Applying to Selective Colleges as an Unschooler
As a homeschooler, I didn’t always know I wanted to go to college. Actually, I spent most of my grade school career studying classical ballet (something you don’t really need to go to college for). In other words, I didn’t spend my high school career chasing awards or internships for my college resume.
From a young age, I’ve had a passion for storytelling, in any way, shape, or form, and once I was able to, writing became one of my favorite mediums for it. With the freedom of homeschooling, I spent my early years chasing my passion for storytelling through music, writing, and dancing, but before I knew it, ballet would take the driver’s seat. I spent nearly every day of my high school life doing ballet with aspirations to go pro… that is, until the pandemic hit.
Suddenly, my rigorous ballet schedule took to Zoom and my chances of going pro diminished. The arts community as a whole was hit pretty hard by the pandemic. The closing of theatres meant no money, which in turn meant no jobs. In a career as competitive as ballet, where it’s hard enough to secure a spot even without a pandemic, with everything online, my aspiration of going pro dimmed.
During my time at home, I rekindled my love for writing and I began to reevaluate things. I decided that I had nothing to lose and that I wanted to try to apply to college. Little did I know what a hectic journey I was getting myself into!
I began to research the best schools where I could explore my love for writing while continuing my passion for dance, and only then did I realize what I was up against. A lot of schools had entire pages dedicated to homeschooled applicants, detailing additional requirements, preferred recommenders, among other things. Most of the schools I wanted to apply to had low acceptance rates and valued traditional metrics. Meanwhile, I had the luxury of learning things that I was interested in, in a very untraditional way. I mean, how many public school kids get to learn about the architecture of NYC which leads them to discover the story behind the creation of corrugated cardboard? This was kind of how I learned most things, so how could I make a transcript out of that?
I worked closely with my mom to try to put my 3D learning experiences on a 2D piece of paper, and as expected, it was pretty difficult. We made a transcript and tried to do justice to all of the things I’d been learning, to the best of our ability. I realized that a lot of college admissions counselors probably don’t understand homeschooling, never mind the philosophy of learning I followed, unschooling. I knew I needed to show them just how three-dimensional my learning was. I used my essays to convey how much homeschooling has impacted me: from my genuine enthusiasm towards learning, to how I’ve developed as a person from it.
Another thing I knew I’d need to do was to take the SAT. I’d never taken a proctored test before, so the idea was scary and daunting. I’d never really had any interest in math before. I had taken a few classes when I was younger, but it wasn’t something that interested me. When I started studying for the SAT, I started math tutoring and worked on my own in the Khan Academy SAT section, and ironically, I found that I really loved math. Math concepts were starting to click for me and I gradually got more comfortable. Even after my SAT studying was over, I continued to study math and I even signed up for a math class at Northern Virginia Community College just for fun.
Right now, I’m still in the middle of the college application process, and I won’t lie, it’s not easy. It’s a lot of work, but it’s not all bad. The entire process has made me reflect on myself as a person and my identity as a homeschooler, and that has given me a valuable perspective. It’s even helped me discover new interests I might not have otherwise, and that’s the beauty of being a homeschooler, you’re always learning.
There is no right way to get to where you need/want to go, but because I was homeschooled, I had the freedom to find the way that worked for me. So, fellow applicants, I encourage you to apply the same philosophy of homeschooling to the college application process. Best of luck!
Eva Sin is a homeschooled high school senior from Northern Virginia. She has a background in all styles of dance, and passions for writing, classical piano, ballet and photography. Eva grew up in Northern Virginia exploring all things creative but decided in high school to pursue her ballet training pre-professionally. In addition to ballet, Eva is an avid writer and has participated in many young writer’s competitions as well as NaNoWriMo. In her free time, Eva also enjoys reading, painting, watching movies, and spending time with her family and friends.