Top Ten Dream Colleges – Are They Homeschool Friendly?

MIT is many a homeschooler's dream college

An annual survey by The Princeton Review (a tutoring and test prep company not affiliated with Princeton University) asks students and parents: “What dream colleges do you wish you / your child could attend if acceptance and cost weren’t issues?”

Some schools are named by hundreds of respondents as their dream colleges; others are mentioned by only one. Students and their parents often have different opinions as to their preferred college. But last year, the school named by the highest number of both student and parent respondents as their dream college was Stanford.

Here are the students’ and parents’ lists of dream colleges…


These are the Top Ten schools named dream colleges by the highest number of surveyed students, ranked in order:

  1. Stanford University
  2. Harvard College
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. New York University
  5. Princeton University
  6. Columbia University
  7. Yale University
  8. University of California—Los Angeles
  9. University of Pennsylvania
  10. University of Texas—Austin


These are the Top Ten schools named dream colleges by the highest number of surveyed parents, ranked in order:

  1. Stanford University
  2. Princeton University
  3. Harvard College
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  5. Yale University
  6. New York University
  7. University of Texas—Austin
  8. Cornell University
  9. Columbia University
  10. University of California—Los Angeles


So, based on the above lists of popular dream colleges, which ones are the most homeschool-friendly? In other words, how accepting of homeschoolers are they, how much extra red tape do homeschoolers have to go through, are they treated fairly, etc.

Here is how we would rank the Top Ten dream colleges in order from most to least homeschool-friendly:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“MIT’s admission process is open to all applicants, regardless of their backgroundsMIT has a long history of admitting homeschooled students, and these students are successful and vibrant members of our community… Please note that we do not require a high school diploma or GED from our applicants.” MIT looks for students who are self-motivated, enjoy learning, and show entrepreneurial spirit. They also like to see students who are active in their communities, involved in extracurricular activities, and taking advanced classes through a local college or online school. More helpful tips for homeschooled applicants can be seen here. Homeschooled students who attended MIT include Reid Barton and Eric Demaine.

Harvard College

“Each applicant to Harvard College is considered with great care and homeschooled applicants are treated the same as all other applicants. There is no special process, but all relevant information about your educational and personal background is welcome. In addition to the application, all applicants are required to submit a transcript (you may create your own), and recommendations.” David and Micki Colfax taught their four sons at home in the 1970s and ’80s and schooled three of them into Harvard. Read their book Homeschooling for Excellence as well as Debra Root’s book Homeschool to Harvard about how she homeschooled her oldest daughter to Harvard. You can also hear from Harvard students who were homeschooled in the Harvard Gazette article “Homeschooled en route to Harvard.”

University of California—Los Angeles

“Many home-schooled students have been admitted to UC, and are successful and vibrant members of our community. If you’re completing high school through home schooling, you have a few options for meeting UC admission requirements, depending on your situation.” Kristen Fang of College Lead made a YouTube video in which “I interviewed my younger brother who was homeschooled for his entire life. He’s a rising junior at UCLA studying Applied Mathematics.” In the video, her brother Kyle shares how he turned his extracurriculars into volunteer and leadership opportunities, where he took AP classes, why he chose UCLA, what campus life is like, and more. Moshe Kai Cavalin is another bright young homeschooler who attended UCLA.

Stanford University

“We are interested in how you have gone about the learning process, not how many courses you have completed.” Among homeschoolers who end up at Stanford, “self-teaching” is a common thread. In addition, Stanford-bound homeschoolers typically take several college courses before they apply. In making sure a student has the right stuff for Stanford, they say “what we want is validation.” For example, Stanford likes homeschoolers to get at least two of their three recommendations from non-family members. Read more here. In 2021, Stanford University accepted 26% of the 35 homeschoolers who applied – nearly double its overall acceptance rate.

Princeton University

“Princeton welcomes applications from home-schooled students. We recognize that your experience as a home-schooled student will be somewhat different from students in traditional schools. We’ll look at your academic record and nonacademic interests and commitments within the context of your particular home-school curriculum and experience.” One homeschooler wrote on College Confidential in 2010, “I was (partially) homeschooled and was accepted at every Uni I applied to. My admissions officer at Princeton told me that the percentage of applying homeschoolers that are accepted is higher than the percentage of applying public/private schoolers (although, obviously, the actual number of students is much lower). However, my transcript was almost 10 pages long and very detailed. I also had very high standarized [sic] test scores, reccomendations [sic] from community college professors, and a ton of ECs [extra-curriculars].”

Yale University

“Home-schooled applicants complete the same application as other students and must fulfill the same requirements as all first-year applicants.” Some of these requirements include: taking challenging courses, participating in extracurricular activities, and demonstrating strong standardized test scores. There are also a few areas of special consideration when the Admissions Committee evaluates homeschooled applicants: Letters of Recommendation, Strength of Program, and Personal Qualities. Yale requires letters of recommendation for home-schooled applicants, including two from academic teachers and one from a “school counselor,” not a parent. Local high school or college courses are considered strong additions. Admissions officers look for evidence of social maturity from all applicants and especially from homeschooled students, including the student’s ability to integrate well with other students. Homeschooled Yalies agree their experiences have shaped the way they approach academics.

New York University

“To apply as a homeschool applicant, follow the same steps to apply as all NYU first-year applicants.” Admitted homeschooled students “must either be able to provide evidence of a homeschool diploma, a certificate of completion that is considered the equivalent of a high school diploma in the applicant’s home state, or they must complete and submit results of their GED test prior to enrollment at NYU.”

University of Pennsylvania

“Penn welcomes applications from students who chart non-conventional academic paths, including those educated through home schooling.” They say to consider the following questions as you complete your application:

  • What inspired you or your family to seek home schooling as an option for your education?
    Describe your curriculum in detail and tell us how you, your family, or oversight group has organized your pursuit of knowledge across core academic disciplines including humanities, math, social and natural sciences, and foreign languages.
  • How has being home schooled helped you grow intellectually and personally or enhanced your opportunities for learning?

The Secondary School Report may be completed by a high school guidance counselor, homeschool program coordinator, curriculum advisor, or family member and may include motivations for homeschooling, description of curricula, etc. “Course listings, grading/rating scales, syllabi, lab work, reading lists, textbooks or historical/current information help enhance our understanding of your academic program. Recommendations and viewpoints provided by instructors from outside of your home provide objective evaluations and lend additional context to your academic work. Standardized test scores in subjects you wish to showcase may provide objective evidence and support for grades and ratings.”

Cornell University

“Students who have been schooled at home are welcome to apply for admission to Cornell.” However, Cornell has very strict requirements for homeschooled applicants. “Without an independent high school transcript” as they say, “selection committees require additional information to evaluate the depth and variety of a student’s experience.” This may include scores from standardized exams (state, SATs, ACTs, APs), transcripts from any college courses you may have taken, and information on independent projects, laboratory experiences, research projects, etc. More specifically, to evaluate applicants who are homeschooled, the admissions selection committee requires the following information for all four years prior to entering college:

  • English: list of books (including all textbooks and other anthologies) you have read each year; how many papers and how long (indicate which are creative and which are expository writing); any research papers (list titles and length of each).
  • Social Studies: list of textbooks and books you have read each year; how many papers (topics listed) and how long; independent research projects (titles and lengths).
  • Foreign Language: list of textbooks you have read each year; list of projects and/or papers; descriptions and dates of visits to other countries.
  • Science: textbooks you have used each year (description of topics covered if you did not use a textbook or only used part of the book); list of experiments and/or field trips; any projects or research done (titles and time spent).
  • Mathematics: textbooks (covering which topics) you have used each year; any independent projects (titles and time spent).

University of Texas—Austin

“No matter how good of a home-schooled student you are, you always fall (outside) the automatic admit,” said Amy Quartaro, an aerospace engineering senior who was home-schooled. “It’s the same bucket you would be in if you were a public school student but weren’t in the top 10%.”


All of the above colleges and universities are confirmed to have admitted homeschooled applicants. Columbia is listed below, just because we don’t know of any homeschoolers who have been admitted there, although they seem welcoming to homeschool students according to their website.

Columbia University

“As a homeschooled student, your application will undergo the same process as every other applicant—including the same careful attention from several members of our professional admissions staff. In each case, admissions officers are weighing many components of your background: academic achievement and rigor, intellectual curiosity, extracurricular distinction, special talents and abilities and many others.”

Have you applied to any of these colleges as a homeschooler? Share your experience!

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