Homeschool Graduates in College ~ From the Professors’ Perspective

In my pursuit to encourage homeschooling parents, I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of how homeschool graduates perform in college as experienced by the professors. I made an appeal to professors through Facebook posts, and with the responses that I received I’m going to give you some insight into what they’ve seen in homeschooled college students.

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This is not meant to be scientific, in that I didn’t poll hundreds of professors. I was looking more for personal experience, and an idea of their overall attitude towards homeschoolers. In fact, I received only seven responses. I could have pursued more, but I felt like this was a good sampling, and that by being a small number I could present their answers in their entirety. They are employed by both public and private institutions and teach a variety of subjects. I know one of them personally, but he didn’t teach either of my children. For scientific research on homeschoolers, I’ll refer you to Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI, the National Home Education Research Institute, who has done extensive polling, and compiling of that information. His reports, especially “Strengths of Their Own,” were very encouraging to me when I was raising our children – they gave me a vision, and courage that helped me face the mountainous task of homeschooling through high school.

Most of the professors preferred to remain anonymous, so I will honor that. However, one respondent specifically asked me to share his identity. When I publicly asked for college professors who might be willing to answer a short survey, someone suggested that I contact Dr. Jay Wile. In case you aren’t familiar with him, he writes science textbooks especially for homeschoolers, published by Apologia and Berean Builders. I consider Dr. Wile to be somewhat of a celebrity, so I have to admit that I was amused by that suggestion when I first read it, but then I thought, “Why not?” Not only did he agree to answer my questions, his response was the first one I got back. I was so excited, that I told my daughter about it. I asked her if she remembered using his textbooks for science and she replied, “Yep! Especially animal science, that’s what started my love for science.” Dr. Wile suggested that I add that he “experienced homeschooled students at two different universities: a secular one and a Christian one. In both cases, they were (on average) my best students.” If you would like to learn more about Dr. Wile, you can visit his website at www.drwile.com.

I’m grateful to all of the professors who took time to respond, especially since I hit them up right during finals. They all gave such great responses that I’m going to relay them verbatim. This really is everything that they said – I didn’t leave anything out.

The survey

My survey consisted of four simple questions:

1) What are homeschooled college students’ strengths in college classes?

2) What are homeschooled college students’ weaknesses in college classes?

3) What suggestions would you give homeschooling parents who want to prepare their students for the demands of college classes?

4) Is there any other information that you would like to offer?

I’m going to restate each of these questions as a sub-heading and then follow them with the professors’ responses. Dr. Wile’s will appear at the end of each section.

What are homeschooled students’ strengths in college classes?

“Most are respectful of me as the instructor and of what I am trying to teach them. Most see the value in what I have to share with them rather than seeing my classes as something they “have to” take.”

“I teach English, and I have noticed most of the homeschool students I have had are better prepared for writing assignments than the typical public schooled student is. This is obviously related to the curriculum used at home, but I think most were still exposed to grammar and mechanics in their middle school years when most public schools don’t emphasize this as much in middle school.”

“Generally speaking it’s been my experience that homeschoolers take the assignments seriously and are willing to actually work on them, and to persist working on them until they’re finished. They are also not afraid to ask for help when it’s needed and/or to work with peers and/or adults. They are also much more respectful.”

“Although home schooled students’ abilities are varied, my impression is that homeschooled students generally have good reading skills, can think critically, solve problems, and have independent ideas. They seem to be good at project based learning as well. In general, their effort and work ethic is better than average. They seem eager to learn. I have had a 16-year-old homeschooler that never had any science class before in my plant biology class (for biology majors) that was by far the best student in the class.”

“Homeschooled students have several strengths. Academically, they are more prepared for college studies. They have better English skills than government educated students, in terms of both spelling and grammar skills. They communicate better both written and orally. They are also better prepared mathematically. There seems to be a big difference between homeschooled and government educated students in both attitude and perspective. Homeschooled students are less likely to expect things to be given to them for little effort. They also tend to be more respectful, mature, and open-minded.”

“In my experience, homeschooled students are hard-working, polite, engaged students. They are not afraid to ask questions and engage with the instructor.”

“They usually can read the text and gather information from it.”

Dr. Wile: “They are the most serious about class. They always attend, ask questions, and respond when asked questions. Outside of class, they learn better on their own. When I ask questions that are covered in the reading but not in class, they are the ones most likely to answer the question correctly.”

What are Homeschooled Students’ Weaknesses in College?

“I wouldn’t necessarily call this a weakness, but some are so used to quick grading and feedback from parents that they forget that it takes time for instructors to get work graded. (This is also an issue with public schooled students, too, but homeschool students seem to expect essays back the same week they are turned in.) Sometimes the lack of immediate feedback can become a de-motivator.”

“Sort of a funny issue – but I get several homeschool students who forget to put their names on their work. They just forget that this is something I need from them.”

“Yes, I have had the awkward student who hasn’t been socialized much, but this is the rarity. Most are some of my best communicators because they were exposed to adults through volunteering, traveling, projects, 4H, Scouts, church, etc. Those who are reserved typically come around soon enough and find their niche.”

“Some of them (surprisingly to me, a homeschool mom myself who’s learning what she needs to be sure to incorporate in her own “academy”) don’t seem to have much experience taking notes in a class setting where the instructor just keeps moving along. At least one of them didn’t even realize he should copy down the examples we worked in our college algebra math class.”

“It is hard for me to identify weaknesses, especially when I compare homeschooled students to government school peers. Academically, they always do well in my courses in comparison to government school students.”

“In my experience, a great deal of homeschooled students do not know how to properly research, using electronic databases. This means they depend mostly on the internet for research, which is not where real research can be found. This also means they do not know how to properly format a bibliography in MLA or APA style. In fact, those terms are foreign to them.”

“I didn’t really see many weaknesses that differed from other students. Perhaps they were not as used to exams.”

Dr. Wile: “A perfection syndrome. Homeschool graduates are less likely to understand that there is an appropriate trade-off between efficiency and 100% accuracy. They tend to work on assignments too long in order to make them perfect.”

What Suggestions Would You Give Homeschooling Parents Who Want to Prepare Their Student for the Demands of College Classes?

“If their child is already working independently most of the time, their son or daughter is on the right track. If not, try to help the student to be as independent as possible. Let the student follow a schedule and only intervene for help. Put off grading for awhile to see how motivated the student can be without immediate gratification of feedback.”

“Do they know how to study and manage their time? Most students (both homeschool and public school) struggle here. Many students do not learn how to study for a test or know how to juggle “fun” with the time required to get homework assignments finished. Again, I see this more with public school students because they are given multiple choice tests and they often don’t do much homework. However, some homeschool students are not expecting the load they are given in college and expect it to be not much different than what they are used to doing at home. Again, this depends on the student and the curriculum used at home.”

“Read, read, read, read…encourage lots of reading. College success comes from lots of reading and independent studying.”

“Help them learn to manage their time well. In our Tuesday-Thursday math class, waiting all the way through the weekend until Monday night to start the homework discussed during Thursday’s class is too long. Waiting until the one-month mark to start studying for a unit test it too late. Math (and foreign language and music and sports, to make an abbreviated list) is better learned and longer retained when it is practiced every day. Every day. Daily. Even if/when they don’t like it. It will be incredibly, exponentially more difficult if they don’t. Schedule a time to do at least a little bit of it, new stuff, old stuff, something, every day.”

“Prepare them to strictly follow schedules, manage their time for study, and get them up to speed on academic literacy. Make sure they have their student take advantage of all of the orientation sessions, especially those designed just for homeschoolers.”

“Obviously, make sure they are academically prepared for the demands of college study. I think it is also imperative students be prepared spiritually for what they will experience. They will be exposed to atheistic/humanistic worldviews and all kinds of evils on a college campus. Parents need to make sure their child has a sound Biblical worldview that will enable them to stand strong in the faith. Students must know truth from a Biblical perspective.”

“Homeschooled students must know how to use electronic databases, have regular access to them, learn how to properly document their research, and utilize critical thinking skills in assessing whether research is credible/quality or not.”

“Work on math, writing, and reading comprehension skills.”

Dr. Wile: “Give them rigorous courses, and do not fill their days with homeschool co-ops and online classes. The strength of homeschool graduates is their ability to learn without a teacher. They can have some classroom experience, but most of their learning should be done on their own, especially in high school.”

Is there any other information that you would like to offer?

“I have been so impressed by my homeschool students that I pulled my son from public school. He started in 7th grade and is now in 8th. We have joined a once-a-week group, but we mainly did this to offer him additional socialization. Most of my homeschool students are in similar groups that we have in the area.”

“My homeschool students are some of my “favorite” students. I hate to put it that way, but they are well-mannered, respectful, almost always have their work done, are attentive and ready for class, and typically have a good work ethic. I find them to be ready to learn in a way that I don’t see with public school students. I don’t know if this is because they are excited to be in the college classroom, or if it is something else. In fact, I had a student this semester tell me she enjoyed my writing class and that she liked being in a classroom. She was nervous about it, but it turned out to be fun to hear so many points of view on various topics.”

“Another thing I think worth mentioning is that I also like it when students who are homeschooled let others in the class know. I don’t share this information with the other students, so sometimes they go through a class without anyone knowing. However, I like it when the students say something about being homeschooled. This often becomes a teaching moment for the other students who have preconceived stereotypes about homeschooling. I enjoy seeing their attitudes and ideas shift to see homeschooling in a new, different way.”

“I have always said, even as a young, public high school teacher, before I had my now-teenage kids, that “those homeschool students make the best students.”

“Most of the time, we don’t know which students are homeschooled or not. It only comes up if the student volunteers the information. It will sometimes come up in an introduction session at the beginning of class, but not always. Therefore, my observations are only about the students that I know were homeschooled.”

“I encourage homeschooled students to connect with others who are like-minded in the faith when they arrive at college. These like-minded others may be students, but may also be university faculty and staff. If a student will get connected to like-minded others, this will serve as a source of support for them.”

“I have taught at the college level for over 20 years, and I can honestly say that homeschool students are now much more prepared for college than ever before. I really enjoy having them in my classroom.”

“I could also see the importance of working on note-taking skills. Be able to write down the important discussion points from a lecture.”

Dr. Wile: “I started working with homeschoolers specifically because my very best students at the university level were homeschool graduates. That’s still the case today. Generally speaking, I can tell if a student is a homeschool graduate by the middle of the semester, because he or she is serious about class, interactive in class, and does very well, especially on those things not explicitly covered in class.  I wish I could fill my classes with homeschool graduates.”

On a More Personal Note

The professors’ comments reminded me of some of my own children’s experiences. Here are a few that I can share:

In one of our daughter’s first college classes, the teacher was addressing the students and said, “someone in our class has already taken the next test, even though we haven’t covered the material yet.” And then, looking at my daughter, she asked, “Was it you?” After Margaret sheepishly nodded her head, the teacher continued with, “Well, you did pretty well, so I guess that’s okay.”

When our son took an English Composition class, the professor asked if he could keep one of his essays to share with future classes.

Both of these examples are from when they were taking dual-enrollment classes at a community college to finish their high school requirements.

Encouraged?

When I was a new Homeschool Mom reading about homeschool graduates, I was amazed at the unique paths that they took, and the things they accomplished. Their stories encouraged me and that was what I wanted to do for you. I hope that by reading what these professors had to say about their experiences with homeschoolers that you hold your head a little higher and feel confident that homeschooling really works!

For more encouragement, I invite you to join Happy at Homeschooling group on Facebook.

Post Script – Dr. Wile wrote about this post on his own blog! College Professors’ Impressions of Homeschool Graduates

You may also like Homeschooling as a Ministry.

This post has been shared in some of my favorite blog hops.

38 thoughts on “Homeschool Graduates in College ~ From the Professors’ Perspective”

  1. I’ve always had great respect for Jay Wile, since first talking with him at a homeschool conference when my now-college-Junior was only 5. He shaped the way I viewed homeschooling through high school. He convinced me it was more important to homeschool high school than any other age, and I have been forever thankful for his encouragement in that direction (that and his high school textbooks that even I could understand, but better yet, that my students could understand independently). My oldest followed his thought-provoking, controversial, God-honoring blog (Proslogion) for years and used it as a resource when she self-designed a few of her high school courses. I loved this article, but especially Jay Wile’s responses. I am not at all surprised, by the way, that he eagerly participated. He has always been very supportive of the homeschool community and of course, you, Michelle, are a wonderful homeschool blogger… what’s NOT to love!?

  2. Thank you Mrs. Michelle for writing this!
    I found your blog through Dr. Wile’s and this post was so interesting to me!
    As a senior homeschool student myself, preparing for college, I enjoyed reading about what areas home school students sometimes struggle in the university setting.
    I laughed at the part about putting names on our papers. That is just funny!
    I also thought it was interesting that one of the professors enjoyed when his home school students shared their experiences about being home schooled. I am sometimes a little embarrassed myself to say I am home schooled because of those same stereotypes. I’ve never thought that maybe opening up a little and sharing could debunk those.
    I’ll defiantly keep all of this in mind when I go to college next year and I’ll share this with my fellow home schooled friends 🙂 🙂 Thank you so much!

    1. Haven, I really appreciate hearing from you. Thank you for taking the time to comment! I hope you have a great college experience.

  3. This is great, Michelle, and I am sharing it in just a minute. However, I want to add from our twenty-five years of experiences, if you don’t mind.
    One thing that has impressed me over the years of SAT and ACT results, compared to college in its actuality, is that my children, although taught by the same mom and roughly the same curriculum, each received higher scores that the last and, of course, more scholarship moneys, while taking the same tests. I’ve puzzled over that a lot.
    As for their comparison in class: None of mine were allowed much computer time in the home, at all. They learned to spell and to type, first, and only at the very last semester, did they use the computer as a necessity during class work time. (Footnotes! Such an improvement for that research paper! Ha!) Still, in their beginning computer classes at college, several of them became nearly a teacher’s assistant, due to so many ps classmates crashing their computers for what reason, I don’t know, and how my kids knew how to unfreeze a mouse, I also do not know. I always chalked it up to their knowing how to learn. Any subject.
    Some of mine were good writers, by nature and one did have the fun experience of his teacher reading his essay aloud in class, and a standing ovation. Another had a teacher who consistently marked the margins of her papers with “wow”. The one who probably had the most trouble with writing, for some reason, took honors English and received a scarily strict professor who sort of whipped him into some sort of shape, which he knew he needed; later he called her class the best thing that ever happened to him, although he struggled to keep a scholarship due to his grades from her.
    They did not reveal their homeschooledness (Is that a word?) and found that knowledge brought mixed reactions, way back then, from being treated as if they had germs, to being ridiculously exalted as the embodiment of perfection. Which is most embarrassing and annoying? Who knows?
    Thanks for enduring this small book! 🙂

  4. This is awesome! I now have two homeschool graduates in college and they are both doing really well. Some of their classes are online and they feel their online homeschool classes prepared them for such classes in college. I like how they were already used to following their own schedules and taking full responsibility for their educations.

  5. I love Dr. Wile! I used his curriculum in High School. I remember when I had questions I would send him an email, not thinking he would actually respond. He sent personally written emails back to me! What a brilliant scientist who loves the Lord!

    Awesome article. Congrats!

  6. My Daughter was homeschooled since birth with very few outside classes. She is about to graduate from college in May and she has never received less that a four point in a college class. She received four points even in classes where she publicly challenged the professors beliefs more than once. Her professor’s, who are all completely opposed to her political and moral views, love her so much that they have all gotten together to write letters on her behalf to nominate her for a scholarship for students who are going to work in their field directly after college. She was an average homeschool student, but an exceptional college student and has glorified God an a secular campus. Just wanted to brag on her a bit- I am so proud of her testimony!

    1. That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing! And I’m glad that you took a moment to “brag.” It’s those stories that encourage the next generation of homeschool families.

  7. What a great article, with so much to encourage us as homeschoolers, but some very practical information as well. I had to laugh at homeschoolers not putting their name on their papers! I could see my daughter not realizing that she needed to do that!

  8. This was such an encouraging read! My daughter is in her first year in college. She was born and raised in Japan, homeschooled from 1st through 12th grade after two years of Japanese kindergarten in our family’s relaxed, literature/history based, highly interest-led style. We do have some chances for socializing with other homeschoolers, but not anything like an American homeschool co-op.

    She got into one of the top art and design schools in the US, and finished her first semester with a 4.0. She has had so many encouraging comments from professors. When her art history professor was breaking the class into groups for a project the students who got put in her group were actually cheering! Apparently she is one of the only ones to answer the professors questions in class – even though she waits as long as possible to allow someone else to answer. She often tells me that she is by far the most serious student, and can’t seem to understand how so many of the kids can stand to goof off so much and not apply themselves when it’s, in her words, “their own education they are wasting”.

    She recently went to ask a professor if she could list her as a reference on an application for a part time job at the public library near her campus. The teacher was more than happy to do so, and then told my daughter that she had recommended her for an RA position for next year (without my daughter even asking for it). It’s so gratifying to see my first child out of the nest and flourishing in college. My eldest son is off to college next fall, so I am eager to see how he does (and, I’m going to double check that he knows his MLA formatting!).

    1. That’s all so wonderful to hear! Thank you for reading my post, and for sharing your daughter’s success. I’m sure your son will do just as well!

  9. I truly enjoyed this blog article. I have four high school homeschool grads, and three have gone on to community college and two to university, one online, and one on campus. Of the two who went to community college, they were always concerned, before going to college that maybe they hadn’t learned as much as their ps peers. They were sure that they were behind. They were both pleasantly surprised to find out that they both tended to be top scorers in their classrooms. This was especially surprising because both had dyslexia diagnoses that they received therapy for, so they struggled to get their schoolwork done while homeschooling.

    They were stymied by students who came to class unprepared, without homework done, and who did not listen to what the teachers/professors were telling them. They have both said that taking community college courses actually seemed easier, in many ways, than homeschooling because of the structure, but they also admitted that learning on their own is actually what prepared them the most.

    My one son who went to a university and lived on campus was the only one who really struggled for a time in school. Interestingly, he is the only one who went to the ps high school for his junior and senior years. He also was the top scorer in many of his classes at the ps high school, and his teachers were shocked when I told them he was homeschooled. They couldn’t tell. But, my son felt so much more pressure for “fitting in” and this followed him to college where he made bad choices. He had to drop out of the university for a time, and went back to community college where he did well with his classes while working full time.

    This experience helped us decide that our remaining children will finish high school at home, if possible, and with community college dual credit classes… It seems to have worked well for the two who did this. My current college student had four A’s in his classes, while working part time, and his professors actually pointed him out to the other students (much to my son’s chagrin) and told them to ask him how to study….

  10. I just found your blog and love this post. I too am a retired homeschool mom (sniff-sniff). It does go so fast!

    My own son’s experience in dual enrolled college classes and now freshman year at a state university is completely in line with these observations. (In keeping with many other homeschool students he is also attending college on a full academic scholarship and actively involved in the honors college of the university.) Given the chance to do it all over again, I would homeschool without hesitation.

    Just this weekend he was home for some quick calculus tutoring from another homeschool student (and recent Georgia Tech graduate). As these two homeschoolers sat at the dining table and collaborated over Calculus 3, I felt affirmed once again that homeschooling had been the right decision for my son.

    Thanks for starting this blog. It’s wonderful!

    1. I’m in awe at how well this post is doing, and at the number of amazing comments on it. Thank you for taking the time to add your success story, and that in hindsight you’d do it again. I would, too. Homeschooling is such a blessing!

      1. My oldest son completed his first dual enrollment class this past summer (government as his first dual enrollment class during the summer was a huge fail on my part… but back to the story). My son’s professor (who has a doctorate in law) wrote on his first paper how great it was. On his second paper, her note said he expressed himself better than any student she had ever taught. #homeschoolwin #thanksIEW

  11. Great commentary and insight. It has been my experience as a homeschooling mother that homeshooled children and families generally are more polite and respectful than their contemporaries. That’s why I find this comment, “They will be exposed to atheistic/humanistic worldviews and all kinds of evils on a college campus.”” rather shocking. College is a wonderful opportunity for kids to experience many different worldviews, cultures, religions, races and more.Lumping atheists and humanists into a group of evil is just wrong. I’d be very upset if my child’s professor espoused the above philosophy at college. It all seems rather hypocritical and intolerant, and quite the opposite of what I’d hope for my child to experience at college.

  12. So very helpful! I have a few professor friends and I hear that homeschool kids are great and often the best in their classes but I love that you added cons to the list so I know what to work on with my boys.

I'd love to hear what you have to say!