If one was to name a leading institution of higher education in America, Harvard University would definitely be one of the first to come to mind. After all, anyone with the name Harvard on his resume is practically guaranteed an open door to all kinds of profitable careers. The trick, then, is to get into such a prestigious school.
In recent years, various individuals have proclaimed that their entrance into Harvard was paved by homeschooling. But what about after they get in? Are they up to the task and able to succeed?
Harvard’s student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, recently explored the question of how homeschooled students manage the transition to the prestigious university. According to the three former homeschoolers that the paper interviewed, there have been some challenging things about the adjustment. However, there are also several ways in which they feel that homeschooling has given them an advantage over their classmates.
1. Increased Interest in Learning
The average Harvard freshman has already spent 13 years surrounded by the classroom walls of institutional schooling. As such, the prospect of four years of higher education can be met with a bit of malaise.
Not so for homeschool student Claire Sukumar. She told The Harvard Crimson that the years she spent outside of a traditional classroom energized her interest in learning. “’Generally, I feel less burnt-out than other people do. I never felt the need to get time off or to adapt here; I was really excited to go to school and then college,’ she said.”
2. Greater Thinking Ability
Early in 2017, Reuters reported that many Americans seem incapable of independent thinking. In all likelihood, some of this problem can be chalked up to the fact that students are all taught the same thing and in the same way in the nation’s public schools.
But homeschooled students are not influenced by such thinking. According to Harvard student Kemen Linsuain, homeschooling enables “a less rigid thinking style” which enables greater creativity, flexibility, and sometimes even efficiency.
3. More Self-Directed
In addition to pre-programmed thinking, those who grow up attending a traditional classroom are conditioned to be spoon-fed their marching orders. Homeschooler Olivia Farrar has observed firsthand that this can get to be a problem when students enter the more free-form style of higher education and struggle being their own manager. Farrar told The Harvard Crimson:
“‘I’m not used to having these chunks of the day where somebody else has decided for me what I should be doing with my time,’ Farrar said. ‘I think time management has always been one of my assets just because it was organic. I had to tell myself to sit down and do my homework. Nobody told me to do it.’”
U.S. politicians, teachers, parents, and others continually affirm the need to ensure that the next generation is full of innovative, ambitious, and thoughtful individuals. Given the testimony of these three Harvard students, is it time we realize that institutionalized schooling is not the best path toward that goal?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.