I am convinced that kids should not go to college. It’s overpriced, it’s nonessential to getting a job, and you are more likely to earn a ton of money if you take unconventional paths.  Not that earning money is the primary goal of  life, but for the amount of money college costs, it should be the primary goal of college.

So, I have written a lot of posts about why I think kids should not go to college. But to be honest, I’m stressed already about how I’m going to get my kids into college, even though homeschoolers are more likely to go to college than non-homeschoolers. So what I’m truly stressed about is how to get my kids into a top college, and how to get a scholarship.

Lisa Nielsen, at The Innovative Educator, has a great post about how to get homeschoolers into college. She quotes an admissions officer from Dartmouth who really inspires me. He says, “The applications from homeschoolers I’ve come across are outstanding. Homeschoolers have a distinct advantage because of the individualized instruction they have received.”

So here’s what I’ve come up with, so far, for how to get a homeschooler into a top college.

1. Live in a terrible school district. 
It makes sense, first of all, to not pay high taxes since you’re not using the schools. But another thing to think about is that colleges actively recruit from school districts that don’t typically send kids to college. College call this managing for geographic diversity.

I could never totally picture how this makes sense until I lived in rural Wisconsin. Most kids never hear about out-of-state schools here, so just sending in an application from our zip code will stand out to a school. Suddenly you go from being an overpopulated demographic (rich, white, girls, for example) to an affirmative-action candidate.

2. Take a year off to study for the SAT.
Top colleges use The Academic Index to determine the strength of each applicant. This index combines numbers that a homeschooler won’t have, like class rank, with SAT scores. Which means that for a homeschooler, SAT scores are super important since it’s one way to compare apples to apples in the applicant pool.

The SAT covers very specific types of questions that you can study for. So, if your kid is driven to get into a top school, the kid can take one year to practice the SAT. Every day. With a tutor. Over and over again. School kids are busy being distracted by English literature and writing papers and eating in the cafeteria. A homeschooler can focus on getting a high score. And, yes, it’s teaching to the test, which we all think is BS, but it’s just one year. That seems okay to me. (And, even if you don’t do this, you’ll be happy to hear that when it comes to the SAT, homeschoolers are scoring higher than kids in regular school.)

3. Play a sport or learn an instrument.
You need a hook
. Especially if you have no demographic oddities, like first-generation to go to college, foreign-born, or, the best: black male.

You need something that makes you stand out. It’ll be great if your kid can win the science fair or get an amazing internship with the person who is solving world hunger. But if you wait until high school to find out if your kid can do that, it’s too late. On the other hand, if your kid is playing a sport or an instrument their whole life, it will be something that makes the kid legitimately different from all the other kids, which is important. And, for a school that needs a middle-hitter or a piccolo player, you will be a good match.

For kids who go to school, a sport or instrument is a huge time commitment and difficult to do. If you don’t go to school, this is just a small part of the day and comparatively non-intrusive.

The thing I’ve really learned from my research is to not worry about my kid getting into college. It’s easy as a homeschooler. But if I want my kid to go to a top college, I need to start planning now.