Big City, Small School

ShimerIf you had to describe a college that would be the perfect fit for most homeschooled students, what criteria would you include? For me, I’d say that a smaller school with access to lots of educational options would be a good option for my two boys. A place where they’ll have lots of opportunities to engage with other students, to know their professors, and to think deeply about the issues and ideas that interest them; a place where they won’t be lost in the crowd, that would welcome them and make them feel at home and, while I’m at it, offer scholarships just for homeschoolers.

I’m dreaming, right? Actually, no….

I recently spoke with Adrian Nelson, Assistant Director of Admissions at Shimer College, and this is exactly how she described her school.  Shimer is unique among colleges, even among smaller liberal arts colleges, in that most of their classes are small (no more than 12 students), discussion-based (no lectures), and incorporate only original sources (no textbooks). Their students are highly self-directed and have plenty of options to explore what interests them because of Shimer’s curriculum, and also because of their partnership (and shared campus) with the Illinois Institute of Technology.

So this school must be hard to get into, right?

Well, they’re certainly selective, but they love students from non-traditional backgrounds who have done interesting things and challenged themselves along the way, which pretty much describes most homeschoolers. The admissions process is a holistic application process, which means SATs are optional — they look at recommendations, transcripts, and essays to determine if applicants would be a good fit. As Adrian points out, because Shimer’s program is so small, every student has an impact on the student body, so “fit” is very important.

And I wasn’t lying about the scholarship part — they actually offer a scholarship for homeschoolers, and offer other healthy scholarship opportunities as well. Listen in to find out more about all of this, plus:

  • The two biggest mistakes homeschooled applicants make,
  • What the holistic application process entails, and
  • How your student can stand out.

If you’d like to learn more about Shimer, check out the links below. Enjoy the show!


Small School, Big City


For application information:

For scholarship information:



About Lori Dunlap

Lori Dunlap worked for almost twenty years in the corporate world, first as a management consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and then at a large research university as a program director and adjunct faculty member. In addition to homeschooling her two sons, she writes regularly about education and parenting issues. You can read her blog at, or connect with her on Facebook:

Posted on July 9, 2015, in College Admissions Research, Higher Education. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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