Last year, the University of Arizona system considered implementing a minimum SAT requirement for homeschoolers to receive guaranteed admission. According to the Arizona Daily Wildcat, President Peter Likins argued against it as something unnecessary, since homeschooled applicants were already attractive candidates. He noted that homeschoolers are already admitted at extremely high rates, citing the previous year, when the university admitted 20 of its 24 homeschooled applicants--well above normal admission percentages. "Send them our way," Likins said. "We love our homeschoolers."

While a few families may be disappointed that the SAT minimum was not adopted in Arizona, homeschoolers around the nation benefit more from the underlying message. Without any special rules or outside pressure, colleges are very interested in homeschooled applicants. As the number of homeschooled applicants rises and homeschooled students continue to more clearly present their accomplishments, colleges are responding with enthusiasm.

Growing Interest

The University of Arizona is not alone in its interest in homeschoolers. On the other side of the country, West Virginia Wesleyan College, a liberal arts college of 1,500 students, is also hoping to increase the number of homeschoolers who enroll. "We tend to attract about four to five students per year," says Bob Skinner, Director of Admission and Financial Planning. "Since this is a fast-growing population, it is our hope we can triple that number in the very near future."

West Virginia Wesleyan has tried to make the application process more streamlined for homeschooled applicants by dropping a previous GED requirement. Mr. Skinner's staff also has plans to add instructions for homeschoolers to all its admission materials. "We've tried to make the application process very straightforward." Skinner is also considering targeted magazine advertising to better reach the homeschool population.

At both of these institutions and at most colleges and universities around the nation, homeschoolers make up only a tiny fraction of applicants. So why the increased interest?

A Growing Market--With Benefits

"We have seen a growing number of students with this educational background, and for those competitive for admission, they have thrived," says Woody O'Cain, Director of Admission at Furman University in South Carolina. Furman has approximately 15 homeschoolers in its student body of 2,650.

As the number of applications from homeschoolers has grown, O'Cain and other admission officers have had positive experiences with homeschoolers who have been successful both academically and socially. In many ways the generation of homeschoolers attending college over the past ten years has paved the way for today's students. In the competitive admissions environment, a new source of qualified applicants who are likely to succeed is very welcome, especially if it promises significant growth or brings additional benefits.

The growth trends for the homeschooling population are undeniable. A July 2004 study released by the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that nearly 1.1 million US students were homeschooled as of the spring of 2003, an increase of 29% from the estimated 850,000 homeschoolers in the spring of 1999. Homeschoolers are now estimated to represent 2.2% of the total school-age population. As their numbers grow, homeschoolers are finding that colleges are paying more attention.

Another benefit is standardized test scores. Over the last few years, homeschoolers have tended to score better as a group than students from more traditional schools. In 2004, the average ACT composite score for homeschoolers was 22.6, compared to 20.9 for all other students. Although the College Board, the maker of the SAT test, does not currently release homeschool-specific data, the Home School Legal Defense Association indicates that the average SAT score for homeschoolers has topped that of students from traditional schools each year from 1999 to 2002.