Homeschooling and Higher Education

mom and teen using laptop

As a result of the recent growth of homeschooling in the US, colleges and universities have received an increasing number of applications from home-schooled students. Admissions offices have found it necessary to assess whether and how their admissions requirements should be modified to allow a fair review of the credentials submitted by homeschooled students. As yet, relatively few applicants are homeschooled and limited information is available on college and university policies.

Although it is impossible to determine the exact number of homeschooled children in the U.S., most estimates confirm growing numbers. Five to ten years ago, researchers estimated that there were 500,000 to 1 million students in home-based education programs in the U.S. (Cohen, 2000). In findings from Spring 1999, Parent Survey of the National Household Education Survey (Parent-NHES) estimated that 850,000 students nationwide were being homeschooled. In 1999, this was 1.7 percent of U.S. students ages 5 to 17 in the grade equivalents of K-12. Eighty-two percent of the homeschoolers were schooled at home only, while 18 percent were also enrolled in public or private schools part-time (Bielick, 2001).

mom and teen daughter studying

According to the Parent-NHES, the majority of homeschoolers are white. Homeschooling parents have more education that non-homeschoolers, while the average household income of homeschoolers in 1999 was the same as non-homeschoolers. Parents cited several reasons for homeschooling their children--because they felt able to provide a better education at home, because of religious reasons, and because they perceived that their child had a poor learning environment in a traditional school (Bielick, 2001).

Apart from this survey evidence, several small-scale research studies offer perspective on the college-going experience of this first generation of home-schooled children. Rudner (1999) authored a peer-reviewed journal article that presents the results of the largest survey and testing program for homeschooling students to date and Galloway (1995) has prepared a paper on homeschoolers' academic preparation. Other information has been prepared by the National Center for Home Education and the Home School Legal Defense Association, two organizations that seek to advance homeschooling.

Are Homeschoolers Prepared for College?

Toch (as quoted in Galloway, 1995), estimates that 50% of homeschooled children attend college, the same percentage as children educated in public schools. But are these students skilled enough to compete successfully with conventionally-schooled students in the college setting? Galloway (1995) concludes that homeschoolers and traditionally educated students demonstrate similar academic preparedness for college and academic achievement. And according to Rudner (1999), achievement test scores of homeschooled students are high. The students' average scores were typicality in the 70th to 80th percentile, with 25% of homeschool students enrolled one or more grades above their age-level peers in public and private schools. Christopher Klicka, Senior Counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association, reports that homeschoolers tend to score above the national average on both the SAT and ACT, the primary tests used by colleges in evaluating college applicants. A study of 2219 students who reported their homeschooled status on the SAT in 1999 showed that these students scored an average of 1083--67 points above the national average of 1016; similarly, the 3616 homeschooled students who took the ACT scored an average of 22.7--1.7 points above the national average of 21 (Klicka, 2002).

older teen using computer

Homeschoolers and College Admissions

Most colleges have received applications from homeschooled students and have developed policies for evaluating their records. A number of admissions departments have set specific standards by which they judge homeschooled students, with most preferring to consider student portfolios, a transcript of coursework prepared by parents, and the student's SAT or ACT test scores (Patrick Henry College, 2000). Cafi Cohen, author of The Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook estimates that three-quarters of universities have policies for dealing with homeschooled applicants, and emphasizes that homeschoolers should seek early counsel from colleges in which they are interested, even prior to entering the 9th grade (Cohen, 2000).

Financial Aid and Homeschoolers

Because of regulatory requirements tied to student financial aid, some colleges and universities have raised questions about whether homeschooled students are eligible for admission and for financial aid. The Higher Education Act, the federal law authorizing financial aid, restricts schools from admitting students unless they have obtained a "recognized equivalent of a high-school diploma." To comply with this, some colleges have admitted homeschooler students only if they have earned a General Education Development (GED) diploma or have passed a federally approved test showing that they have the "ability to benefit" from attending college (Morgan, 2003).

In June 2002, Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon introduced a bill (HR4866) that clarified that homeschooled students would not have to obtain a GED or pass any other standardized tests that college use to determine a student's "ability to benefit" from college. The measure was defeated on the House floor, it could reemerge.

How Do Homeschoolers Fare in College?

Current evidence indicates that homeschoolers' college academic performance is comparable to that of traditionally educated students. Oliveira's study (as cited in Galloway, 1995) found no significant differences in critical thinking skills among college freshmen who had graduated from different types of high schools, including home schools, public schools, conventional Christian schools, and accelerated Christian education schools (Galloway, 1995). Sutton and Galloway (2000) also investigated the undergraduate success of college graduates from home schools, private schools, and public schools nationwide. They used 40 indicators of college success that reflected five domains of learning outcomes-achievement, leadership, professional aptitude, physical activity, and social behavior. They concluded that overall the students from all settings received equivalent educations.

Additional Resources About Homeschooling and Higher Education

The National Center for Home Education: Rating Colleges & Universities by their Home School Admission Policies

Patrick Henry College, the First Postsecondary Institution for Homeschooled Students


Bielick, S.; Chandler, K.; and Broughman, S. (2001). Homeschooling in the United States: 1999 (NCES 2001-033). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved June 2, 2003 from

Cloud, J. and Morse, J. (2001, Aug. 27). Home Sweet School. Time Magazine. Retrieved August 8, 2003, from LexisNexis(TM) Academic Database.

Cohen, C. (2000). Happily Homeschooling Teens: HIgh School Requirements and College Admissions. Arroyo Grande, CA: Author. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 446 845)

Foster, J. (2000). Home Schoolers Score Highest on ACT. WorldNetDaily. Retrieved July 21, 2003, from ID=17950

Galloway, R. (1995, April). Home Schooled Adults: Are They Ready for College? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA (ERIC Document Reproduction Service ED 384 297)

Klicka, C.J. (2002, May 31). Home Schooled Students Excel in College. Retrieved July 21, 2003 from the Home School Legal Defense Association website at ue

Morgan, R. (2003, Jan. 17). A Growing Force: In Fight for Federal Student Aid, Home-School Lobby has Powerful Friends. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 49, 19, A19. Retrieved February 25, 2003, from

Patrick Henry College Opens for Home Schoolers (2000, Summer). Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 28.52.

Rudner, L.M. (1999, March). Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998. Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 7, No. 8. Retrieved June 5, 2003 from

Schnaiberg, L. (1999, March 31). Study Finds Home Schoolers Are Top Achievers on tests. Education Week on the Web. Retrieved July 20, 2003 from 0schnaiberg

Sutton, J. and Galloway, R. (2000). College Success of Students from Three High School Settings [CD-ROM]. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 33,3, 137-46. Abstract from: Dialog OnDisc: ERIC Item EJ 612 229

Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education