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a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
December 4, 2000

Federal Financial Aid Law Revised to Recognize Home School Diplomas
February 15, 2000 1999 College Survey: College Admissions Policies Opening To Home Schoolers

As the home schooling movement grows, more and more of its students are graduating and heading for college. The National Center for Home Education estimates in 1998, at least 200,000 high schoolers were taught at home in the United States. According to a recent study, 69% of home school graduates pursue post secondary education. 1 Today, colleges are experiencing a steady influx of home schooled applicants, and it is estimated that as many as one million home school graduates will seek college admission over the next decade. 2

Research has demonstrated that home schooled students show strong academic achievement. A study released in March 1999, Home Schooling Works, found that home schooled students in grades 1–12 perform an average 25–35 percentile points above the national public school average on standardized achievement tests. The study also found that the longer a student had been home schooled, the better he or she scored. Students home schooled all of their lives achieved the highest scores. 3

Home schoolers who go on to college continue to excel both academically and socially. A 1997 study by Drs. Rhonda Galloway and Joseph Sutton found that home school graduates are more likely than public or private Christian school graduates to hold positions of campus leadership and as a group have a higher academic rating (determined from a combination of grades, class rank, difficulty of courses, etc.). 4 Recognizing that home schoolers are among their most active students, several colleges have begun specifically recruiting home school graduates or offering home school scholarships.

“While benefits of home education—like tailored curriculum and individualized instruction—are obviously tremendous advantages for the high school student, the great variety of home schooling methods poses a challenge for colleges trying to make informed admissions decisions,” says the National Center for Home Education’s Executive Director Chris Klicka. Many colleges turn to SAT II tests and GED certificates in attempt to ensure that home school applicants have the necessary aptitude to do well at their school.

Home schoolers also dislike the GED’s association with high school dropouts, added Lambert. “Home schoolers aren’t dropouts. They’re intelligent, gifted kids who have already completed a high school education.” 5

To address the concerns of both colleges and home school students, the National Center for Home Education has developed a list of Recommended College Admission Policies for home schoolers. We believe that a thorough portfolio of high school work and the results of a national standardized achievement test, such as the ACT or SAT I, are adequate to determine the competency of a home school high school curriculum. With the addition of admissions interviews and essays required by many colleges, any institution should be able to glean enough information to assess the ability of a home schooled applicant.

1998-99 Survey of College Admissions Policies

From Fall 1998 through the following spring, Home School Legal Defense’s National Center conducted an informal survey of U.S. college admissions policies. The surveys had several goals: (1) to establish what colleges and universities currently require of home schooled applicants, (2) to compare those requirements to the National Center for Home Education’s Recommended College Admission Policies, and (3) to encourage colleges and universities to loosen unnecessarily restrictive home school admission requirements and adopt the National Center’s Recommended College Admission Policies.

The National Center sent letters to 971 colleges, requesting information on their home school admission policies. A total of 513 institutions (52.8%) responded with complete information, and these usable responses were ranked in the following three groups:

Tier I. Admission policies similar to National Center for Home Education’s Recommended College Admission Policies:

A majority of the respondents (349 or 68%) had admission policies similar to the National Center’s recommended policies. These colleges typically required a parent’s transcript, general standardized achievement testing, and/or the review of a portfolio of the potential student’s materials in place of an accredited diploma.

Tier II. GED required in place of, or in addition to, any of the Tier I requirements:

Nearly a third of the respondents (144 or 28.1%) required a GED for home school admission. Many of these colleges based this admission criterion of a GED on a federal requirement for financial aid in the Ability to Benefit. However, this federal requirement no longer applies since the passage of our home school amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1998.

Tier III. Standardized achievement test scores (i.e. SAT II) required from home school, but not traditional high school, graduates:

Three and one-half percent of the respondents (18) asked home schoolers to take extra standardized exams. Also contained in Tier III were colleges requiring home schooled students to score higher than traditionally schooled students on standardized achievement tests or entrance exams. Only two respondents (.03%) did not accept home school graduates.

About a third of the responding schools (166 or 32.4%) were state-funded institutions. State funded colleges were more likely to have stringent home school admission policies: 66.6% of the Tier III schools were state funded. In Tier I, however, only 29.3% of the colleges were state funded. Tier II schools had a slightly higher percentage (36.1%) of state funded schools than Tier I. The two schools not admitting home schoolers were both private colleges.

National Center for Home Education’s Recommended College Admission Policies6

As studies consistently demonstrate, home educated high school graduates offer an academically successful and socially diverse background. Home schoolers’ strong work ethic and high moral values contribute to their success in college. It is clear from the National Center’s survey, that more and more colleges and universities are recognizing their unique capabilities and circumstances. In light of the proven success of home education at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels, the National Center for Home Education recommends that colleges adopt specific written home school admission policies which reflect the following:

  1. Home educated applicants should not be required to submit an accredited diploma or GED. Accreditation does nothing to measure a student’s knowledge or what he was taught, it only reflects where he was taught. In addition, GED carries with it the stigma of being a high school drop-out. Home schoolers are not drop-outs, but talented, conscientious students who have completed their high school education. They should not be treated as drop-outs by being required to obtain a GED.
  2. If a transcript is required, colleges should have flexible guidelines for records and documentation of the basic credit hours for high school completion. Some colleges supply home schoolers with a “Home School Credit Evaluation Form” that may be completed in lieu of a transcript.
  3. As the primary instructors, parents should be recognized as capable of evaluating their student’s academic competence in letters of recommendation. Schools frequently ask for an additional evaluation from someone outside the home.
  4. SAT/ACT scores and portfolios or performance-based assessments provide schools with a solid basis for admission. Like most colleges, the University of Missouri-Columbia relies heavily on test results and the dozen or so home schoolers they have in every freshman class “tend to have excellent test score results.” In addition, UMC emphasized that a GPA is “not a factor in admitting home schoolers.”
  5. Mandatory SAT II testing in specific subjects is an unnecessary roadblock. Requiring only home school students to take these tests, in addition to the SAT, is discriminatory. Colleges will discourage home schoolers from seeking admission by holding them to this unreasonable standard. SAT/ACT testing is more than enough to indicate the academic proficiency of the student.
  6. A bibliography of high school literature and an essay are two admission criteria which accurately evaluate a student’s life experience and thinking skills. “These home schoolers write fabulous essays!” said Emory University (GA) “Very creative!”
  7. Interviews and a review of extracurricular activities are two ways to determine overall student proficiency and leadership qualities.

The National Center hopes that these recommendations assist college admission offices in adopting reasonable policies for home school applicants, taking into account their unique circumstances and talents.


The high percentage of schools already using policies similar to the reasonable guidelines recommended by the National Center (Tier I, 67.9%), combined with interest expressed by other schools in developing more flexible policies, is encouraging news for home schoolers who want to attend college. The next 10 years will determine whether these promising home school graduates will be increasingly welcomed or excluded by institutions of higher education. The National Center for Home Education encourages colleges to work with home schoolers to create flexible, home school-friendly undergraduate admission policies.

Prepared by Chris Klicka, Senior Counsel for Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 1996, 1999 National Center for Home Education, may be reproduced with permission
The National Center for Home Education
P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, VA 20134.
The National Center is a division of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
(540) 338-7600,

1 Ray, Dr. Brian, Home Education Across the United States, Copyright 1997, p.11
2 Shah, Angela, “Some colleges raise admission bar, but just for home-schooled students” Austin, TX, The Washington Times, May 25 1999, citing Sean Callaway, director of college placement at the Center for Urban Education at Pace University.
3 Rudner, Dr. Lawrence M., The Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998, pp. 4-5
4 Galloway, Dr. Rhonda S. and Dr. Joe Sutton, College Success of Students from Three High School Settings: Christian School, Home School, and Public School, pp. 3-5
5 Lambert, Tim, personal interview by National Center for Home Education staff, May 18, 1999
6 The National Center’s Recommendations for College Admission Policies appeared in the Spring 1997 edition of The Journal of College Admission (Alexandria, VA)