A Brief Review of Homeschooled Students in College by Bolle-Brummond and Wessel

Brian D. Ray

National Home Education Research Institute, Salem, Oregon, USA

Experienced homeschool parents and home-educated students have heard certain questions, repeatedly. Both the genuinely curious and philosophically-negative critics of homeschooling have been making claims such as the following aimed at homeschooling for about 30 years now:

  • The homeschooled will not do well in the ‘real world’ of adulthood?
  • What about socialization? Children and youth cannot be properly socialized in a home-based education environment.
  • Too many who are homeschooled never have to deal with the ‘Other,’ so they will never be decent, civil, and respectful.” (see, e.g., Apple, 2005; Reich, 2002)

But what does research say about the long-term outcomes of homeschooling? Mary Beth Bolle-Brummond and Roger D. Wessel (2012) have given scholars and the public new insights into the experiences of adults who were home educated and then were in the college scene. In this study, they explored, from a longitudinal perspective, the influence of the adults’ “… homeschool background on the college experiences.

In an earlier study, the authors examined the transitional first year of college for homeschooled high school students. In it, they identified issues that were important during the first year of college “… (e.g., leaving home, independence, meeting others with different world views) and several institutional interventions that were helpful to them” (p. 224). Five years after that, the authors returned to the same individuals “… to explore, from a longitudinal perspective, the influence of their homeschool background on the college experiences, including their academic and social integration into college, and environmental pull factors, such as work, finances, and family commitments” (p. 224).

Bolle-Brummond and Wessel employed qualitative research methods and interviewed these adults who were home educated. It was an in-depth study of five adults who came from a wide variety of backgrounds. For example, one withdrew from college during her third term, while another graduated quickly, earned a master’s degree, and was already pursuing her doctorate.

The researchers’ findings were similar to those of others who have studied homeschool graduates. For example, they reported the following:

Academically, students had to get used to classes being at a specific time, but were prepared to complete reading and assignments on their own. Jeff felt well prepared and explained that many of his core classes, such as chemistry and history, seemed to be a repeat of high school coursework. (p. 233)

The students felt that homeschooling had prepared them well for college academics. They specifically credited their educational background with preparing them to be self-motivated and organized learners. Both John and Eva indicated that homeschooling equipped them with the ability to figure things out on their own. Rebecca was surprised that she got good grades by doing what she described as merely following the syllabus. She explained, “I got A’s in all of my classes, I couldn’t understand it at first. I couldn’t understand how I got the grade for doing nothing more than what the syllabus asked. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything special.” (p. 234)

The researchers found that these young adults were often leaders in class, and they found study groups to be a good way to develop relationships with other students.

Depending on the nature of the project, the students [who were home educated] frequently took a leadership role in group assignments. This was often motivated by the desire to earn a certain grade, and to ensure that the project was competently and successfully completed. John felt that professors intentionally paired him with students who were not as committed to projects. (p. 236)

All of the study participants reported that their families were supportive of them attending college. “The students’ largely indicated that their parents gave them freedom and flexibility to adjust and integrate into college life” (p. 238). And all of them worked for pay at some point during their college career.

Researchers Bolle-Brummond and Wessel did not present any earth-shattering conclusions, at least as far as probably most homeschool parents and young adults are concerned. Their findings, on the other hand, might surprise some negative critics of homeschooling. Overall, they were ready for college and did well there.

Nearly all of the students were largely prepared through homeschooling to be academically and socially successful. The students indicated that homeschooling equipped them with organizational skills and self-motivation in their studies. While they had to adjust to a formal educational setting and different teaching styles of their professors, this did not negatively affect the students’ ability to learn and succeed. (p. 241)

Some of them reported aspects of being home educated being particularly beneficial to exploration and learning in college. Consider the following:

Another student indicated that homeschooling allowed him to be less influenced by stereotypes, enabling him to be open-minded in developing friends from various backgrounds. This corresponds with the experience of homeschooled participants in Holder’s (2001) study, who indicated that they were less influenced by their peers and had more self-confidence. (p. 241-242)

Those students who were committed to college completion from the beginning of their college careers did very well, overall.

The students who persisted to graduation exhibited strong involvement in both academics and co-curricular activities. Through involvement in religious organizations, fraternities, honorary societies, and residence hall associations, they developed friendships. After their first year, many students took on leadership roles in on-campus organizations. This compared with findings of other studies which demonstrated that homeschooled students were largely well socialized in college, at a level comparable with their traditionally educated counterparts … (p. 243)

Some people think that if researchers have no astounding findings to report, then the study was not worthwhile. In light of decades-long criticisms of and negative hypotheses related to modern homeschooling, however, these researchers’ closing remarks are notable:

We found that they experienced college in many of the same ways that other, non-homeschooled students, did. In most regards, their undergraduate experiences were unidentifiable from the overall student population: they were normal college students. (p. 247)


Apple, Michael W. (2005). Away with all teachers: The cultural politics of homeschooling. In Bruce S. Cooper (Ed.), (2005), Home schooling in full view: A reader. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Bolle-Brummond, Mary Beth, & Wessel, Roger D. (2012). Homeschooled students in college: Background influences, college integration, and environmental pull factors. Journal of Research in Education, 22(1), Spring, 2012, 223-249. Retrieved February 29, 2012 from http://www.eeraonline.org/journal/files/v22/JRE_v22n1_Article_10_Wessel.pdf.

Reich, Rob. (2002). The civic perils of homeschooling. Educational Leadership, 59(7), 56-59. ¯


  1. The “Perspectives – News and Comments” section of this journal consists of articles that have not undergone peer review.