Homeschool to Ivy League — My Harvard Application Experience

Kristen Fang
Sep 8 · 3 min read

Secrets to getting accepted at top universities.

I’ve been homeschooled since 2nd grade. And Less than 5% of all students in the US are homeschooled. That means fewer and harder-to-find resources for all of us independent study folks. But don’t worry, here are five essential must-do’s for homeschoolers aiming for top schools.

12-year-old me playing the flute
12-year-old me playing the flute
12-year-old me playing the flute

1. Develop your talent

One of the advantages of being homeschooled is that you have TIME and FLEXIBILITY to schedule your day however you want. Sure you might have classes here and there but you 100% have more freedom and autonomy than the average public or private school student.

One trend I’ve noticed in my time is that everyone has a strength — either they have overcome the impossible (e.g., homeless to Harvard) or distinguished themselves either on a national or international level. Mine was the flute. I practiced 2–5 hours every day and developed my music skills as much as I could. In my college application, I highlighted how I was a member of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, an alumnus of the 2013 National Youth Orchestra, and winner of XYZ national/international competitions.

Time is the homeschooler’s advantage. Pick one skill that you have and develop it to the furthest extent that you can to distinguish yourself from other candidates.

2. Prove Yourself

Straight A’s on your transcript are close to meaningless for college admission readers since they have no idea whether your classes were harder or easier than the average class at a public or private school. You have to prove yourself by taking more SAT subject tests and AP exams to convince admissions of your mastery of various subjects. It will be difficult but will certainly help you in the long run. I would also recommend joining an accredited independent study program to make it easier to validate your transcript.

3. Don’t forget about extracurricular activities!

It’s easy to forget that college admissions like students with a mix of volunteering and leadership. Without pre-established clubs that you would see that a public or private school, you will have to build your own activities as a homeschooler. I started a performing arts society for students in my county and led workshops on sightreading, dealing with nerves, and more. I also volunteered as a youth group leader at my church and as an usher at a local theater.

4. Explore the world

And by world, I don’t mean go abroad, although that would certainly be fun. I mean to encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, meet and befriend people, and break the stereotype that homeschoolers have a low EQ or emotional intelligence. Building these skills of talking and having fun with people will help you stun your interviewers in the college application process.

5. Check out my YouTube video on this topic.

For more tips and insights not covered here, check out my YouTube video on my experience of homeschooling to Harvard:

I hope this was helpful, and good luck!


I am a senior at Harvard studying Computational Neuroscience. I was homeschooled from 2nd to 10th grade. I transferred to a public school for my last two years of high school. Outside of school, I am a 2013 alumnus of the National Youth Orchestra of the USA and run my own independent educational consulting practice. Check it out here.

Kristen Fang

Written by

Co-founder of | Educational Consultant | Computational Neuroscience @Harvard |

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