Much of the fear and anxiety around schooling is due to the fear and anxiety of that small sub-group of parents and students who are focused on achieving admission to elite colleges. The fact is most universities are not difficult to get into, and welcome hard-working students with good academic records.
We will support students and parents interested in the option of elite college admissions, and have substantial experience placing students at elite universities. Michael Strong, our co-founder, not only attended both Harvard and the University of Chicago, but also created The Winston Academy, one of the most academically advanced institutions in the U.S., where he worked with a colleague who was on the Harvard University Admissions Committee. To simplify somewhat, in order to get into the most elite colleges, a student needs:
- Top-notch SAT scores (700 or above, ideally 750 or above on each section).
- Top-notch scores on several Advanced Placement (AP) exams, including some humanities courses and some math and science courses.
- To be spectacular in other ways (publish a book, start a business, sail solo around the world, etc.)
What most parents don’t realize is that a student who has a unique, amazing achievement is more competitive in college admissions than are students who were on the Yearbook Committee, President of School Council, Varsity Basketball Team, etc. Elite colleges are swamped with students with good grades, good test scores, and long lists of conventional achievements. In order to stand out, it is better to be simply amazing through some unique accomplishment that separates the student from the pack.
The good news is that a program like ours allows students considerably more opportunity to learn what they love and how to excel than is the case if they are busy with conventional courses and activities for their entire secondary career. The doubly good news is that learning who they are and what they are passionate about, and excelling in that, will be valuable to the student whether or not they are interested in attending an elite college.
SAT and AP exam scores are much more important than is the high school transcript. Many high schools inflate grades and, even when they don’t, standards vary so much across American high schools that unless an admissions officer knows the high schools or prep schools well (and they do know many of them), they can’t tell if a student with GPA of 4.9 is more or less capable than is a student with a GPA of 3.8. It could be that the student with the higher GPA attended a school with inflated grades, whereas the student with the lower GPA attended a school with very rigorous grading standards. As a consequence of this uncertainty, universities rely more on tests like the SAT and AP; they know that a student with an SAT in Critical Reading of 800 and an AP Calculus BC score of 5 is a very capable student.
Finally, at this point generations of homeschooling students have gone off to college, including succeeding at the most elite colleges. Indeed, at many colleges conventional high school transcripts are unnecessary if the student has taken a sufficient number of AP exams. That said, for students who stay through high school, the school will offer transcripts to students who enroll in conventional course content and will design appropriate individualized course descriptions for students so that they will have a conventional high school transcript.