Home-school students have cleared many hurdles to gain academic recognition. Research reveals that home-school students score an average 20 to 30 points above the national average on standardized achievement tests. Colleges and universities across the United States have begun to open their doors to home schoolers.

Over the last several years, home schoolers have begun to earn respect in athletics. For instance, home-school graduate Jason Taylor played football for the University of Akron on a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) scholarship and later signed a contract to play with the Miami Dolphins. More recently, Kevin Johnson, a 6'7" forward, received a full basketball scholarship from the University of Tulsa, an NCAA Division I school. When the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes faced North Carolina in March 2000, Kevin became the first home schooler on record to play in the tournament known as March Madness.

During the 1998-99 academic year, the NCAA approved the academic eligibility of 49 home-school students to receive scholarships at Division I schools and 20 home-school students to receive scholarships at Division II schools. These home-school athletes went on to play college basketball, baseball, volleyball, football, wrestling, track, and virtually every sport.

Over the last several years, hundreds of home-school sports leagues have emerged throughout the states, culminating in several annual national home-school athletic tournaments. A major breakthrough for home-school athletes recently occurred in Florida when the Florida State Legislature decided to allow home-school teams to compete against public school teams.

What Steps Must a Home Schooler Take to Receive an Athletic Scholarship?

In applying for an athletic scholarship, being on top of your game is only part of the challenge. It is equally important to be on top of the academic eligibility, course standards, and core course requirements of the colleges in which you are interested -- and to do it early on. It is not uncommon for high school juniors to be contacting universities and asking these questions. By finding the
answers early in the game, you will be better equipped to ensure that your transcript reflects the necessary core course requirements.

Secondly, you need to contact the colleges in which you are interested to learn more about their specific athletic requirements for your particular sport. You should also inquire whether the college is a member of either the NCAA or the NAIA. Follow up by contacting the financial aid office and asking for the necessary paperwork to begin the eligibility determination process through one of the athletic associations. This step is absolutely essential in order to obtain an athletic scholarship.

What Exactly Is the National Collegiate Athletic Association?

Founded in 1906, the NCAA comprises approximately 964 schools, classified into three divisions. Division I has 310 schools, which tend to be the larger universities. Division II has 267 schools, which are mostly intermediate-sized colleges. Schools in both of these categories offer athletic scholarships. The 387 Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. The NCAA sponsors 81 championships in 22 sports. Almost 24,500 men and women student athletes annually compete for the NCAA titles.

Member colleges and universities pay the NCAA to establish and execute standards for determining an individual student's initial academic eligibility. In order to fulfill this responsibility, the NCAA has retained the ACT organization, which provides college entrance exams, to run the clearinghouse for determining a student's
academic eligibility. A student's academic eligibility will determine whether he is able to practice, compete, and receive athletic scholarships. The smaller NAIA is comprised of about 100 member universities and operates much like the NCAA.

While the scholarship money comes directly from the colleges, the national collegiate associations serve the schools to determine whether a particular student is academically eligible to receive the money from the school.

Are There Unique Requirements for the Home-school Student?
 
The NCAA has eagerly worked with HSLDA to establish some clear guidelines and procedures for home-school students. Home-school students must, like all other students, meet the NCAA initial eligibility standards in order to be eligible for scholarships at their university. Traditionally-schooled student athletes must be
certified by the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse as having met the initial eligibility requirements. Home-schooled student athletes must be certified as having met the initial eligibility requirements as well, but they must go through an initial eligibility waiver process administered by the NCAA national office.

Upon contacting the NAIA, the Home School Legal Defense Association discovered that the NAIA has no specific standards for home-school students and was not aware of more than three home-schooled applicants annually.

The home-school student athlete attending an NCAA Division I or Division II school must have the institution submit an initial eligibility waiver application to the NCAA national office. The waiver application must include the following:

1. Home school transcript;
2. ACT and SAT test scores;
3. Description of the home-school teaching environment;
4. List of titles of all textbooks for home-school courses;
5. Copies of the table of content for textbooks utilized in core
courses (a sampling); and
6. Samples of work completed, such as papers by the students.

In addition, the NCAA requests a letter from the parent indicating that the home schooling was conducted in accordance with applicable state laws.

Periodically, HSLDA members run into some difficulties along the way. When such difficulties arise, HSLDA simply calls our contacts at the NCAA to clear up any problems. At the time this article was written, every home-school student who contacted us has ultimately made it through the process, making him eligible to receive athletic
scholarships at the desired institution.
 
With HSLDA's help, the NCAA has written Frequently Asked Questions by Home School Student Athletes. HSLDA recommends that you obtain a copy of this document from the NCAA's Web site at
http://www.ncaa.org/eligibility/cbsa/home_school.html. It is important to read this material well in advance of the time to fill out college applications, in order to make certain you will have the necessary items included in your transcript.

Approximately 100 home-school students each year successfully complete the academic eligibility process, so remember: you're not alone.

Set Your Goals

Every college student's goal should be to obtain a solid education, not to become a pro athlete. A quick look at the statistics is sobering. There are nearly 1 million high school football players and about 500,000 high school basketball players. Of those numbers, approximately 150 make it to the NFL and only about 50 make it to an
NBA team. The odds of a high school basketball player playing in the pros are 10,000 to 1. Less than three percent of college basketball seniors will play even one year in professional basketball.

Students who remain focused on academic success will be rewarded by a useful education, regardless of whether their athletic career ends at the high school, college, or professional level. If the Lord wills, some home schoolers will make it to the pros.

As Christian home schoolers, our ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God. God requires us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." As we serve Him with our whole heart, soul, and mind, God will bless us. The best advice for the home-schooled, college-bound athlete is to "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths."

For more information, contact the following groups:

National Christian Home School Athletic Association
P.O. Box 8060
Wichita, KS 672208-8060
Phone: (316) 684-6953

Family Educators' Alliance of South Texas (FEAST)
4719 Blanco Road
San Antonio, TX 78212
Phone: (210) 342-4674

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Indianapolis, IN
Phone: (317) 917-6222
http://www.ncaa.org

National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
Tulsa, OK
Phone: (918) 494-8828
http://www.naia.org

Chris Klicka is Senior Counsel of the Home School Legal Defense Association, as well as Director of State and International Relations. He is the author of several books, including "The Right Choice." He and his wife Tracy home school their seven children.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, established in 1985, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the right to home school in the courts, state legislatures, and the U.S. Congress. HSLDA promotes home schooling through commissioning research and working with the media, colleges, and in many other areas. To receive more information on how you can join HSLDA call 540-338-5600 or visit their Web site at www.hslda.org.