The “Real World of College”

A guest post by Dr. Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.

The Real World of College - Canva

Okay, it appears that the homeschooled students score well above average on achievement tests in elementary school and high school. And I am willing to concede my experience and research I have read suggest they seem to know how to get along with others— that is, they are not aggressive social isolates wearing camouflage pajamas in the grocery store. But what about the ‘real world’!? Will Suzy even want to vote? Will Tyrone ever succeed once he gets into college?” These are now common statements and concerns from Mr. and Mrs. John Public.

Homeschool graduates hear these things. Novice and veteran homeschool parents have to deal with them. Grandparents of homeschoolers still wonder. And negative critics of homeschooling may never give up. But what does research say about the long-term outcomes of homeschooling?

Dr. Michael Cogan, Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, compared home-educated students to those from conventional school (i.e., non-homeschooling) backgrounds at one Midwest university.1 The researcher reported that the “. . . institution participating in the study is a medium-sized private university with a Carnegie Classification of doctoral. The institution is located in a metropolitan area in the upper Midwest. The overall student population is nearly 11,000 with approximately 57 percent classified as undergraduates” (p. 21). Seventy-six students who were home educated were compared to the others.

Cogan focused on four academic outcome measures (or dependent variables): the students’ first-year GPA, fourth-year GPA, fall-to-fall retention, and four year graduation. Independent or control variables included socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic minority status, gender, and whether the student had been homeschooled.


The researcher used bivariate and multivariate analyses to consider the data. What did Dr. Cogan find? First, he reported their GPAs (grade point averages): “Homeschooled students (3.37) earned a significantly higher fall semester GPA when compared to the overall cohort (3.08). . . . Homeschooled students (3.41) earned a higher first-year GPA when compared to the overall group (3.12). Additionally, homeschooled students (3.46) earned a significantly higher fourth-year GPA when compared to the freshman cohort (3.16)” (p. 24).

Next, the scholar then went to greater lengths to statistically control for certain variables: “As stated earlier, an additional approach to understanding academic outcomes of homeschooled students is to conduct multivariate analysis in order to control for additional factors. More specifically, students were identified based on their enrollment in a homeschool. . . . When considering GPAs, the homeschool variable had a positive impact on first year GPA when considering all of the factors. This positive impact continued to the fourth year. . .” (p. 24).

Finally, a last detailed look revealed something more. The homeschool variable did not significantly contribute to the fall-to-fall retention or four-year graduation models . . . . In other words, the homeschool variable had neithera positive nor a negative impact on these academic outcomes. However, homeschool students did achieve a higher retention rate (88.6 percent) compared to the overall population (87.6 percent). Further, homeschool students achieved a higher graduation rate (66.7 percent) when compared to the overall population (57.5 percent)” (p. 24).


Dr. Brian Ray wrote the following in 2004 in The Journal of College Admissions:

“Experience and anecdotes have led many people to believe that homeschool parents were either move-to-the-country anarchist goat-herders or right-wing Bible-thumpers, and their children were either mathematically-limited, due to Mama’s fear of math, or child prodigies in rocket-science who were unthinkably socially hindered. Although one can find statistical deviants in every group, homeschooling research tells a different story from the experience-based stereotypes and biases concerning those involved in home education”. (p. 5)

Five years later, in the same journal, Dr. Cogan published research that helps flesh out a fuller picture regarding the homeschooling community. His research findings were similar to those of others who have studied homeschool graduates in that he found positive things associated with homeschooling.2 He concluded and wrote the following:

Nonetheless, this study shows that this group of students outperforms their traditionally-educated peers when considering the GPA measures. Perhaps more importantly, this group of students performed at the same level as their peers when considering fall-to-fall retention and four-year graduation rates. As this group continues to grow, it is imperative that institutional researchers lead the way in developing a strong understanding of academic outcomes of homeschool students” (p. 24).

Research3 once again has shown thatthose who have been hypothesizing illeffects from modern-day, parent-led,home-based education are rather off the mark. The home educated might be wearing camouflage pajamas in the dorm room, but research says they are doing quite well academically.

Author’s Note: Please feel free to sendyour questions about research related tohome-based education and raising

Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., is president of the National Home Education Research Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization. Dr. Ray often serves as an expert witness in courts, testifies to legislatures, and is interviewed by the media. Brian is married to Betsy and they have eight children and four grandchildren.


  1. Cogan, Michael F. (2010, Summer). Exploringacademic outcomes of homeschooled students.Journal of College Admission, Summer2010, 18–25. Also retrieved 12/20/10
  2. Bolle-Brummond, Mary Beth, & Wessel, RogerD. (2012). Homeschooled students in college:Background influences, college integration, andenvironmental pull factors. Journal of Researchin Education, 22(1), Spring, 2012, 223–249. RetrievedFebruary 29, 2012 from
  3. For much more research on homeschooling,

Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *