL) but also playing video games, biking, reading, taking walks. All this activity is performed in their spare time, is in no way organized, and certainly does not constitute “leadership.” No awards. No work experience. No summer camps. No shadowing. No sports. No awards (unless you count the AP award!). Some volunteering. Both are currently working on software development, websites, youtube accounts, etc., and they of course help around the house, and help with disabled older relative.**

Problem #2 – out-of-date LORs – their letters are from 9th grade. That’s if those teachers even agree to write letters, as they’ve not been asked yet. I noticed that most schools require at least 1 letter, preferably from a teacher (even from homeschooled applicants).**

Problem #3 – Essays – Our kids will do their best to write a powerful essay but they are not “spikey” and (thankfully) have had no trauma/abuse.**

Problem #4 – DD will be difficult to “package,” because she cannot settle on a main interest and wants to be “undecided” for as long as possible (!).**


Where should they apply?

Is it possible for them to get into a top50 US school without much in the way of ECs?

And, even if admitted, are merit awards out of the question?

Many of you recommend students applying to their state’s “flagship” university, but our university is NOT highly ranked and doesn’t seem to provide much in the way of merit aid. I don’t mention our state, because I am ashamed of it.

Non-US schools don’t seem to care about ECs or essays, so we are considering UK schools as well as American schools. Incurring debt for a better school that doesn’t care about ECs seems better than a free ride at a no-name school.

(Don’t let cost factor into your advice. We are not wealthy by any means – we’re living on one modest income and qualify for nearly 100% financial aid on those website-based college financial aid calculators – but are prepared to go into debt to further our children’s education at a good school.)

We refuse to apply ED, so it will be RD all the way!

Thank you so much for your time,


Try the University of Rochester to see if it works, financially as well as acceptances. It fits both students very well and a decade or so ago they accepted my homeschooled since 7th grade son with similar scores and the finances turned out great for us. He had some ECs and three cc college classes though. We homeschooled for very similar reasons. His college profs wrote his LORs.

He’s now officially a doctor… (and wanted that going in).

Pitt might work too (his second choice - he got in with merit aid).

At your flagship, or neighboring state, with AP credits, could graduate early or start a masters early.
T50- seem to be reaches for anyone.

Washington&Lee, University of Richmond have merit.

Sadly, not worth anything in terms of admissions

8th grade coursework typically does not count

Water under the bridge now, but what were the ‘right’ courses that they couldn’t take?

As far as I can tell the two main issues are that 1) you have student that you expect to see at a top tier university, but who haven’t yet focussed their interests (not a criticism btw!) in a way that US top tier unis are used to and 2) you need financial aid.

For the first, spend some time on the homeschool forums- there is a lot of info there on the specifics (eg, LoRs, presenting ECs, etc).

The second is harder. Have you run any NPCs? If you are one modest salary, don’t have real estate beyond your home and have no divorces in the mix, you are likely to find that you are eligible for meaningful aid- though whether it is sufficient aid is another question! You say that you are willing to ‘go into debt’, but if you are on a single modest income, borrowing ~ $300K for UK unis (2 x $45K/pa* x 3 years) is going to be problematic, and very unlikely to be a sound financial decision. I get why, with kids who are clearly bright and test well, you are loath to settle for a ‘no-name’ school- but there are great schools out there who fly under the mainstream radar that both will give your students a superb education and be delighted to help subsidize it with financial and merit aid. Your son in particular will find that schools you see as ‘no-name’ are some of the best choices. Your daughter sounds tailor made for an LAC (and definitely not well suited for the UK). I suggest checking out some of the women’s colleges in consortiums (Barnard, Bryn Mawr & Wellesley in particular. They will look at her holistically, and her ‘undecided’ status will not be a negative.

Have you looked at the Netherlands? Some super choices in English, and relatively affordable. Not quite as a good a deal as it was before Brexit, but still very affordable relative to the US. Probably still too narrow for your daughter though.

*although they are UK citizens, they are not UK-resident, so they will pay international fees in the UK. If you are thinking of using the relative’s address in the UK dodge, it is harder than you might be expecting.


Thank you, Creekland. We have looked at University of Rochester, too. I love that they have more of an open curriculum - no gen ed. I love, too, that students don’t need to declare a major until the end of sophomore year. It’s great that they accept homeschoolers, especially. We may have to enter the kids into community college to get those LORs, though, as you said.
Thank you again for your input,

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@Kelly2022 generally I think the importance of ECs is blown out of proportion and I’m sure with their grades and test scores they will have plenty of options. However, if I am an AO their lack of involvement in anything it might make me question whether they would be a good addition to the campus community. I would imagine that over the past two years there are lots of students that have similar profiles due to the limited opportunities because of COVD.

An EC doesn’t have to be something formal, what are they interested in outside of school. Maybe they like to cook? or they collect ceramic cows, or do Improv? or make origami? Use the essay to create that personal picture of them that says I’m more than just my grades I will be an active member of my college community.

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Thank you, Hippobirdy, we will look into the two schools you mentioned. I didn’t think it was possible for them to get merit aid without having a significant list of ECs. Glad to know it’s possible!

Merit aid is mostly test score×gpa. Also, what you describe they do in their time out of class WOULD be ECs. (There’s even a category in commonapp about helping with siblings or a relative).

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Thank you, Collegemom3717. By “right classes,” I meant the best college prep, which at the time I took to mean AP classes. Our LPS offers 10 APs, but not all the ones we wanted. So they have Calculus AB, but not BC. They don’t have AP Spanish – either kind. They have AP English Lit but not Language & Composition. They have regular physics, but not Physics C (mechanics and e-mag). They don’t have AP psychology. Etc. I was all focused on APs. Also, the math was not happening fast enough for my son. He tends to pick up concepts very quickly - waiting around for everyone else in class to get it. My hubby taught him trig in a day, etc.

I love your suggestion for some high quality LACs, and those you mentioned sound great if in fact they are cool with my DD’s indecision!

We know we cannot use grandma’s house as their UK residence – it would look mighty suspicious getting all those APs and SATs for a UK-based (home) application! We’d have to live there for 3 years… Still, school in UK is cheaper than here (22,000-33,000 pounds vs. 80,000 dollars) and the term is 3 years, not 4.

I never heard of the Netherlands having any english-based unis. We will definitely look into that!

Thank you again,

Fabulous advice! They definitely do have activities, even if not organized. I love your suggestions!
Thank you,

Well, that’s good to hear! You are echoing with another poster mentioned – they are doing something with their free-time, even if not formally organized.

Thank you,

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I know I should find the homeschooling forum - but I am new here and have not had any luck finding such a forum. Can you help? Are you talking about a specific forum on this CC site? Or a different forum?

I agree with @Novacat9191 , who says activities have to be organized?? Personally I find independently reading all of Shakespeare more impressive than 99% of “standard” ECs. It tells someone right away about this kid’s intrinsic motivation, her intelligence and her interests, which are out of the box – much more memorable than the 11th grade delegate to Student Council.

I wouldn’t undersell your kids, especially since they have confirming test scores. I am no expert, but I would think they absolutely have a chance at T50, and probably T20. What about the University of Chicago?


If you go into significant parental debt to pay for their college, will you be able to pay it off before you retire and save up enough money for your retirement? Also, parental debt may be a risk to their finishing college if the parents borrow for the first two or three years but then get denied for loans in the students’ last years.


This seems to be a common mistaken belief about University of Rochester. It definitely has general education requirements of at least 3 courses in each of humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences (assuming one category is covered by one’s major, that is 6 courses in areas not in the general area of one’s major).

After my son was accepted with terrific aid, I thanked the Dean of Admissions for considering homeschoolers. He responded to me that they loved homeschoolers, but they want to see that they can do more than grades at home. Your kids’ test scores attest to a bit (as did mine), but I think they are also looking for kids who plan to participate in other college activities - those who plan an active life at the college and can get along well with their peers.

If your kids are involved in anything - community, church, volunteering, tutoring, jobs, sports - anything, make sure it gets attention.

I’m a bit biased I know, but I love UR for the right student (my other two wouldn’t have enjoyed it there). Yours sound like they would do well there. Honestly, I bet they would do well in a lot of places.

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Absolutely. They want some diversification, but nowhere near what many colleges want to see with specific credits within specific fields (like math). They leave a lot wide open for students to choose. There is (or at least was) one freshman writing required course though - with oodles of options to choose from topic-wise.

They’re not 100% open, nor typical with specific requirements. They’re a hybrid I suppose. Because they don’t require much it’s very common for students to double major and still graduate in 4 years. My guy had two majors and two minors.

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They look very much like kids educated to do well in a British university system, I would definitely be putting in a UCAS application at least for your S. With regard to cost, note that Oxford is cheaper than Cambridge and at Oxbridge the lab science/computer science courses cost more than non-lab courses. So math alone is much cheaper than math with computer science. Oxford math would be my recommendation for your son as a UK application if he doesn’t end up with better US options.

For your daughter, there’s not so much difference but arch and anth is somewhat cheaper than psychology. Not sure you’d find language and linguistics a good choice (very literature based initially and the 4 in AP Spanish and lack of AP Spanish lit are a red flag). As others have noted, she might be better in a broader US course anyway.

A key question will be what they plan to do for the next year and how that will factor into their US applications.

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Many schools like homeschoolers as applicants, and many schools don’t require declaration of a major until the end of sophomore year, so entering as undecided is fine (there are exceptions of course).

Financial aid is one of the best reasons to apply to top schools.

Informal “EC’s” look fine. AP’s add a lot. (CLEP’s are pretty easy: I have taken some)

Have you looked at the Colleges that Change Lives website? It might give you some ideas.

Your daughter might like the Great Books major at St. John’s (Annapolis or Santa Fe). It’s a very different school so they wouldn’t look sideways at a home school record.

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