For families with children in traditional school environments, the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread concerns about things like school safety, student mental health, and academic instruction quality. This might explain the stunning increase in homeschooled students across the United States. According to the Household Pulse Survey initiated by the Census Bureau, the number of homeschooled students rose to 11.1% during the 2020-2021 school year. The newest reports from the Household Pulse Survey indicate that the homeschool surge is still going strong, only decreasing by 1% as of March 2022.
With the enrollment cliff looming, higher education institutions can’t afford to ignore any pocket of the US student demographic, and homeschooled students are no exception. To entice them to your doors, you first need to eliminate long-held misconceptions about various homeschooling lifestyles, desires, and learning formats. Then, you can use that information to successfully communicate your value proposition and nurture students towards your institution. That’s where we can help.
1) Understand the homeschooled demographic
Misconception #1: homeschooled students don’t succeed in a college environment.
Many adults inside of the traditional school setting are understandably concerned about whether homeschooled students are learning required material and being properly socialized before college. Thankfully, a study led by Michael Cogan by the University of St. Thomas revealed that the homeschool demographic is 10% more likely to graduate from college.
Misconception #2: homeschooled students are mostly homeschooled for religious reasons.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly half of homeschooled students are religious. That wasn’t the biggest concern of homeschool families, though – 80% of parents homeschooled because of concerns about school safety. Subsequent reasoning includes emphasizing time with family and improving academic instruction quality.
Misconception #3: homeschoolers only receive instruction at home from parents.
There are many different ways homeschooled students choose to receive their education. Some of the more popular methods include:
Homeschooling cooperatives, where homeschooled families throughout the area form a quasi-school environment together. Some cooperatives even have certified teachers in a rented communal space, traditional activities such as homecoming and prom, extracurricular clubs, and field trips.
Dual-enrollment, where older homeschooled students receive both high school and college credit from attending classes on campus.
Experiential learning, where students learn about required subjects through community service, public events, internships, expert interviews, museums, public institutions, hands-on experiments, and in-person courses, groups, and clubs.
Online learning, where students learn from trusted educational sources, for example Khan Academy, Coursera, DuoLingo, and more.
Outside of benefits like improving instruction quality and keeping children safe, many homeschooled students are free to hone in on their interests and prepare for their intended career. So how can you make sure that you are properly communicating your value proposition in line with their interests?
2) Emphasize campus involvement
If there’s one thing homeschooled students do best, it’s being involved in the community. According to the National Home Education Institute, 87% of peer-reviewed studies on social, emotional, and psychological development show homeschool students perform better than those in conventional schools. Some speculate this is because homeschoolers are more likely to be involved in social and educational activities outside of the home.
In order to get homeschoolers’ attention, they’ll want to know if they can continue being involved on campus, and if those opportunities align with their hobbies and career interests. If your university has ample extracurricular clubs, research centers, or volunteer opportunities, you’ll want to make sure to show them off.
3) Provide opportunities to speak directly with a college representative
In the same way that homeschooled students are hands-on at school, they’re also hands-on when it comes to finding the right fit for college. Homeschool graduates benefit from access to authentic campus tours, face-to-face overview of academic programs, and Q&A with admissions officers, program advisors, and current students.
This is a great opportunity for universities to offer online meetings with college representatives as part of your nurture comms strategy. While not every student is interested in having an in-depth conversation to ask questions and gain insight, homeschoolers may jump at the opportunity.
4) Get the parents involved
Getting parents involved is a good idea when targeting many demographics, but this is especially important with the homeschooled demographic. It may go without saying, but parents who have been deeply involved in their child’s education won’t suddenly become uninterested after high school. You can win over the parents of homeschooled students through strategically targeting and segmenting ads. An excited parent is the #1 asset to enrolling a previously homeschooled student, so using customized messaging that will grab their attention quickly is key. By conscripting the help of Net Natives’ strategists, your segmenting and targeting efforts to get parents on board can be a breeze.
While it may be surprising to learn that so many families in the US are choosing homeschooling, they’re a formidable demographic that’s passionate about education. Currently, this is a big opportunity to attract these loyal families to your institution. Speak with an Net Natives expert today to find out how our services can get you a head start recruiting this often ignored student demographic.