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Homeschoolers at MIT
For those home-educated students who do embark on college careers, MIT is certainly an option. In the last four years, the number of homeschooled MIT applicants has nearly doubled. In that same span, the Institute has admitted on average about 14 percent of homeschooled students, compared to 15 percent of traditionally schooled kids. But homeschooled applicants form a much smaller group—about 50 per year—than applicants from public or private high schools—around 10,500. And according to MIT dean of admissions Marilee Jones, the homeschooled students are “absolutely extraordinary or not even close.” Those who are admitted have the same characteristics as most other MIT students, says Jones: they’re emotionally flexible, take risks, are not easily shaken, pursue their interests (not their parents’), and yearn to go out on their own.

But even for those homeschoolers who get in, the transition to MIT is not always easy. Sarah Huber ’02, who is currently pursuing a master’s in international finance at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs and interning at a startup in New York City, says she had a hard time applying to college and then easing into undergraduate life. She received most of her secondary education at home, except her last year, which she spent at a community college. When she was applying to colleges, she was frustrated and concerned because she had no teachers or counselors to advise her. She also worried that her lack of a foreign language and of opportunities for leadership experience would put her at a great disadvantage. But to her relief, MIT accepted her. Once she got there, however, other problems loomed. “The transition was more difficult socially than academically,” she says. Huber reasons that she, like many homeschooled children, emulated the adults around her: “While I was confident and comfortable around older adults, I had a great deal of difficulty interacting with and relating to people my own age.” Now that she has graduated, she knows that her experience at MIT helped her become more socially confident. In her opinion, “Many MIT students are similar to the stereotypical homeschooled student anyway, in being very independent, hardworking, and socially awkward.”

Not all homeschoolers have such a hard time, though. Heather Jones ’05 spent most of her school years in public and private institutions but switched to learning at home at the beginning of her sophomore year in high school. She took classes at local community colleges, signed up for online courses, and enrolled in summer programs at various universities. She passed all of her advanced-placement tests and also took the SAT and ACT exams. Being able to explore most of the subjects that appealed to her as a teenager was an invaluable experience for Jones. By the time she got to MIT, she felt focused on her end goal: politics. “To me, it’s very strange for people to come into college and not know what they want to do,” she says. Although she had to make the social adjustment from living in a small household where she didn’t get out much to being on her own, she says her community-college and summer-school experiences made it easy.

Homeschooling may not be for everyone. Certainly it presents many obstacles, both emotional and logistical. But this growing national trend is one that MIT alums are a part of. For those considering homeschooling, Sarah Huber recommends that they not take the decision lightly. “Simply offer it as a possible option if traditional schooling is failing for some reason, and you have the resources, commitment, guidance of educational professionals, and adequate social network to make it a success.”

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