BOSTON — Homeschoolers applying to college often find that being different is an advantage.
"People don't need to fear that if they do something off the beaten track during the high school years that they're ruling out college," says Susannah Sheffer, editor of Growing Without Schooling magazine.
Ms. Sheffer explains that when people hear about homeschooled teens, their first question is, "Can they get into college?"
"It's no longer an issue," she says. "Public universities, private colleges, Ivy League schools - homeschoolers are everywhere."
While homeschooled applicants often lack formal transcripts and grades, the application process is not all that different.
"Homeschoolers can take the same steps as other students," Sheffer says. They fill out applications, write essays, and take tests. Some homeschoolers create a transcript with the help of a school. Others don't bother with a transcript at all.
"The part that's different is where you describe what you've been doing the last four years," Sheffer says. Homeschoolers often include writing samples, examples of internships and travel experiences, and descriptions of books they have read.
"They're ... going to stress the distinctive things they've done," she says. "The fact that they've done so many things with their teen years is attractive to admissions officers."
Take, for example, Christian McKee, who started Kalamazoo College in Michigan this fall. The admissions officer asked him, "Where can I get more like this?"
Mr. McKee didn't think much about college. "I just kept on doing the things I was interested in," he explains. "I didn't study high school math until the year before last. [We] just kept records; we compiled what we called a narrative transcript."
McKee's homeschooling "was very much directed by my interests and almost [turned] a blind eye to traditional education. That means I spent a lot of time fly-fishing and flytying, and that's how I got a lot of my science done - studying life cycles of aquatic insects and species in general - for the purpose of being a more effective fisherman."
The hardest part of getting into college "was getting people to understand that I'm not a traditional student.
"If you evaluate me from a traditional standpoint, I'm not going to look very good, but if you take time to sit down and look at what I did, you see I have a lot of strengths. I don't have a high school diploma, didn't take standardized tests, but I've done a fabulous amount of work in a lot of related subject areas. It's a different set of strengths."