How do homeschoolers transition to college? Remarkably well.

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Are you so afraid of the transition from homeschool to college that you’re scared to homeschool high school? 

Winter is the time of year when homeschooling parents traditionally begin thinking about next year. (Sometimes with that long, daunting 2nd semester ahead, it’s more appealing to consider next year than to finish this year, #amIright?)

If you have an 8th grader, you may be terrified as you think about what you’re going to do next year for high schoolYikes. Continue homeschooling or put her in public school? And you might be even more terrified worrying about the even more significant transition from homeschool to college.

You might even wonder whether you measure up academically; if you’re even capable of leading your children through high school and preparing them for college. And what about the rigors of college, compared with homeschooling? Will they be able to do the work? And how will they fit in with everyone else after homeschooling all these years? Can they even get INTO college without going from public high school?

You’re in good company! I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t have at least a little anxiety as they think about homeschooling high school and preparing their children for college.

But let’s think about this a minute…

This worry about college may by causing you to doubt whether or not you should homeschool high school. To that, I ask: have your reasons for homeschooling changed between 8th and 9th grade? Are you thinking about deciding to put your kids in public school out of fear?  

I have to say — our homeschooling years in high school were among my favorite years to homeschool. Getting to know your kids as almost-adults and having this precious time with them just before they leave the nest is the BEST. THING. EVER. For you AND for them. Please don’t waste those years by putting them in public school just because you are fearful. Because you think they won’t be able to transition from homeschool to college without going to a “real high school.”

We have a big God. He promises to work in and through you!  Don’t give up so close to finishing the job!

I know you want to do the best for your children.  But in most cases, homeschooling them really may be the best!

Perhaps it would help to read what the research has to say about how homeschooled students adjust to college.

happy mom and homeschooled daughter optimistic about college


Understanding what the research has to say about the transition from homeschool to college will be reassuring to both you and your students.

Although there hasn’t been a ton of studies in this area, there are a few with some fascinating results.  Among them is this one: Transitional Experiences of First-year College Students Who Were Homeschooled, by Mary Beth Bolle, Roger D. Wessel, and Thalia M. Mulvihill, published by the Journal of College Student Development (Vol. 48, No. 6, Nov.-Dec. 2007).

This study examines the adjustment of first-year college students who entered college directly after finishing high school at home. This study begins by stating the facts below. Read these carefully:

  • According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (1999), the number of homeschooled students has nearly tripled just since 1991.
  • Homeschooled students outranked public school students on standardized tests by 15-30 points and “perform well in college and leadership activities and tend to be independent and critical thinkers who are gainfully employed.” (Ray, 2003)
  • Other benefits of homeschooling include “better relationships with siblings and parents, more opportunities for interaction with people of different ages that lead to developing friendships with various ages and genders, and a better relationship with adults.” (Cox, 2003)
  • A favorable quote from Brown University’s Dean, Joyce Reed, who stated:  “These kids are the epitome of Brown students.  They’ve learned to be self-directed, take risks, face challenges with total fervor, and they don’t back off.”  (Sutton, 2002)

Did you get all that? Homeschooled students are excelling in their transition into college.  


quote about homeschoolers excelling in college.


In spite of the above accolades, the study also cites some common concerns about homeschoolers entering college, such as the familiar What about socialization?  And an added apprehension: Do homeschoolers have a broad enough view of the real world [to successfully deal with] the exposure of different people and views?

These may be some of the questions you have asked yourself as you’ve considered whether or not to homeschool high school.

So what did this study discover about the transition from homeschool to college?

First, let’s look at the criteria the study examined. The Bolle, Wessel and Mulvihill study discussed the various transitional stages of a group of homeschooled students as they:

  • left home
  • adjusted to living with greater independence
  • met others with differing values, backgrounds, and worldviews
  • compensated for more traditional teaching styles and academics
  • had to comprehend new behavioral norms
  • formed new relationships
  • eventually acquired a sense of ownership and belongingness to their new college community.

Interestingly, these are a few of their findings:

1Although all of the students in this study experienced loneliness upon arrival at college, all of them were able to “step outside their comfort zones and meet new friends.”  In this particular sample of students in a diverse student body, homeschooled students were able to meet other like-minded students as well as come in contact with others who were very different.

2.  Although they all eventually made like-minded friends, it took some longer than others.  Those who maintained “close ties with their community and home and [called] home frequently” made friends quickly. (Bolle, Wessel and Mulvihill, 2007)

3.  All of the students had to adjust to different teaching styles and academic expectations.  Some students found college classes easier, and some found them more difficult. Those who initially had difficulty transitioning from homeschool to college were able to develop the tools and methods they needed and became accustomed to their professor’s expectations and, ultimately, to modify their academic activities to meet the requirements.


homeschooling mom and daughter are excited about college

I have to stop and tell you a story here.

My son took a pre-calculus class during his senior year of high school taught by someone in our homeschool community. It met once a week. I remembered absolutely nothing about my pre-calc class in high school, so I didn’t help at all. The teacher didn’t make the class memorize any formulas. I found out later that in public school, they DO have to learn the formulas.

In his first-semester calculus class at Clemson, he had an instructor from another country with a strong accent. In fact, she had never taught in English before.  He had a bit of a hard time. Consequently, he was a frequent visitor during her office hours. He had so many questions that he asked if he could do his homework in her office.  (Doesn’t that sound like a homeschooler?!) Of course, she said no.  So he sat outside her office in the hallway and did it there.  ????

And because he owned his work and wasn’t afraid to get help, he aced the course.

Back to the research!

4. Resources on campus such as student orientation, Resident Assistants, campus programming, and student organizations were beneficial in successfully transitioning homeschooled students into college life.

5. Bottom line: there was little difference between what homeschooled and publicly/privately schooled students experienced in terms of their transition to college.

And read about the findings of a second study examining the transition from homeschool to college.

Additional favorable reports came from another fascinating study on this topic, An Exploratory Study of the Transition and Adjustment of Former Homeschooled Students to College Life (Lattibeaudiere, 2000).  This study examined how well homeschooled students transitioned into college life by the time they were sophomores and juniors. 

This body of research found that homeschooled students “had a positive and successful experience transitioning from high school to college.  In fact, the longer that students homeschooled, the better they adapted to college life.” The study speculated as to why homeschooling longevity was helpful.  Factors that were considered as benefits to college adaptation included “students having  individually tailored instruction, the ability to learn at their own pace, options to study subjects of interest, opportunity to be taught in a loving educational environment, and availability of hands-on opportunities that developed curiosity and love of learning.”  (Quoted in Bolle, Wessel and Mulvihill, 2007.) 

Incidentally, other findings of the Lattibeaudiere study included:

  • Rather than living off-campus, students who lived on campus adjusted better.
  • Educators felt that homeschooled students took a little longer than traditionally educated students to adjust socially to college. (My comment to this: That is not necessarily a bad thing.)
  • Homeschoolers “exhibited great skill in relating to individuals of all ages” (quoted by Bolle, Wessel, and Mulvihill, 2007).

Here’s confirming research in a dissertation by Holder:

Moreover, a dissertation by Holder (2001) stated that homeschoolers were academically and socially adept in college

Additionally, homeschooling students reported that they felt “homeschooling helped them develop the ability to learn on their own, [have] good study habits, [learn] self-motivation and how to be responsible, [have] flexibility in learning at their own pace and [be] self-disciplined.”

Although the study found that there were some problematic areas for homeschooled students, specifically: “the extensive writing and research required, meeting assignment deadlines…and getting accustomed to class schedules.” 


Research findings show that homeschooled students transition well into college.

And another break from the study findings for my comments:

The areas homeschool students had difficulty with as they transitioned into college are areas you can work on with your middle and high school students now, and this is how:

  • Make your children read real, whole books. Not textbooks. Not anthologies. Throw in longer and harder books every so often. ( I made one of mine read the 1300+ page Les Miserables one semester. He is still proud of that accomplishment!)
  • Teach them how to write high school level essays. And make your children write a variety of essays regularly during high school.
  • Make sure your high school students write two research papers during high school. Teach them how with this.
  • Have enforced deadlines for their assignments. I know this is a hard one. But you aren’t doing them any favors by letting them slide. Set a reasonable time when assignments are due and stick to it. Have consequences ready if your student doesn’t meet your deadlines.

Back to Holden’s dissertation:

The bottom line is that this study also found that homeschooled students assimilated well into college. The study surmised that such students’ participation in volunteer work, activities outside of the academic arena, and part-time jobs aided homeschooled students’ transition to college.


Although these studies are few, their findings are clear: homeschoolers can make the transition to college. And many of them excel at it.

I hope this research will put you at ease if you’re considering homeschooling high school.  Continue to mentor and train your children as you have always done, teaching them right from wrong, shepherding their hearts, and preparing them for God-honoring, productive, full lives. 

Whether you prayerfully decide to keep them home for high school or not, please don’t decide out of fear that they won’t be able to get into or adjust to college if you don’t enroll them into public high school.

Does reading the research about homeschoolers successfully making the transition into college encourage you?  If you have questions about homeschooling high school, leave me a note here.

With hope in Him,

dana- brain-based teaching tips for your homeschool


Read the Bolle, Wessel, and Mulvihill study in its entirety and see complete references for all studies mentioned in this post.

Editor’s note: this post was updated on 02/09/20.




2 thoughts on “How do homeschoolers transition to college? Remarkably well.

  1. Great article and very true! As a student I think homeschooling during high school prepared me very well for college!
    Go Tigers!

    1. Thank you, Aliece! I’m so glad to hear it! ❤️ Go Tigers, indeed!

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