Homeschooling: Beyond High School

Homeschooling, and it’s many forms, remains a popular topic in the educational field. Growing at a rate of 2% annually, and according to projections by NHERI (National Homeschool Education Research Institute) in January 2019 will accelerate to an annual percentage of nearly 8% within the next 3-5 years, it’s not surprising that it remains a topic at the center of many discussions regarding education. Homeschooling began gaining popularity in the early part of 2000. For the first time, colleges are beginning to see a larger population of homeschool students entering their institutions. Do many homeschoolers attend college? How do they fare integrating into main-streamed education? How well do minorities, the fastest growing demographic of homeschoolers, do as homeschoolers entering higher education? Before 2000, homeschoolers found it difficult to enter colleges. Strict college entry guidelines limited or even denied homeschool students access to most colleges. Colleges required high school transcripts, official diplomas, school records, annual testing scores and (often) GPA’s of 3.0 or over. Students under the age of 18 were often not considered. Within just a few years, however, as the early “boom” population of homeschoolers started reaching mid-late teens, college admission offices began noticing a trend; more students were applying as homeschoolers. Some of these students were high school students supplementing classes, with regular classes or dual credit classes, and many were younger than 18. And, in many circumstances, they were outperforming their public school peers. Colleges began making policy changes to include homeschoolers. Many began accepting individually created transcripts and portfolios. Portfolios gave admission offices a greater understanding of students and their multi-level experiences that demonstrated students were gaining the education and social skills in many forms, not just traditional education methods. As early as 2012, colleges were reporting data that showed homeschool students, including minority students, graduated at a higher rate than their peers- 66.7% compared to 57.5% of publicly educated students; and, with higher grade point averages. Surveys also showed that instructors considered the homeschooled students to be better adjusted socially than their peers and more adaptable to their learning environments. A 2016 report from NHERI indicated that colleges reported homeschoolers scored anywhere from 15-30% higher on college and achievement testing and entered into their institutions with generally higher ACT/SAT test scores. By 2017 homeschooled students have become identifiably more mainstream in college admissions. In an interview for an article on TranscriptMaker (a home education resource site) a college admissions officer stated, “Being homeschooled isn’t enough to make you interesting anymore.” Homeschool students are not only continuing to enter the continuing education system, but it has also become expected and embraced by the higher education community. Now more than ever, homeschoolers are entering into colleges and universities. In 1999, homeschoolers accounted for just 1.7% of all K-12 students, with an increase to 3.4% in just under 13 years. Most sources claim that there isn’t data to show exactly how many homeschool students there are in 2019; and rightly so as many states are not required to report statistics on homeschooling, but the estimates can be interpreted as high. Growth, nationally,  has continued at a rate of 2% with some regions showing a 25% increase and some even higher- recent data (2019) has shown that North Carolina has experienced a spike in secular-based homeschooling as high as 40%. With so many more students entering higher education institutions, what are colleges looking for? What traits and skills do homeschoolers bring that is unique to their education? Do homeschoolers attend trade schools? Information in regards to homeschoolers attending college is even more scarce than statistics on homeschoolers in general. According to Community for Accredited Online Schools, in 2010 4% of all college students were homeschooled; higher than the national rate of homeschooled students K-12. Most data suggests that homeschooled students enter into higher education with better ACT/SAT scores, score higher on the entrance and level placement exams, and graduate at a higher rate than their peers. Homeschool students also enrolled with more college credits via dual enrollments during high school years; public and private school students averaged six college credits before entering higher education while homeschool students averaged 14.7. Anecdotal evidence suggests that homeschool students overall are well prepared; academically, socially and in their ability to adapt to a new environment. Homeschoolers did experience a few challenges, however, including adjusting to fixed schedules. Admissions officers and instructors for colleges and universities have made changes to their requirements to open their doors more to homeschool students. Now, officials accept home-generated transcripts and diplomas. Many colleges note that homeschool students bring “a fresh perspective” to their educational environment; their wide variety of extracurricular activities, innovate coursework and broader world views have generated a competitive environment among some colleges. Yale, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are just a few of the top schools that are actively recruiting homeschool students and providing specialized admissions requirements. Trade schools have not been as accepting of homeschooled students at colleges and universities. Trade schools, which are typically privately owned and operated for profit, must comply with federally regulated rules and guidelines. Until 2015-2016 homeschool students were almost exclusively denied entrance into a trade school. HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) began investigating the claims in 2016 as discriminatory practice and discovered that the primary reason trade schools outright rejected homeschooled students was a concern that without proper documentation (an accredited high school diploma or transcripts, GED) they could be audited by federal higher education regulators and be at risk for losing their own accredited status. HSLDA has been advocating for the rights of homeschool students to enroll in trade schools and has demonstrated to these institutions that homeschool students are largely accepted into mainstream colleges and universities with the qualifications that they provide and are eligible for federal education grants and loans. HSLDA recommends that homeschool students approach applying to trade schools with as much documentation as they can provide; include their portfolio, home-generated transcripts, diplomas and receive a GED if possible. As recently as 2018, homeschool students still experienced discriminatory practices while applying for trade schools. HSLDA encourages families to contact legal counsel if they feel that the denial of their students’ application was due to an unfair practice.

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