College Admissions Offices Adapt to Homeschooling Popularity Boom

Published March 24, 2016

More parents than ever are turning to homeschooling as an alternative to enrolling their children in failing government schools, and colleges and universities are now adapting their admissions processes to better accommodate homeschooled children’s unique backgrounds and skills.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education suggest the number of homeschooled children in the United States has increased by 61.8 percent between 2002 and 2013.

‘Better Prepared’

Lennie Jarratt, the education transformation project manager at The Heartland Institute, which publishes School Reform News, says home education generally prepares children for college better than government schools do.

“For the most part, homeschoolers are better prepared,” Jarratt said. “They have already learned how to study independently and are very self-directed. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschooled students achieve a higher [American College Testing] score, 26.5 compared to 25 for the overall population. They also have higher retention and graduation rates.”

Jarratt says colleges and universities are now seeking out homeschooled children.

“There are colleges that are actively recruiting homeschooled students,” Jarratt said. “Just one decade ago, this didn’t happen.”

Challenges for Parents

Jarratt says the road to college for homeschooling families still contains significant challenges.

“The biggest item parents need to do is to maintain a transcript of courses taken and their grades,” Jarratt said. “In some instances, parents and students just have to ask questions of the college, including the willingness to ask for supervisors, when necessary. Scholarships are the one area where I see the most bias remaining. This is typical with scholarship-granting local organizations, such as a chamber of commerce.”

Rise of the Homeschooled College Kid

William Estrada, director of federal relations at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a nonprofit “advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” says the boom in homeschoolers heading off to college is the result of significant growth in homeschooling nationwide.

“There is absolutely an increase in the number of homeschooled students applying to college for one simple reason: The number of homeschoolers is continuing to grow, and homeschool graduates are graduating from high school and heading to college,” Estrada said. “HSLDA’s research has shown that homeschool students are better prepared for higher education than their traditionally educated peers. In addition, homeschoolers, due to their unique flexibility in learning, often have more diverse life experiences, including volunteering, politics, and community service.

“As homeschooling has become more popular, colleges and universities have gone from skeptical of homeschooled graduates to welcoming them with open arms,” Estrada said. “The system is working and does not need to be changed.”

Greater College Demand Expected

Estrada says Common Core, a set of national curriculum standards for government schools, may make homeschooled college applicants even more attractive to college admission officers.

“As the Common Core gains traction in public schools, you will see colleges and universities want more homeschool graduates, not less,” Estrada said. “They know that homeschoolers will be the best higher-education students because of their rigorous homeschool education. Homeschoolers have shown that education needs to be about what is best for the person, not about some hierarchical system.”

Andy Torbett ([email protected]) writes from Atkinson, Maine.