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Can Homeschoolers Be Admitted to and Excel in College?

By Chris Klicka
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #31, 1999.

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Chris Klicka


At Home School Legal Defense Association, we receive calls or letters everyday from homeschoolers seeking admission to college. Among the most frequently asked questions are: "How can my homeschooled child meet the documentation requirements and still be admitted to college?" "Does my child have to take a GED or an SAT II exam?" "How can I persuade the college of our choice not to discriminate against homeschoolers? "Do homeschoolers succeed in college? What colleges are homeschool-friendly?" If you have some of these same questions, read on.

Discrimination Against Homeschoolers

Homeschoolers are growing up! And in the process they are experiencing growing pains. As more and more homeschoolers reach college age, the inquiries received by universities around the country are increasing. Some colleges are responding by streamlining their admission standards to cater to homeschoolers, while others are erecting roadblocks such as requiring GED's, higher SAT scores, accredited diplomas, or additional SAT II exams. Many are treating homeschoolers on a case-by-case basis.

In order to remedy the situation, the National Center for Home Education has been working at the state and federal levels to improve admission procedures for homeschoolers at colleges and universities across the country. The National Center is a division of the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit organization of attorneys dedicated to protecting the rights of homeschoolers since its inception in 1983. The National Center also has persuaded national college organizations to help develop guidelines for colleges to deal with homeschoolers seeking admission. We have also worked with hundreds of colleges on an individual basis to adjust their policies in favor of homeschoolers. On a regular basis, we personally represent homeschooled students as they face problems with college admission with nearly universal success.

The Winning Argument: Homeschooling Works

As I talk with college officials and speak at college admission conferences, I always emphasize that homeschooling works. I explain that the track record of homeschoolers over the last 15 years is so exemplary that the risk to the college is virtually negligible. In fact, these students will enhance the overall image of the college. I often share the following.

First, homeschooling has a proven academic success record at the elementary and secondary level. For example, in 1994, researcher Dr. Brian Ray analyzed standardized test results for 16,000 home educated children, grades K-12. He found the nationwide grand mean in reading for homeschoolers is at the 79th percentile; for language and math, the 73rd percentile. This ranking means home educated students perform better than approximately 77% of the sample population on whom the test was normed. Nearly 80% of homeschooled children achieve individual scores above the national average and 54.7% of the 16,000 homeschoolers achieved individual scores in the top quarter of the population, more than double the number of conventional school students who score in the top quarter. These same results have been confirmed again and again, most recently in the 1999 study of over 20,000 homeschooled students' test scores analyzed by Dr. Larry Rudner, Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation.

Secondly, research demonstrates that homeschoolers tend to score above the national average on their college entrance exams.

According to the 1998 ACT High School Profile Report, 2,610 graduating homeschoolers took the ACT and scored an average of 22.8 out of a possible 36 points. This score is slightly higher than the 1997 report in which 1,926 homeschool graduates and founding homeschoolers maintained the average of 22.5. This is higher than the national average, which was 21.0 in both 1997 and 1998.

Thirdly, average homeschoolers perform above average in the college setting, both academically and socially.

1994 Oral Roberts University Study

For instance, in the fall of 1994, Oral Roberts University Dean of Enrollment Management Mike Mitchell found that 212 homeschool students were enrolled, comprising about 10% of the student body. The average homeschooler had an ACT score of 24 and an SAT score of 1005, consistent with the average score for all ORU students, but higher than the national average. Mitchell's report also found that the average ORU homeschooler's GPA was 3.02, while the overall average ORU student's GPA was 2.76.

Mitchell reported that 88% of ORU homeschooled students were involved in one or more outreach ministries. Many served as chaplains in the dorms and virtually all embraced the ORU honor code as an already-adopted way of life. In addition, over 90% of ORU homeschoolers participated in intramural sports and nearly 80% in various campus clubs and organizations. Homeschoolers were active in all areas of college life, debunking the myth that homeschoolers are largely unsocialized.

1997 Galloway/Sutton Study

On October 10, 1997, Drs. Rhonda Galloway and Joe Sutton released the results of a four-year study to find out how homeschoolers fared in the college setting as compared to Christian and public school graduates. The study tracked 180 students, 60 graduates each from homeschooling, public school, and Christian school. Five success indicators were used in the study: Academic, Cognitive, Spiritual, Affective-Social, and Psychomotor.

Galloway and Sutton found that in every success category except psychomotor, the homeschool graduates excelled above the other students. Out of 12 academic indicators, the homeschoolers ranked first in 10. Out of 11 spiritual indicators, homeschoolers ranked first in seven. In cognitive skills, homeschoolers ranked first in 17 of the 23 indicators. Out of 63 total indicators, homeschoolers ranked first in 42.

Home-Educated Athletes

The National Center for Home Education has worked for several years with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NCAA) to establish guidelines to help standardize eligibility for homeschooled athletes. According to the guidelines, homeschooled athletes who have sufficiently high standardized-test scores and proof that they took at least 13 courses that meet the association's core-course standards may be automatically awarded freshman eligibility. John Morris, NCAA spokesman said that during the 1998-1999 school year, of the 49 homeschooled students applying for waiver of initial academic-eligibility for Division I, everyone was approved. Likewise, all 20 applicants for Division II were approved as well.

Homeschool Scholarships

This tremendous track record of the academic and social success of homeschoolers has encouraged various colleges to offer scholarships to homeschoolers. Oral Roberts University has established a $6,000 scholarship especially for homeschool graduates. Belhaven College in Mississippi grants $1,000 a year to qualified home educated students. Nyack College (NY) says their experience with homeschoolers has been a positive one, and awards up to $12,000 to homeschoolers: $1,000 for each year they were homeschooled.

Federal and State Solutions

Some state legislatures and departments of education, recognizing the abilities and achievements of most home educated students, have written laws or regulations addressing the problems a homeschooler may face at college entrance specifically prohibiting discrimination. HSLDA works with state legislatures to pass these types of laws concerning all colleges receiving state funds. States with such laws or policies are New Mexico, North Carolina, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota.

Last year in Congress, I crafted report language for both the United States House of Representatives and Senate Committee Reports accompanying The Higher Education Act of 1999, which encourage colleges and universities receiving federal funding to discontinue their discrimination against homeschoolers. The House Report specifically recommends that colleges and universities change any admissions policies which force homeschooled students to take additional tests beyond what is required of traditionally schooled students, including the GED and the SAT II exams. As it said:

The Committee is aware that many colleges and universities now require applicants from non-public, private, or non-traditional secondary programs (including homeschools) to submit scores from additional standardized tests . . . (GED or . . . SAT-II ) in lieu of a transcript/diploma from an accredited high school. Historically, . . . the SAT II was not designed for, and until recently was not used to determine college admissions. Given that standardized test scores (SAT and ACT) and portfolio- or performance-based assessments may also provide a sound basis for an admission decision regarding these students, the Committee recommends that colleges and universities consider using these assessments for applicants educated in non-public, private, and non-traditional programs rather than requiring them to undergo additional types of standardized testing. Requiring additional testing only of students educated in these settings could reasonably be seen as discriminatory . . .

The Committee believes that college admissions should be determined based on academic ability of the student and not the accreditation status of the school in which he or she received a secondary education.

The language of the Higher Education Act evidences the Congress's intent and enables us to negotiate with colleges from a much stronger position.

While lobbying Congress, the National Center for Home Education also met with both the American Council on Education (ACE) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and negotiated for them to contact their member colleges and request these colleges change their policies regarding homeschoolers. As a result, the ACE and the AASCU both sent letters to their members, encouraging them to not discriminate against homeschoolers by requiring GED or SAT II tests. Their guidelines carry much weight with thousands of colleges across America.

Federal Financial Aid

In times past, colleges and universities have insisted that homeschoolers obtain a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), not only for financial aid, but also for admission. However, The Higher Education Act Amendments of 1998 (Pub. L. No. 105S244) enacted in early October 1998, changed this requirement by adding my language.

Section 483 simply states that, in lieu of an accredited high school diploma or GED, a student is eligible for federal financial aid if "the student has completed a secondary school education in a homeschool setting that is treated as a homeschool or a private school under state law." [Pub. L. No. 105S244 amending 20 U.S.C. ' 1091(d)]. Fulfillment of this requirement is usually accomplished during the college admissions process when a student supplies a college with a transcript and other evidence of meeting the credit hour requirements for the completion of a high school education.

No more wasting time obtaining a GED in order to qualify for college financial aid. This way homeschoolers can avoid the stigma of being a dropout.

National Center Recommendations

Home-educated high-school graduates offer an academically creative and socially diverse background. Homeschoolers' strong work ethic and high moral values contribute to their success in college. More and more colleges and universities are recognizing their unique capabilities and circumstances. In light of the proven success of home education at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels, the National Center for Home Education recommends that colleges adopt specific written homeschool admission policies which reflect the following:

  • Home educated applicants should not be required to submit an accredited diploma or GED. Accreditation does nothing to measure a student's knowledge or what he was taught; it only reflects where he was taught. In addition, GED carries with it the stigma of being a high school drop-out. Homeschoolers are not drop-outs, but talented, conscientious students who have completed their high school education. They should not be treated as drop-outs by being required to obtain a GED.

  • If a transcript is required, colleges should have flexible guidelines for records and documentation of the basic credit hours for high school completion. Some colleges supply homeschoolers with a Home School Credit Evaluation Form that may be completed in lieu of a transcript.

  • As the primary instructors, parents should be recognized as capable of evaluating their student's academic competence in letters of recommendation. Schools frequently ask for an additional evaluation from someone outside the home.

  • SAT/ACT scores and portfolios or performance-based assessments provide schools with a solid basis for admission. Furthermore, homeschoolers should not be required to achieve higher college entrance test results than their public-school counterparts.

  • Mandatory SAT II testing in specific subjects is an unnecessary roadblock. Requiring only homeschooled students to take these tests, in addition to the SAT, is discriminatory. Colleges will discourage homeschoolers from seeking admission by holding them to this unreasonable standard. SAT/ACT testing is more than enough to indicate the academic proficiency of the student.

  • A bibliography of high school literature and an essay are two admission criteria which accurately evaluate a student's life experience and thinking skills.

  • Interviews and a review of extracurricular activities are two ways to determine overall student proficiency and leadership qualities.

The above criteria also summarize the type of documentation homeschoolers seeking college admission should prepare ahead of time. This should increase the likelihood of obtaining admission to the college of your choice.

The conclusion of the matter is homeschooling works! Homeschoolers will continue to advance and succeed in college as each student diligently applies himself in his studies.

[For more detailed information, obtain a copy of The Right Choice: Home Schooling and the College Packet, both available from HSLDA at (540) 338-5600 or www.hslda.org.]


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