5 of the Best, Non-Ego Boosting Reasons to Apply to an Elite School


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As homeschooling parents, many of us have doubts along the way as we are Homeschooling for College. Then we see stories like the college admissions scam and we wonder how things will turn out for our teens. Most of us have seen the news by now. The elite college admissions scandal broke and 50 people were arrested for all sorts of fraud- from fixing test scores to made up sports profiles.

Along with the outrage and fall out that comes from witnessing so many misguided parents, there’s been a lot of negative press about elite schools and the admissions process in general.

Many of our homeschool peers have been vocal about their disdain not only for the inflated admissions process but about the elite schools themselves. And, I understand. It’s a flawed system.

Is there a reason to seek out and attend an elite school that doesn’t have to do with status?

As parent of teens who apply to elite schools, the answer is, without hesitation, yes.

Here are 5 of the Best Non-Ego Boosting Reasons to Apply to an Elite School.

Apply to Elite Schools to Be Challenged

dress from from a fashion studio
Our daughter’s draping project from a first year fashion design course

That is not to say there is no challenge at other schools.

But, not all colleges and universities provide the same rigor in the same disciplines.

As gifted learners, our teens are seeking specific academic challenges and they choose the schools that will be best equipped to sustain the challenge for them.

Our college students are challenged with:

  • High emphasis on academic opportunities– it’s not just about achievement. It’s about what is available to be learned if you reach out and take advantage of it
  • Exposure to world renowned experts in a field– not only can they be mentored by these folks but the university environment benefits from their work as well whether it’s courses, facilities, opportunities, etc
  • Engaging with experts in their field– they listen to lectures, have conversations, and learn from some of the world’s best academic minds

Apply to Elite Schools for the Right Program

5 of the Best, Non-Ego Boosting Reasons to Apply to an Elite School- a college aged boy stands in the airport with his luggage.
Our oldest returning to Purdue after spring break.

Our teens apply to programs and schools that are strong in their area of study.

Applying to strong programs means:

  • Researching schools early– even if your teen’s interest in a particular school is not set in stone
  • Being prepared with their high school program– regardless of their focus during the high school years
  • Shifting gears– or adding something in to be ready for a run at admissions
  • Catching up– if things have changed and you need more requirements met, our teens will turn the jets on and make up for lost time
  • Having a plan B– we all need a plan B and it needs to be one we can live with

Our oldest clinched his love for writing in high school and focused on admission and scholarship to Purdue University for their Professional Writing major. This major is not just English or technical writing and requires a minor along with it.

Our second teen distinguished between various fashion design programs to land on Cornell University for their academic approach to design. Cornell University provides her with the only Ivy League fashion design program and offers fiber science along with courses like Forensic Botany. Rebecca takes, the motto “any person, any study” to heart with her academics.

Apply to Elite Schools for the Resources

dresses on the half scale forms in a fashion studio
The fashion studio has industrial machines and other resources available to students.

Elite schools are resource intensive.

The resources can come in the form of:

  • available courses
  • multiple sections of courses
  • equipment
  • learning tools for their areas of study
  • stocked libraries
  • world experts in a field
  • machine shops
  • photography studios
  • research facilities

It is not uncommon for smaller schools to tag into resources offered by larger, more resource rich schools. This was true when I went to college and it’s still true today.

One fashion program our daughter looked at farmed out some courses to bigger schools. She takes a class now with a student from another local school (with a large price tag) who is there because his program does not offer that particular course.

Resources are a deal breaker for us.

Make sure your prospective college student understands what resources will be available to him.

Apply to Elite Schools for Research

Rebecca’s design from the March, 2019 Cornell Fashion Collective Runway Show. Photo: CFC

It’s related to resources, but make no mistake, elite schools get a lion’s share of research dollars.

If your student wants to pursue STEM or other research oriented studies, consider a run at an elite school.

We can scoff at elite programs, but the truth is faculty at these schools are pulling in a lot of research grants (because they are experts in their field) which:

  • Build into the infrastructure of a school– by upgrading facilities to accommodate their research
  • Allow them to pay for more graduate students– so there is robust research taking place which can have an effect on programming
  • Set aside money to take on undergraduates– in lab and research spaces which is a boon to your student if they take advantage of it
  • Give more opportunities to students in general– including yours, through resources and academics

Apply to Elite Schools for Reputation

woman standing next to a statue of Neil Armstrong
Enjoying a moment with Neil Armstrong on our trip out to drop our Purdue freshman off for the first time.

This one is tricky.

Certainly, a degree from an elite school is not necessary for success.

There are a number of factors that lead to eventual success in life after college and character is at the top of the list.

However, there are a few other indicators here:

  • Studies show that minorities do better– in the job sector after earning an Ivy League degree as do those whose parents do not have a college degree.
  • Company recruiting– some schools are favored by companies that like graduates from certain schools. Of course, the opposite is true as well. This is especially true in the business and tech world.
  • Actually it can matter where you go to college– a Washington Post commentary refuting some articles posing the opposite view
  • Check out the percentage of people employed in fields related to their major– this is a telling number and most schools have this information on their website. No matter what your teen chooses, this is an important metric.

All that to say, even if it doesn’t matter where you go to school, it can’t hurt to attend an elite school.

Elite Schools are Not a Good Fit for Everyone

The Beginner's Guide to Preparing a Homeschooler for College - a homeschooled high schooler works on college applications

Of course, there are reasons not to apply to elite schools.

Skip the elite school applications if:

  • Paying for it will mean accruing lots of debt– even after financial aid, of course
  • Your teen’s personality cannot handle the intensity– elite schools tend to breed a culture of stress. It’s no joke.
  • Your teen doesn’t want to– this seems simple, but despite all the reasons to seek out a competitive admission, what really matters is where your teen will find a good fit.

The point here is that if you choose not to apply to an elite school, make it for the right reasons.

Elite schools are not without merit

or their academic reputation.

Help for Applying to Elite Schools

design school 1- a close up of a jar of paint brushes

We’ve mentored two of our teens into their first choice universities with required portfolios and scholarship applications.

Homeschooling for College by Design

young woman in a Cornell shirt smiling

Homeschooling for College by Design is a course for homeschoolers who want to package their custom high school programs for colleges and universities, including those with competitive admission.

You see, all the hype is misleading.

What elite universities want is authenticity- on every level.

Homeschoolers are in a prime position for this line of thinking.

Why did you begin homeschooling in the first place?

Leaning in to our students’ interests and talents is what we focus on in our homeschool along with the skills necessary for thriving in any setting.

But, how do you take a custom, interest led, and skill honed homeschool education and package it for elite admission?

In this course parents and teens learn about:

  • Dual enrollment– whether or not it’s worth it and what it’s really helpful for and if you can really double dip credits
  • Ways to earn college credit– so you can take some with you or earn it during the summer
  • College entrance exams– which one is right for your student and how to prepare and perform well
  • Transcripts– how to make a good one, what to include and what not to include, and you get an official transcript builder as part of the course. It’s the bonus!
  • Writing college essays– how to write an essay that memorable for admissions officers reading thousands during application season
  • The Common App– homeschooling parents have a large role in this part of the process because you are your student’s guidance counselor. This lesson covers all the parts you are responsible for and how to write them honestly and well.
  • Applying to competitive schools– how to present your student to Ivy League schools, elite research institutions, and service academies.
  • Financial Aid & Scholarhips– how to apply and when along with common pitfalls in the process. We know because we hit a few!
  • Applying to Art & Design Schools– how to put together a portfolio for the program your teen is looking at and when to start

Common App Checklist for Homeschoolers

The Common App requires a lot from homeschooling parents.

You are the advocate for your teen’s application process.

Subscribe below and receive a mini-lesson from the course, Homeschooling for College by Design.

Along with an eBook on The Common App, you’ll receive homeschooling for college support with regular tips, advice, and resources.

There is a place for elite school admission that doesn’t focus on social status.

Elite schools have

abundant resources,

academic rigor,

access to brilliant people,

research opportunities,

special programs.

If your student is looking for a challenging academic environment,

it’s ok to consider an elite school!

Join Membership & Have a Mentor to Help you with College Admission

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