Is Homeschooling Beneficial? Does It Affect My Application?

Julia de Raadt
Julia de Raadt

Julia has dedicated much of her career to education. Since commencing with Empowerly, Julia has looked after the research team which handles student questions on different topics about college admission.

Since the pandemic broke, there has been an uptick in the number of students being homeschooled. For many, homeschooling is a temporary move brought on by the pandemic, and has taken various forms. Some (like myself) have opted to bring a tutor into the home. Other families have banded together into “pandemic pods” to have their children taught together. And finally, in some cases, parents are teaching their children themselves. 

I admit, bringing a tutor temporarily into my home was the easy way compared to taking on the full responsibility of educating them myself. And for our family, it’s only a temporary measure during the pandemic. After six months of online learning resulting in demotivated kids, they needed an alternative to get them through this period of school closure. However, many parents have chosen to homeschool their children themselves as a permanent measure. For these families, the home can offer more than traditional school. They believe an education at home can better cater to a child’s natural abilities and individual needs than traditional education.

So what can homeschooling offer that traditional learning doesn’t—and are there disadvantages to it? If families do decide to homeschool, how does it impact college admission?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Homeschooling

In making a decision on whether to homeschool, parents should weigh up the pros and cons. Any change to a student’s learning environment is disruptive and takes adjustment, so parents and students alike should give it careful consideration before venturing down this path. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when making this decision.

Advantages of homeschooling 
  • Flexibility around what and when to study.
    • Individualized learning: parents can adapt teaching methods and pace that best suit the student’s learning.
    • Flexible schedule: parents and students can find a schedule that works best for both of them.
    • Personal attention: the student gets undivided attention and doesn’t have to share the teachers time with a classroom of students.
  • Better quality education at a lower cost: if quality of available education is poor, homeschool may offer better quality at a fraction of the cost.
  • Better social environment: students who have difficulty adapting or are bullied at school may find homeschool a better, happier environment.
  • Enhanced family relationships: more time together results in stronger family bonds, between both parent and child, and siblings.
Disadvantages of homeschooling
  • Time investment: teaching is a huge investment of time. Parents must carefully consider whether they can invest the amount of time to educate their own children.
  • Social isolation: school at home can be socially isolating if not coupled with group activities or learning.
  • Lack of resources: some subjects require expensive resources and or facilities which parents cannot provide in the home (for example, a science lab). 
  • Lack of subject expertise: parents will not have the same expertise as a subject-specific teacher, particularly at the high school level.
  • Too much time together: parents and students might find spending too much time can strain their relationship and make learning difficult.
  • Lack of motivation and patience: a student’s motivation may wane when taken out of a stimulating and competitive environment, and parents patience may be tested.

Bear in mind that there are ways to get around the drawbacks of homeschooling. High school students might wish to resort to courses taught online or at a community college as they advance to a higher level. Students feeling socially isolated can join in extracurricular activities, or even partake in group learning with other homeschooled students. And several families can pool their resources together in order to provide the necessary equipment or tools to teach a particular subject. 

How Does My Homeschooled Senior Apply to College?

While you may be convinced that homeschooling is a better option for your child, doubts may come to surface when it comes time to apply to college. What does a homeschooled applicant need in order to apply to college? Are homeschooled applicants treated differently from any other applicant (or even disadvantaged)?

Academic requirements

Admission requirements for homeschool applicants don’t differ greatly from applicants who have attended an institutional high school. Colleges ask for a high school transcript, which is standard for any other applicant. As a homeschooled student, your parent or primary teacher is responsible for creating your high school transcript and for sending it to your colleges. The transcript should look like a standard high school transcript, including: 

  • a list of all the courses you have taken in high school, with the number of credits and the grade earned for each
  • a cumulative GPA for each year
  • a cumulative GPA across all four years

If you have taken courses with an online high school or community college, that’s great. You should submit transcripts issued by these institutions with your application.

Examples of academic requirements
  1. NYU requires the following:
    • Proof of Graduation
    • A homeschool diploma
    • A certificate of completion considered the equivalent of a high school diploma in your home state
  2. UPenn requires “a consolidated transcript that pulls together and organizes your academic work. If the name of a course isn’t clear or needs further explanation, include a brief course description. Course listings, grading/rating scales, syllabi, lab work, reading lists, textbooks or historical/current information help enhance our understanding of your academic program.”
  3. Harvard states the following: There is no special process, but all relevant information about your educational and personal background is welcome.  In addition to the application, all applicants must submit standardized tests, a transcript (you may create your own), and recommendations.
  4. Caltech states “Depending on your experience and the transcript that you present, it may be necessary for you to attach additional explanations of your coursework.”

Be aware that while many colleges have moved to test-optional policies, that isn’t a blanket rule. Colleges may still require homeschooled applicants to submit test scores. Pitzer, for example, is test-optional for all applicants except homeschool students. Submitting SAT/ACT, SAT subject tests and/or AP tests can attest to what homeschoolers have learned. It also solidifies the fairness of the grades reflected in the transcript. 

Is a Homeschooled College Applicant at a Disadvantage?

There is no evidence to suggest that homeschooling disadvantages you in the college admission process. A 2016 study by the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) shows a difference. Homeschooled students scored between 15 and 30 percentage points higher on standardized academic achievement tests. While a little outdated, this study from 2010 found that homeschooled students not only possess higher test scores but also higher grade point averages (GPAs). Additionally, they see graduation rates when compared to traditionally-educated students.

These strong academic achievements could result in higher admission rates than  traditionally-educated students. Unfortunately, data on admission rates of homeschooled students compared to students from a traditional high school education isn’t available. However, anecdotal evidence points to equally successful admission outcomes. Harvard documents the admission journey of three homeschooled students in their blog. Articles like this are great for providing some insightful lessons on applying as a homeschooler. These students from North Carolina were homeschooled and admitted into several top colleges.

Questions? Let us know!