I promised to update readers on the story of my "unschooled" son's college quest. Last seen, he was working himself to the bone prepping for a second assault on the Chemistry subject test with no classroom experience of the subject. He was also working on applications and essays for applications to 13 schools. ( We had qualified for a fee waiver for the 12 schools using the Common Ap)
Here is what happened: He got into his 3 back up choices, and did not get into any of the Ivy league/top engineering schools. He did get waiting listed for Georgia Tech which is a prestigious school in the world of Computer Science, but as we are far from independently wealthy , and we understood that there was almost no hope of sizable financial aid off of a waiting list, we could cross this option off straight away.
Here is what also happened: My son received an email from his Harvard interviewer expressing honest disappointment and even dismay that he had not gotten accepted by Harvard. She had felt that he was a great candidate and could only remind him now that admissions committees make mistakes. Her email was both well-intentioned, and painful for my son to receive. He had to wonder if perhaps we just didn't create a viable application that accurately represented his skills and accomplishments compared to those of school kids? I immediately felt the guilt of the home school mom….what did I know about being a guidance counselor? Why did I decide to award grades on his transcript when I do not believe in grades and now realize that other homeschool transcripts do not include grades? How many other mistakes might I have made in how I represented his free-form sponge-like learning abilities?
Here is another thing that happened: His top "backup" choice offered him about $40,000 of aid, mostly in outright scholarships.
My son and I spent a few days feeling sorry for ourselves. We both loved the idea of those serious schools with their focused driven student body. That was the kind of environment my son has dreamt about, a place where he would find like-minded souls whose skillset would compliment his, and together they would be able to dream up projects and ideas to change the world. He has worked very hard, very much on his own for a long time.
We both thought about back-up plan B, which is to not attend college next year. He is in the middle of a very exciting interesting programming project with a kid from Canada, who he met at MiT Splash. He could envision devoting himself to projects like this, many of which are likely to realize profit eventually, one way or another.
However, if nothing else, my son needs people to play chess against. I think that he and I are coming around to feeling quite convinced, that in the end, he will attend the top "back-up" school. (a school not generally viewed as a backup anyway) If the experience is disappointing, he can work on transferring to one of his dream schools. Alternatively, if he likes the school experience, an undergraduate degree from this good school would be a logical stepping stone to one of his dream schools.
We have both concluded that we (or maybe it is fairer to say "I") made a decision a long time ago to educate this child in the most creative and natural way possible. It should not now be a surprise that he does not fit into the mold of top college candidate. We are slowly taking heart from the experience which is a reminder of his most unique education, that in the end is not readily definable. His unusual path will continue to unfold.
As an addendum, it was apparently a year of record-breaking numbers of applications to top level schools, and without perfect SAT scores and every other qualification in place…..