Homeschool students have come a long way and have cleared many hurdles to gain recognition academically. Hundreds of studies have revealed that homeschool students on the average score 20 to 30 points above the national average on standardized achievement tests. The average homeschooler's academic ability is beyond dispute. Colleges and universities across the United States as a result have begun to open their doors to homeschoolers, as I demonstrated in a recent column in this magazine.
Over the last several years, homeschoolers have begun to expand their recognition to the realm of athletics. For instance, homeschool student Jason Taylor played football at the University of Akron on an NCAA scholarship and later signed a contract to play with the Miami Dolphins. More recently, Kevin Johnson, a 6' 8" forward, received a full basketball scholarship from the University of Tulsa, an NCAA Division I school.
During the 1998-1999 academic year, the NCAA approved the academic eligibility of 49 homeschool students to receive scholarships at Division I schools and 20 homeschool students to receive scholarships at Division II schools. These homeschool athletes went on to play college basketball, baseball, volleyball, football, wrestling, track, and virtually every sport. Over the last several years, hundreds of homeschool sports leagues have sprouted throughout the states culminating in several annual national homeschool athletic tournaments. A major breakthrough for homeschool athletics recently occurred in Florida when homeschool teams were allowed to compete against public school teams.
Can a homeschooler receive an athletic scholarship in college?
Homeschoolers are receiving athletic scholarships. Both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) recognize the legitimacy of homeschool diplomas and transcripts, making them eligible for athletic scholarships in colleges throughout the country.
What steps must homeschoolers take to receive an athletic scholarship?
In applying for an athletic scholarship, being on top of your game is only part of the challenge. It is equally important to be on top of the academic eligibility, course standards, and core course requirements of the colleges in which you are interested - and to be on top of them early on. It's not uncommon for high-school juniors to be contacting universities to find the answers to these questions. By asking these questions early in the game, you will be better equipped to ensure that your transcript reflects the necessary core course requirements.
Secondly, you need to contact the colleges in which you are interested to learn more about their specific athletic requirements for your particular sport. You should also inquire whether the college is a member of either the NCAA or the NAIA. Follow up by contacting the financial aid office and asking for the necessary paperwork to begin the eligibility determination process through one of the athletic associations. This step is absolutely essential in order to obtain an athletic scholarship.
What exactly is a national collegiate association?
Founded in 1906, the NCAA comprises approximately 964 schools, classified into three divisions. Division I has 310 schools, which tend to be the larger universities. Division II has 267 schools, which are mostly intermediate-sized colleges. Schools in both of these categories offer athletic scholarships. The 387 Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. The NCAA sponsors 81 championships in 22 sports. Almost 24,500 men and women student athletes annually compete for the NCAA titles.
Member colleges and universities pay the NCAA to establish and execute standards for determining individual students' initial academic eligibility. In order to fulfill this responsibility, the NCAA has retained the ACT organization, which provides college entrance exams, to run the clearinghouse for determining a student's academic eligibility. A student's academic eligibility will determine whether he is able to practice, compete, and receive athletic scholarships. The smaller NAIA is comprised of about 100 member universities and operates much like the NCAA.
While the scholarship money comes directly from the colleges, the national collegiate associations serve the schools to determine whether a particular student is academically eligible to receive the money from the school.
Are there unique requirements for the homeschool student?
Upon contacting the NAIA, the Home School Legal Defense Association discovered that the NAIA has no specific standards for homeschool students and were not aware of more than three homeschooled applicants annually.
The NCAA, on the other hand, has eagerly worked with HSLDA to establish some clear guidelines and procedures for homeschool students. Homeschool students must, like all students, meet the NCAA initial eligibility standards in order to be eligible for scholarships at their university. Traditionally-schooled student athletes must be certified by the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse as having met the initial eligibility requirements. Homeschool student athletes must be certified as having met the initial eligibility requirements as well, but they must go through an initial eligibility waiver process administered by the NCAA national office.
The homeschool student athlete attending an NCAA Division I or Division II school must have the institution submit an initial eligibility waiver application to the NCAA national office. The waiver application must include the following:
- Homeschool transcript
- ACT and SAT test scores
- Description of the homeschool teaching environment
- List of titles of all textbooks for homeschool courses
- Copies of the table of content for textbooks utilized in core courses (a sampling)
- Samples of work completed, such as papers by the students
In addition, the NCAA also requests a letter from the parent indicating that the homeschooling was conducted in accordance with applicable state laws.
Periodically, HSLDA members have run into some difficulties along the way. When such difficulties arise, I simply call our contacts at the NCAA to clear up any problems. At the time of this article, every homeschool student who contacted me has ultimately made it through the process, making them eligible to receive athletic scholarships at the institution they were attending.
With the help of HSLDA, the NCAA has created a document entitled, Frequently Asked Questions by Home School Student Athletes. I recommend that you obtain a copy of this document which can be found on the NCAA's website at (updated) http://www1.ncaa.org/membership... It is important to read this material well in advance, before you attend the college, in order to make certain you will have the necessary items included in your transcript.
As I stated earlier, approximately 100 homeschool students each year successfully complete the academic eligibility process.
Set your goals
Above all, I cannot overemphasize the importance that homeschool student athletes keep their focus. The goal of the homeschool student should be to obtain a solid college education, not to become a pro athlete. A quick look at the statistics is sobering. There are nearly 1 million high school football players and about 500,000 high school basketball players. Of those numbers, approximately 150 make it to the NFL and only about 50 make it to an NBA team. The odds of a high school basketball player playing in the pros is 10,000 to 1. Less than three percent of college basketball seniors will play one year in professional basketball.
Homeschoolers should always take a reality check to keep themselves focused on academic success, so that when college is finished they will be able to put their education to good use. If the Lord wills, some will make it to the pros.
For the Christian homeschooler, the ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God. We need to remember that God requires us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." As we serve Him with our whole heart, soul, and mind, God will bless His people. The best advice for the homeschool college-bound athlete is to "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths."
May God bless your endeavors as you seek to serve Him through using your body, mind, and spirit to glorify Him.
For more information on homeschool athletic tournaments and sports leagues, contact the following groups:
- National Christian Home School Athletic Association
PO Box 8060
Wichita, KS 672208-8060
- Family Educators' Alliance of South Texas (FEAST)v
4719 Blanco Rd.
San Antonio, TX 78212
- National Collegiate Athletic
- National Association for
Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
- (New) Homeschool Basketball