An estimated 1,100,000 to 1,500,000 home- schooled children currently exist inside the United States (Ray, 1998). Many children are home schooled from the kindergarten level through high school, with aspirations of continuing on to achieve a college education.
Most college and university undergraduate catalogs do not specify their treatment of home-schooled applicants. Despite the fact that research shows that, on average, home schoolers achieve at a higher academic level than do their public-schooled counterparts (Ray, 1990), they do not have a “class ranking.” Furthermore, most publicly and privately schooled students have the benefit of a high school counselor as an aid in meeting post-high school goals in education. Without these benefits, many home-school families find it difficult to understand the criteria necessary for successful preparation and admission to most U.S. colleges and universities.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the admissions standards of U.S. colleges and universities for home-schooled students.
A traditionally-schooled student has little trouble in discerning the entrance requirements for the college of his or her choice. A simple browse through any college catalog will reveal its admissions standards for them. Also, a traditionally-schooled students have high school counselors at their disposal to provide advice.
A home-schooled student does not face the same situation. A dilemma occurs when requirements are not revealed for the home-schooled applicant. How does the home-schooled student face the prospect of going to college? How does this student make up for the fact that he has no class ranking? How about the student who has no standard, recognized diploma? What does a high grade point average mean when the student is home schooled, and “graded” by a parent? How is his or her high school curriculum planned when no professional counselor is available to provide advice? Also, some home-schooled students may need financial assistance and desire to compete for scholarships. How are they to know whether this is even a possibility for a student who has not gone through the traditional method of schooling?
Some home-schooled students and their families may not be aware that there may be certain qualifications necessary for a home-schooled student to be admitted, which differ from that of a traditional publicly or privately schooled student. It would be helpful to these home-school families if they were aware of the typical way in which colleges view the home-schooled applicant. This could help to give home schoolers ideas about the preparations necessary so that home-schooled students could expect and achieve success in meeting the entrance criteria for the college or university of their choice.
Review of Related Literature
Since there is no uniformity in college admissions standards throughout the United States, and home-schooled students usually do not have ready access to professional guidance counselors, home schoolers are faced with the problem of knowing and meeting the acceptance standards of the college of their choice. Furthermore, they are faced with applying to universities and colleges with neither a high school diploma, nor a class ranking.
One option that home-schooled students are given for entrance into some colleges and universities is through acceptable General Education Development (GED) test scores. According to a 1989 study, almost one in seven persons who obtains high school completion credentials does so through this alternative route (The GED, 1989). However, the GED credential for high school does not insure that students are prepared for college, nor does it guarantee success in college (Quinn, 1986). Colleges have been tightening their admissions standards because many students are coming to college unprepared for college-level academic work (Hawkins, 1993). However, high school grades do remain generally reliable predictors of achievement in higher education (Allan, 1984).
Another option given by some higher-learning institutions to home-schooled students is entrance to their institution through acceptable SAT or ACT scores. Some colleges offer special eligibility scholarships for entering freshmen who achieve particular scores on their SAT or ACT tests (Ohio State University, 1994). However, like the GED, the SAT’s ability to measure a student’s potential for college success has its limitations (Montague, 1990).
A study has shown that in recent years there has been a raising in the academic requirements for admission to higher education (Levine, 1985). Academic standards in secondary schools have gone up as a result of this increase in academic requirements (Levine, 1985). This brings about the question, “Are home-schooled students getting the quality of education needed to keep up with these standards?” The number of students scoring 600 or more on the verbal portion of SAT tests has been decreasing since 1972 (Shea, 1993b), but this doesn’t seem to apply to home-schooled students. Although the decision to home school is usually motivated by a desire to instill certain moral or religious beliefs in students (Cizek, 1993), home-schooled students have been shown to average at or above the 80th percentile on standardized achievement tests (Ray, 1990). Home schooling has shown to be an excellent way to provide a high quality academic curriculum to home-schooled students (Cizek, 1993).
Adequate preparation for college remains a major indication of how a student will score on tests (Shea, 1993a) and how a student will perform in college (Costrell, 1994). One study has shown that the amount of preparatory course work a student receives often determines how well a student does on their ACT test (Laing, 1987). According to another study, low admission standards among higher education institutions reduces the students’ performance after high school graduation (Costrell, 1994). The reason for this, says Costrell, is that low admission standards impair a student’s preparation for college work (1994). In recent years, there has been increased awareness among high school students of the needed academic competencies for college (Lopez, 1990). According to a study by Jane W. Loeb, the level of preparation that a student has when entering a program decides what type of curriculum can be offered (1993). Then, this curriculum will be the deciding factor in what the student learns (Loeb, 1993).
This study was conducted on 75 randomly selected colleges and universities located within the United States.
In October of 1994, a survey was created to gather information regarding the admissions standards of colleges around the United States and how they affect home-schooled students (see Appendix). It was necessary to obtain a list of a large number of American colleges and universities for the study, along with their mailing addresses. Among the many available books to obtain this information, this researcher selected The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges (1994), a book which contains information on many of the nation’s institutions of higher education.
A cover letter was created, explaining the purpose of the study. The survey was then mailed, along with the cover letter and a self-addressed stamped envelope, to the Director of Admissions at each of the various institutions selected. The surveys were completed and returned on various dates over the next six months.
Population and Sample Size
In order to narrow the study to a more manageable size, this study was limited to universities and four-year colleges. The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges (1994) had previously selected 300 colleges and universities with the highest academic quality and best facilities, while also making every effort to include a broad cross-section of smaller colleges, from a larger group of over 2000 four-year degree-granting institutions in the nation.
Seventy-five (25%) of the 300 institutions of higher learning were systematically selected from The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges‘ (1994) list of higher learning institutions. Since a random sample of these schools was desired, this study chose every fourth listing (1, 5, 9, etc.) from an alphabetized list of the 300 institutions. Of those 75, 51 (68%) of the colleges’ directors of admissions returned the survey with the information requested.
The data desired in this study was gathered through the use of a sample survey which was intended to obtain certain information from the selected colleges. The researcher intends that the gathered information from the sample respondents be generalizable among American colleges and universities.
The instrument used for this study was designed by the researcher. The admissions directors for the selected schools were asked to answer six questions regarding the college’s entrance requirements and home schooling.
The first question of the survey was a simple inquiry: “Do you consider home-schooled applicants for admission to your institution?” The second and third questions asked about the college’s population of previously home-schooled students. The fourth and fifth questions surveyed the entrance requirements for the institution and how they affect home-schooled students. The last question asked whether home-schooled students qualified for merit scholarships at the institution. This survey was sent to each selected college, along with the cover letter.
Treatment of the Data
The data regarding the home-schooled students’ ability to attend the college of their choice, and the terms under which they are admitted to that college, was first compiled and analyzed, then compared. The data from the sample survey was analyzed using a system of percentages.
Of the 75 colleges and universities surveyed in the study, 100% were accredited, four-year institutions. Sixty-eight percent of the 75 institutions responded to the survey. Twenty-four did not respond.
All 51 (100%) of the responses indicated that they considered home-schooled applicants to their institution, though not all of them currently had previously home-schooled students enrolled at their college. Seventy-four percent of the responding institutions did have students enrolled that had been home schooled before entering college. Six percent were unsure as to whether any of their students had been home schooled in the past (see Figure 1). Of the colleges and universities that did have previously home-schooled students enrolled, 68% had a population of home-schooled students that was 10 or less. Twenty-seven percent of the replies indicated that the number of previously home-schooled students was unknown or not publicly available. Only two institutions of higher learning had more than 10 students in this category (see Figure 2). The greatest number of previously home-schooled students reported by any institution was 250.
Entrance requirements varied among the respondent colleges and universities. Seventy-three percent of the institutions used high school class ranking as one of the criteria for admittance, though on some surveys it was noted that this would not apply to a home-schooled student. Ninety percent of the institutions also reported that they based entrance on SAT and/or ACT scores. An acceptable academic transcript was required by 94% of the respondents. Fifty-seven percent of the institutions also based admittance on whether the student had obtained a high school diploma. GED scores were also taken into consideration for admittance among 55% of 51 colleges and universities involved in this study (see Figure 3).
The fact that home-schooled students do not have a high school class ranking, nor do they typically receive a high school diploma, poses a problem for admission to the college or university chosen by a home-schooled student. As a result of this problem, 40% of the college and universities involved in this study require home-schooled students to have a portfolio of their high school course work. Thirty-five percent require students to take GED tests to ensure that the student has learned the necessary material. Eighty percent reported that they require acceptable SAT or ACT test scores for placement into their institution (see Figure 4).
Obtaining a merit scholarship is also difficult as a result of the lack of a class ranking. Sixty-five percent of the institutions involved in this study indicated that home-schooled students could qualify for merit scholarships. However, some colleges and universities noted that home-schooled students are put at a disadvantage as a result of their home education in high school. Fourteen percent of the colleges and universities involved in this study indicated that home-schooled students would not qualify for merit scholarships. The remaining 21% of the 51 institutions involved in this study said that they did not offer merit scholarships to anyone, or that all the scholarships offered were need-based.
Numerous additional hand-written comments relating to the entrance criteria were included in the responses from the various colleges and universities involved in this study. The additional required criteria included: high school grade point average, appropriate high school courses, extra-curricular activities and accomplishments, recommendations from instructors and guidance counselors, applicant essays and other writing samples, interviews, competitive audition (music school), teacher references, personal statement, and school support.
1. All colleges and universities responding to the survey indicated that they considered home-schooled applicants for admission to their institution.
2. A large majority (74%) of the colleges and universities involved in the study had previously home-schooled students enrolled in their institution, though the number of these students attending was very small. Amongst these institutions there was not a uniformity of admission standards for home-schooled students.
3. The most common deciding factor in whether a home-schooled student is admitted or not was shown to be acceptable SAT or ACT scores. Because of a lack of high school diploma or class ranking, these scores are considered a vital factor in admission by 80% of the colleges and universities.
4. Merit scholarships are not available to home-schooled students as readily as they are for traditionally schooled students.
Several directors of admission of the universities surveyed were highly interested in how other universities and colleges were handling admission of home-schooled students, as indicated by personal notes attached to the survey by these directors, requesting results of this research.
Discussion and Implications
Past research indicates that GED (“The GED”, 1989), SAT, and ACT (Ohio State University, 1994) scores can often be a factor in entrance to a college or university. This study has shown that these test scores can indeed affect whether a student is admitted into the institution of his/her choice, though SAT and ACT scores seem to be more influential than the GED.
Diversity was shown in the requirements for the admittance of students, whether from a traditional-school or home-school situation. Some higher learning institutions had a long list of criteria for admissions, such as extra-curricular activities, students essays, recommendations, interviews, and high school class ranking. Some only required an acceptable test score or high school grade point average.
A home-schooled student may need to be well informed ahead of time in order to meet the special requirements for the institution he/she wishes to attend. Proper preparation for one institution may not meet the necessary requirements for another institution. Good preparation for higher education might include SAT or ACT testing, keeping of a portfolio, and researching the admission and scholarship policies at the institution(s) where the home schooler aspires to attend.
If this research were repeated, several changes would be recommended. Among those changes would be an alteration in question number 4, “Entrance to your institution is based on.” If additional options of “grade point average,” “interview,” “recommendations,” and “essay” were made, more information would be gained from the returned surveys.
A demographic questionnaire may be of some assistance in gaining a better understanding of the significance of some of the survey replies. Included on such a questionnaire, among other things, may be the size of the institution. Answers to questions such as “How many home-schooled students are currently attending your school?” would have been more meaningful had the number of students attending the school been known.
A survey of home-schooled students who have gone on to attend institutions of higher learning would be contributive in order to gain a better understanding of what was actually expected of them when they applied to the college or university of their choice, and the difficulties they encountered throughout the application and admissions procedure.
In a future study it would be beneficial to survey a larger group of institutions, including two-year community colleges. It would be helpful to discover how community colleges or smaller colleges differ from their larger counterparts in their home-school admissions policies and standards. Do smaller institutions have more established policies?
Many four-year institutions may have a greater number of previously home-schooled students enrolled than they realize. Do most home-schooled students attend community colleges prior to attending four-year institutions? Are ambiguous freshman admissions standards in four-year colleges and universities forcing home-schooled students to enter as transfer students from more “home-school friendly” community colleges? If so, larger schools may be missing out on possible revenue from these students during their first two years of study.
Considering what was discovered by this study, it would be recommended that home-schooled students independently research the specific admissions requirements of the schools which they aspire to attend. This preparation may make the application process less arduous by knowing what is expected of them well in advance.
Since only two percent of the institutions surveyed indicated having more than 10 previously home-schooled students attending their institutions, it might be questioned whether many institutions have a firmly established policy regarding the admissions of home-schooled students, as they seem to have very little exposure to dealing with home-schooled students. This research has found that there is a need for colleges and universities to develop a specific set of guidelines and procedures for home-schooled applicants. School applications now seem to be directed towards traditionally schooled students, without much consideration of those who are schooled at home.
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