An Evaluative Study of the Academic Achievement of Homeschooled Students Versus Traditionally Schooled Students Attending a Catholic University

Author(s): Mark Snyder

Source: Snyder, Mark. 2013. “An Evaluative Study of the Academic Achievement of Homeschooled Students Versus Traditionally Schooled Students Attending a Catholic University.” Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice 16:288-308.


Solid data on the academic achievement of homeschoolers is scarce despite the growth of the homeschooling sector. What we can know is limited by the challenges of collecting random samples of homeschoolers. One strategy is to focus on homeschoolers that attend college, comparing the academic success of the college-attending homeschoolers with that of traditionally schooled undergraduates. A new study finds that university students who were homeschooled for their secondary education had higher SAT and ACT scores and higher overall GPAs in college than students who attended Catholic or public high schools.

About the Study
Conducted as part of an evaluative study for a private, liberal arts, Catholic university, Snyder’s work focused on potential differences between homeschooled and traditionally schooled students’ college entrance exam scores and university grade point averages. The study included all first-time undergraduate students (N=408), comprised of roughly one third of students who were homeschooled (33.6%), roughly one third who had attended a Catholic high school (34.8%), and just less than one-third who had attended a public high school (31.6%). Only students who attended the same type of secondary school for all four years were included in the study.

Snyder hypothesized that homeschooled students would outperform traditionally schooled students on all measures. Using independent samples t-tests to determine statistically significant differences in students SAT or ACT scores, he found a positive and significant difference between homeschooled students and public schooled students and smaller but still significant differences between homeschooled and Catholic schooled students. Analysis of overall college GPAs led to similar conclusions, with homeschooled students having higher overall GPAs compared to both public schooled and Catholic schooled students. However, t-tests regarding both student major GPA and core GPA did not yield significant differences across student groups. As homeschooled students outperformed traditionally schooled students on two of four measures, Snyder determined that homeschooled students are academically valuable to the university.

It is helpful to know how homeschool students at one university are doing. But whether we can generalize from these results to broader segments of homeschooling is not clear. The analysis of SAT/ACT score differences is uninterpretable, since the tests preceded college and we do not know whether the homeschoolers who attend this university are unusually high on standardized college entrance tests, or whether the traditional public schoolers or Catholic schoolers are particularly unusual in a negative direction. Alternative explanations are too close at hand, such as the possibility that all else being equal this university holds their homeschoolers to a higher SAT standard for admission. The SAT findings are not useful, but the GPA findings could be very helpful, at least in answering the question of whether homeschoolers do particularly well at this university compared to Catholic or traditional public schoolers. But the analysis should account for demographic and family background information on the sampled students to be sure that the differences are not due to sector differences in average levels of these variables. Assuming that problem is dealt with, some comparison between characteristics of the homeschoolers in this sample and national samples of homeschoolers would help to determine how distinctive the homeschoolers in this sample are. Snyder suggests that further study into the different practices and approaches toward homeschooling would provide evidence as to which pedagogical models are most effective in preparing students for undergraduate study. Snyder points in a helpful direction, analysis of homeschoolers’ college success, but we need pre and post measures and an analysis that accounts for family background and demographics as well as any other differences in support for college. 

Keywords: higher education, homeschooling, college entrance tests, college preparation

Sector: Catholic,  Homeschool,  Public

Outcomes: Academic,  School Choice,  School Organization

Date Posted: 2014-10-29