Homeschooling teen age years -High School vs. College

Someone who was homeschooled her whole life recently pointed out that most of her colleagues were homeschooled. They are all American professors at a university in France. And then somebody pitched in that a lot of her husband’s colleagues (all engineers) were also homeschooled.

Photo by George Dolgikh from Pexels

If your homeschool teen is planning on going to University, there are a few ways to go about getting the appropriate education to go on to higher education or getting a job in his area of expertise. He will not be asked to present a high school diploma or school record. 

For some reason, kids, when they are 14 they become interested in interesting things and tend to lean more towards learning from books and people vs. learning through play and experiences. Most homeschool kids I know at this age take at least a couple of courses in Community college. In addition they may get involved in community work, mastering a sport, traveling and learning how other people in the world live, etc. 

By the time they transfer to University at age 17 they can easily have two years of university general studies requirements completed. Saving not only time but a little bit of money since Community college courses are a lot cheaper than University. In this case three years spent on high school only to obtain a High School Diploma would seem pointless.

So the only way to University is through Community College? 

Kids who are very curious about academic subjects, or are exceptionally good at some discipline can apply directly to a degree program at a University. It is very possible, and in fact happens all the time, that kids that have a love for learning certain subjects and have a great portfolio or curriculum will get accepted and even granted scholarships for some of the top universities in the United States. 

A teen who has never been to school before will fill out an application, submit an essay, take the SAT and provide a “transcript” of relevant activities, courses, accomplishments and any learning he’s done in the last few years. It is advisable to still take some courses in Community College or summer courses offered at Universities for high school students…they are usually very good quality classes that help them learn in more depth the subjects they are interested in, or learn a skill such as Calculus that otherwise he would have to learn on is own. As the parent you can certify the transcript.

It is a good idea that you help your kids keep track of what they are doing and what they are learning. In my experience that is the hardest thing to do. Kids often give more importance to learning things that are not relevant to school and give little importance to anything that would look good in a curriculum or transcript. Often we might oversee or take for granted something that would look good in a college application. Make sure you record everything: workshops, summer courses, exhibiting at a science fair, any entrepreneurial endeavor, inventions, awards, college courses, online courses, projects, vocational schools, maker portfolio, camps, etc. 

So why do online high schools offer accreditation?

Accreditation is not necessary by all schools. In fact, there are public schools that are accredited and others are not. Accreditation is based on a set of requirements for the school but this doesn’t mean that you need to sign up for an accredited online high school in order to go to university of even obtain a high school diploma. 

It would be more advisable if your child wants to go to university to spend the money on special courses at a community college, even if they are online courses, than paying for online accredited high school. You can encourage your child to learn the maths and literature on his own with the help of free resources to take the SAT. And take some college courses related to his field of study at university, hence providing to the university admissions officer a solid transcript for acceptance. 

How do universities accept homeschool students? 

Here is an excerpt from the MIT admissions homepage. This list of requirements and tips would apply to any university:

“We do not have separate requirements for homeschooled applicants. Homeschooled applicants, like all of our applicants, are considered within their context, which includes schooling choice, family situation, geographic location, resources, opportunities, and challenges.

However, we do have some qualities we look for in for homeschooled students, based on successful applicants we have admitted in the past.


One quality that we look for in all of our applicants is evidence of having taken initiative, showing an entrepreneurial spirit, and making the most of their opportunities. Many of our admitted homeschooled applicants really shine in this area. These students truly take advantage of their less constrained educational environment to take on exciting projects, go in depth in topics that excite them, create new opportunities for themselves and others, and more.

Advanced classes

The vast majority of our admitted homeschool students have taken advanced classes outside the homeschool setting, such as through a local college or an online school such as Stanford OHS. Transcripts of these courses, in addition to an evaluation of the homeschooling portfolio, are very helpful. Some students will also supplement with courses from MIT’s edX and OpenCourseWare.

Extracurricular activities

Most of our homeschooled students have participated in extracurricular activities and community groups, such as community orchestras and theater, athletics groups, scouting, religious groups, volunteer work, work for pay, etc. Our homeschooled applicants, like all of our students, are active in their communities.

Summer programs

Many (but certainly not all) of our homeschooled students have been active in summer programs. For some students, summer programs (some programs we have frequently seen in homeschooled applicants include: CTY, TIP, PROMYS, MathCamp, RSI, Tanglewood, and Interlochen, among many others) are a great opportunity to work with other students from diverse backgrounds in a collaborative manner. Summer program mentors and job supervisors can also be great choices to write college recommendations.

Extra recommendations

Extra recommendations can be especially helpful for many homeschooled applicants. We welcome a recommendation from a parent but require at least three recommendations in total (usually a counselor and two teachers).”

Do you need a high school diploma to succeed? 

We’ve heard it all our lives….Even a job as a store clerk requires a High School Diploma. This is true. If your teenager is going to work at a mall stand selling phone plans, he may be ask for a High School Diploma.

In most countries a high school graduate has already taken Trigonometry, calculus, physics, or Latin, world history, learned to write research papers, and so on. In the United States we have some of the top universities in the world, but the universities require students to take a whole list of general studies (basic courses) such as Reading, Basic Calculus, Writing… It’s as if universities are aware of how lacking high school is in preparing kids for college.

In truth, high school is an experience that a lot of parents and kids don’t want to bypass. Not so much for the academic education as much as the fact that high school is a unique ecosystem that will never again be replicated in their lives. 

Dances, basketball team, cheerleading, high school events, hallways lined with lockers, pepper rally, high school politics, popularity, Prom, graduation ceremony. These are activities that make the teenage years in the United States a rite of passage. 

Some kids are good at music or art or theater or science or writing…from a very early age. If this is the case for your child, pursuing a high school diploma would likely set her back rather than help her because the time she could be spending on creating a stellar curriculum to present to universities or employers, she would be spending on high school requirements. 

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