High performing home-schooled students enter the University of Oklahoma academically prepared and socially adept

When students at the University of Oklahoma begin fall classes this year, the institution will continue to build on its reputation as the home of the highest number of National Merit Scholars at any publicly-funded American institution of Higher Education. 

What is not as widely known is that among the 700 or so NMS students, a few dozen will be from home-schooled backgrounds.  This fall, at least eight, and perhaps 10, of the entering NMS at OU will be home-schoolers. 

Over recent years, a steady stream of entering National Merit Scholar freshmen at OU have come from home school preparations. For this coming year, the eight to 10 new students will be the highest number of National Merit students from home-schooled backgrounds in OU history. 

OU officials say that for recent years the number of NMS entering freshmen with home school backgrounds are as follows:

2007-08, five entering freshmen

2008-09, three entering freshmen

2009-10, three entering freshmen

2010-11, five entering freshmen

2011-12, two entering freshmen

2012-13, eight entering freshmen (note: could be two more, for a total of 10)

Of course, National Merit Scholars comprise only a portion of the home-schooled students seeking college degrees at OU. All told, at least 155 undergraduate students now at OU come from home school backgrounds, university officials told CapitolBeatOK this week. 

Matthew Hamilton, vice president for enrollment and student financial services and registrar, said in an interview, “What I can say with certainty is that these students are doing really well at the University of Oklahoma, and that the group is very diverse. Only four of the 155 students had less than a 2.0 GPA at OU. Of the 155, 22 had perfect 4.0 GPAs.” 

CapitolBeatOK has learned the group’s GPA is a remarkable 3.43 on a four-point scale. 

Hamilton stressed his sense that the total of 155 students is likely an undercount. He is working with other university officials to improve the accounting for home school-originated undergraduate students. 

While a comprehensive study would be needed to reach broad conclusions, the data for OU, and Hamilton’s discussion with CapitolBeatOK about home-schoolers at OU, appear to ratify academic and investigative analyses of recent years which indicate students from home-schooled backgrounds are both well-prepared and socially adept upon entering college. 

Kelsey Sheehy, writing for U.S. News and World Report (in a news report for The Huffington Post) concluded that “parents and students from the home-schooling community say the nontraditional method[s]” of home-schooling yield “teens that are more independent and therefore better prepared for college life.” 

The National Home Education Research Institute put the raw number of U.S. students K-12 in home school settings at 2 million in 2010. Sheehy points to a 2009 study [Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students, Michael Cogan, University of St. Thomas AIRUM 2009] which concluded that students from home schools “graduated at higher rate than their peers – 66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent – and earned higher grade point averages along the way.” 

Joe Kelly, an analyst cited in Sheehy’s report, asserts home school students are also “better socialized than most high school students.” He says this is the case because home school students not only compete in athletics, but also regularly interact with students of all ages. They spend less time in class and have more opportunities “to get out into the world and engage with adults and teens alike.”

Hamilton, the OU vice president, observed “there is a whole culture out there” based around home-schooling. Hamilton and his wife home school their three children of K-12 age for personal reasons. He notes class sizes in public schools were a concern, as well as the lack of a gifted-and-talented program they could access. 

He continued, stressing that both he and his wife come from public school backgrounds and support public education. He reflected, “My wife is a 12-year veteran teacher, so this was a good fit with her skill set. We do have a personal interest in this issue.” 

He recounted several stories about home school students he knows personally, including three students from one Texas family who made the Norman campus their college destination. 

Hamilton observed that considering the individuals he has known from home school backgrounds who attended the University of Oklahoma, “I cannot perceive any socialization problems, at all.”