A significant number of students who have been homeschooled apply for admission to Caltech each year. Parents and students are often concerned that we will have a more difficult time evaluating homeschooled students than students who have had a more traditional educational experience. We find that in most cases, homeschooled applicants are no more difficult to evaluate than any other applicants to Caltech, and there are no additional requirements for homeschooled applicants. We can, however, offer a few tips to help candidates present the strongest possible application:
Understanding Your Homeschooling Experience
Homeschooled students come to Caltech with a wide variety of experiences. It is important that you help us understand how your school experience has been structured. We see students whose education has been entirely home-based, with instruction carried out by parents; students who connect with other homeschooling resources in their community, with shared instruction; students who use formal homeschooling curricula or who take the majority of courses through an online homeschooling organization; students who take some courses in a traditional high school; students who take some or all of their junior- and senior-year courses in a college; and many combinations of the above. Regardless of how your homeschool education has been structured, you need to be certain that it will be clear to the admissions committee.
Curriculum and Performance
The recommended high-school preparation for Caltech is the same for students of all academic backgrounds (see admissions requirements for details). In particular, it is important that you demonstrate that you have completed with a high level of achievement at least one rigorous course in calculus, at least one full year of a rigorous physics course, and that you have at least one full year of experience in laboratory science. Depending on your experience and the transcript that you present, it may be necessary for you to attach additional explanations of your coursework. If you are unable to provide an evaluation of your academic work that allows for a comparison of your level of achievement to a cohort of other students, you may want to consider taking Advanced Placement Exams or additional SAT Subject Tests to show your mastery of material. Information on these tests is available at the College Board website.
Counselor and Teacher Recommendations
The person involved in your education who most closely approximates the role of a college counselor or principal should complete your secondary-school counselor report. In some cases this will be a parent. We require recommendations from a math or science teacher and from a humanities or social-science teacher. Again, these recommendations may come from parents if they have been your sole instructors in these disciplines. If you have taken courses at a high school or college, you should feel free to choose from these instructors as well. If all of your instructors have been parents, we strongly recommend that you seek out an additional recommendation from someone you know who can describe your ability to do demanding college-level academic work.
Our advice regarding the presentation of extracurricular activities is the same as the advice that we would give any other applicant. You should think broadly about how you spend your time outside of academics. List activities like sports, music, summer programs, community service, and whatever else you spend time doing. You might even think about how you spend time with your friends. We are trying to understand how you might be involved in our community. Here again, you may want to include an additional explanation of anything that you think might not be understandable to the admissions committee.
If you have additional questions that have not been addressed, please feel free to contact us.