COLLEGE PERFORMANCE: Homeschooled vs. Traditional Students

Record: Martin C. Yu, Paul R. Sackett, and Nathan R. Kuncel, “Predicting College Performance of Homeschooled Versus Traditional Students.” Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 35, No. 4 (2016): 31-39. [Available Here]

Summary: Yu, Sackett, and Kuncel are from the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota. In this article they examine the college performance of 732 homeschooled students to discover whether high school grades and standardized test scores are predictive of their college grades and retention. Then they compare the homeschooling group to a demographically-matched group of students who graduated from traditional schools.

Previous studies on postsecondary academic outcomes have found that homeschoolers tend to perform above-average. However, this is misleading because their families also tend to be better-educated and wealthier than the average non-homeschooling family. Furthermore, these previous studies have suffered from small sample sizes.

Data was provided by the College Board on 825,672 first-year students from 2009 to 2011 at 195 postsecondary institutions across the United States. Of these were 732 students at 140 postsecondary institutions who were homeschooled at the time of taking the SAT. Matches between the homeschooling and non-homeschooling groups were made on the basis of post-secondary institution, gender, ethnicity, high school GPA, SAT score, and socio-economic status. This very exact matching allows for direct comparisons between the 732 homeschooled students and the comparison group who attended traditional public/private schools.

When comparing homeschoolers to the full sample of traditional students without controlling for any demographics, homeschool students had, on average, a higher high school GPA, a higher SAT score, and a higher first-year of college GPA. However, they also had a higher socio-economic status, and there were no differences in college retention.

When the 732 homeschooled students were compared to a sample of traditionally schooled students with comparable SES profile, high school GPA, and SAT score, homeschooled students appeared to show no differences in their first year of college GPA nor in their retention.

The correlation between a student’s high school GPA and the post-secondary outcomes of first year of college GPA and their retention in college was much stronger for traditionally schooled students than for homeschooled students. For homeschooled students, their SAT score did a significantly better job of predicting their performance in college. This appears to be reflected in the admissions policies of homeschooled students. In a 2004 survey of 55 colleges, 74.5% of them placed a high importance on SAT or ACT scores for homeschooled students.

The authors conclude that while homeschooled students can be as successful as their traditionally schooled peers in college, there is no indication that having been homeschooled is an advantage or a disadvantage in college. When matched on characteristics such as ethnicity, income, SAT score, and high school GPA, homeschoolers look very much like their traditionally schooled peers when it comes to their college performance.

Appraisal: Many studies such as Snyder (2013), Cogan (2010), and Saunders (2009) have attempted to document homeschoolers’ success in college. However, this study by Yu, Sackett, and Kuncel is by far superior because of its large sample size spread among 140 postsecondary institutions. Furthermore, by controlling for several demographic factors such as income that have been shown to affect college performance, the authors are able to demonstrate that in the end, homeschooled students tend to perform very similarly to their traditionally-schooled peers.

However, in light of its strengths, let us be clear about what this article does not tell us. Namely, this article does not help us to understand the academic performance of homeschoolers overall because the homeschooled students who take the SAT may be different in some way from the general homeschooling population. In fact, while the representativeness of the College Board data is unclear, this study may support the patten of lower-than-expected SAT testing among homeschoolers that was noted by researchers at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. More investigation is necessary; however, if true, such low participation rates in the SAT and ACT would suggest that homeschoolers are underrepresented at competitive four year degree-granting institutions.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in reviews are not the official views of ICHER or of its members. For more information about ICHER’s Reviews, please see the «About these Reviews» Section.

This entry was posted in Academic Achievement, College/Postsecondary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.