college applications
More effort and planning is required from homeschoolers when applying to college. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

The transition from high school to college can be both exciting and daunting. Even more so for students who aren’t in traditional education systems. Though homeschooling is becoming increasingly common in the US, more often than not, homeschoolers require more effort and planning when it comes to college applications. 

Most unis understand how public or private high school students compare to their peers — this is not the case for homeschooled students.

Homeschoolers are exposed to a different curriculum, assignments and class time, which could make it difficult for them to demonstrate college readiness to the admissions board.

Parents, here’s how you can help your child navigate college applications as a homeschooler:

college applications

These four factors can help you stay on top of your checklist during college applications. Source: Jens Schlueter/AFP

Understand admission requirements 

Before applying anywhere, parents should work together with their children to narrow down their options. From there, you can further request admissions information under the college’s official website. Understanding the expectations and requirements of the college can help you navigate each college’s application process. 

It’s important to have an early start to your college application process. While high schoolers often start their applications to colleges at the beginning of their senior year, homeschoolers are advised to consider submitting their college applications during their junior year. 

This will allow you more time to refine your personal essays, obtain your transcripts, as well as letters of recommendation. It will also give you more leeway to ensure your academic records are in order. 


Another important one on the checklist is transcripts. A transcript lays out courses the student has taken, the credits they’ve obtained and their coursework grades. 

“Any college will raise an eyebrow at a homeschool transcript regardless of who issues it,” says Yvonne Padilla, principal of Thrive Home School Academy in Colorado, an enrichment programme for homeschool families. “It’s crucial to create a robust portfolio – including writing samples, exams and other work – to demonstrate what they’ve learned.”

Parents who homeschool their children are responsible for keeping records of their children’s academic history and performance to submit for college applications. Read this for more homeschool transcript tips.  

Letter of recommendation

Next on the college applications checklist is recommendation letters. They can help you stand out as a homeschooled student as they can reveal individual character and qualities that your grades alone can’t. 

Try to get someone who knows your child well enough to talk about how they learn, what they like and what they’ve achieved. These persons of authority should be able to describe your personality, abilities and achievements in an impartial yet comprehensive manner.

As tempting as it is for parents to write a recommendation letter for their child, do avoid doing so. If your child did not have any tutors or formal teachers during their homeschooling experience, consider obtaining a recommendation from one of these persons below: 

  • An employer or team lead
  • An athletic coach
  • An adviser of an extracurricular activity
  • A mentor
  • A leader of a church, synagogue, mosque or other house of worship

Extracurricular activities

Lastly, colleges love when applicants are well-rounded young adults. So, it’s important for a homeschooled student to explain extracurricular activities they’ve actively participated in to prove to the admissions board their commitment on a collegiate level. 

A homeschooled student may not have the same structured access to extracurricular activities as traditional high schoolers, but this shouldn’t stop your child from picking up skilled hobbies such as writing, cooking or sports. What’s more, volunteerism is a great way to highlight to the board positive qualities such as ambition and being community-centred.