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What the Harvard Admissions Director Thinks

Do colleges frown upon homeschooled applicants? Marlyn McGrath says no.


Illustrations by Al Murphy  

The requirements are the same for everybody, but some parts of the admission process are unique to homeschoolers. We require the same standardized tests for everyone, but homeschool students often take extra tests—say, SAT subject tests—because they find that those tests are an easier way to convey mastery of a subject. We want all the usual recommendation letters, but because parents who homeschool are often their children’s teachers, they write letters, too. They want to show the thinking behind the work they did and why. Homeschoolers don’t always have easily identifiable extracurriculars, so we are often pleased to see team participation. On the other hand, many of them have an unusual story to tell, and that can be a strength. In the end, we ask the same questions of all candidates: How unusual is she in her accomplishments? Her ambition? Her capacity to overcome whatever life might have thrown her way? And how would she stand out and contribute here? —As told to Jillian Goodman


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