From Homeschooled to Harvard!

By Christacia Darelus

Thank you to Emily and Elisha Ford for the interview.  Thank you for sharing your experience about homeschooling and getting into Harvard! Your story was inspiring to me, and I am sure that this story will inspire other teens to reach high!

Harvard girls

Christie: What was the transition like going from homeschooling, to attending Harvard University?

Emily:   It was a challenge, but also pretty simple.  People put a lot of emphasis on Harvard as a big school that’s top of the line on education, and it is. You know, movers and shakers…Ivy League. However, the move into that academic environment is easier for independent workers, which I am used to due to being homeschooled. My actual challenge was adjusting to so many other students being around since my class at home consisted only of my two sisters and l. Despite that, it was a smoother transition and a lot easier to adapt to than I thought.

Elisha:   I went from learning on my own time to learning on someone else’s schedule. This is where you build your own life and discipline kicks in. You are an adult now, which takes some adapting to.

Christie: Describe your experience with applying for colleges. Was Harvard your first choice?

Elisha: Yes, it was my first choice, and the experience wasn’t as bad as people said it would be, because I had good grades. It was more like picking and choosing, rather than going after schools.  It was actually liberating, being able to choose my own future.

Emily:  It was like when you get to the end of a really good book…you do have to move on to read another. You reach that point where you have to pick a school. For me it was Harvard, and it was really great to have high scores! It made it easier to see the many options that were available. Preparation and testing was actually more difficult.

Christie: What is the atmosphere like at Harvard?

Elisha: The atmosphere is not what you would think when you think of Harvard.

I thought that everyone was going to be a nerd and that it would only be school work all the time. Definitely not! We are definitely invested in our academics.  However, there are so many clubs, activities, friendships, and events. There is so much to do, it’s literally its own community! There is also the SREC, which is the Spiritual Religion and Ethics Council.

I want to become a lawyer and practice Ethical Law. Learning about different people and different beliefs is a component of that.  It’s Ivy League and really is a great place to be.

Racially, we are a minority. Besides skin color, being a female also makes us a minority.  In the class of 2021, this is the first year that we have more people of color than others. There are 51% of people of color, and 48% Caucasian.

Christie: What good qualities do you have that you believe may have helped the admissions office pick you, other than your GPA?

Elisha: A smart kid is not rare. What they do look for is qualities that you can’t learn in school. Some of those qualities are the ability to adapt to situations, and dedication to community.

We’ve been in Karate for 7 years. We are Blackbelt candidates. Colleges look for that discipline. We have been Nassau County Girl Scouts for 9 years. That shows dedication.

We are also members of the Cooperative Learning Group for Home Schooled Children. We’ve been taught by Ophthalmologist Doctors, Chemists, NASA Scientists, Accountants, Broadway Directors, college professors, etc.

Emily: With Girls Scouts, we were able to show effort and dedication to maintain our abilities as well.  A lot of kids wait until the last year of high school to do community service.  We were members of the Teen Advisory Group Student Council for the local Library all through our high school years. We did community service cleaning the library, organizing the books, reading to the younger children etc.

We also did community service projects on the first Saturday of every month throughout the school year since the 7th grade. We did things like make dog treats for shelter dogs and read to people in the hospital.

Christie: What were your thoughts when you received your acceptance letter? What were your worries? What were you most excited about?

Emily:  My first thought was, oh man, I got in! This is a competitive school. I’m gonna have a lot of work to do! Being a millennial has definitely affected my view of big schools and Ivy Leagues, and the atmosphere and mystery surrounding college in general.

I thought this is amazing, but how am I going to pay for this! Harvard has been the goal since…for a long time! I love kids and want to do Pediatric medicine. I am now one step closer to achieving this goal.  Now what? I can now choose my life!

Christie: Describe the workload that you receive on a daily basis.

Elisha: The workload is not crazy difficult, but still challenging. In a 3-month period, there has been so much reading and writing. It is definitely way more intensive reading and writing than high school.

Christie: How long were you home schooled?

Emily: I was homeschooled from 4th to 12th grade. I went to a private school from pre-k until the 3rd grade.

Elisha: I was homeschooled from 3rd to 12th grade and went to a private school from pre-k until 2nd grade.
Christie: Do you ever get to see Malia Obama on campus?

Emily: We do get to see Malia, but we’re not in any of her classes. I have actually been mistaken for Malia before while walking to class. One day on my way to class, there was a crowd of tourists looking at a statue in Harvard Yard, and I heard one guy in the group say ‘Malia?’. They didn’t speak English and I guess their translator wasn’t there.

So, the guy turns around and says, ‘Malia!’  So, I’m looking around like where is she? They were looking at me! Next thing you know, there was an entire crowd around me. I felt like Nemo in the movie…and I started speed walking to get away from the crowd.  I didn’t want to be in trouble for impersonating anyone! Lol!

Christie: What is your major?

Emily: We are both majoring in Liberal Arts for now.  We’ll matriculate later into Medicine and Law. I am minoring in Psychology because as a Pediatrician, some of my patients wouldn’t be able to speak. I also want to understand the perspective of parents to calm them down.

Christie: What keeps you motivated as you go through your college years?

Elisha: The lack of well-paying jobs!

Emily:  The vision of my future and my end goals. Knowing that it’s all going to pay off keeps me going.

Elisha: Me too!

End of Interview