Mom-to-Mom Support/What Is Accreditation, and Is It Necessary?

What Is Accreditation, and Is It Necessary?

What is accreditation

You may receive comments and questions from time to time about accreditation—questions like, “Are you going to enroll in an accredited homeschool?” Or, you may even have a relative or friend tell you, “Without a transcript from an accredited school, your child won’t get into college.” This is misinformation, plain and simple. Let’s take a good look at the facts and bust the myth that accreditation is necessary for academic advancement.

Not needed for college admission

In 2023, CHC staff researched the admission policies of the top 100 colleges and universities in the US, including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. We also researched the U.S. Catholic colleges recognized by The Newman Guide. Here are the results of this research:

  • Every single school, whether secular or Catholic, accepted homeschoolers.
  • Every single school confirmed that high school transcripts signed by the parent count as “official transcripts” just as much as transcripts from public schools, private schools, or accredited home study schools.
  • All branches of the military accepted homeschooled students without accredited transcripts.

This means that it is not necessary to pay expensive tuition fees to an accredited home study school simply in order to get into college. This is good news because enrolling in an accredited program also involves more paperwork and makes it harder to adapt the curriculum to your child’s needs.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation of a K-12 program is a voluntary process by which a private organization gives its “stamp of approval” to a school’s teaching standards, safety protocols, financial status, and curriculum. Today, the main purpose of accreditation is for schools to qualify for government funding.

No standards

Most people are unaware that there are no agreed-upon standards for whether or not a school is granted accreditation. In fact, there is nothing to stop a school from creating its own accrediting agency in order to bestow accreditation on itself.

Not an indicator of academic excellence

Most agencies evaluate schools according to the lowest common denominator, so it is extremely rare for a school to be denied accreditation. Many failing inner-city schools are accredited even though the majority of their students fail to meet the standards for college admission. Because of this, the fact that a school is accredited does not mean that its program is academically excellent. Colleges and universities know this, which is why they pay more attention to SAT/ACT test scores and to admissions essays than to whether an applicant’s transcript comes from an accredited school.

Even NAPCIS, the organization that provides accreditation for multiple Catholic homeschool programs, admits that accreditation is not necessary for college admission:

Maybe, as long as 20–25 years ago, colleges and universities did consider the accreditation status of the applicant’s high school. But no longer. Why not? The answer may be summed up in two words: homeschooling! Because of the growing number of homeschooled students that are applying for college admission, as well as the fact that the best colleges and universities across the country are actively recruiting homeschooled students, the accreditation issue is moot in the college admission process.

Homeschoolers do not need accreditation

When applying to colleges, homeschooled students have multiple options for demonstrating the excellence of their education without an accredited transcript, including:

  • SAT or ACT score
  • Application essay
  • Parent-signed transcript demonstrating the course of studies taken and GPA
  • A portfolio of volunteer work, extracurricular activities, awards, and other evidence of a motivated young adult
  • Course descriptions (short descriptions of high school courses and what texts, if any, were used)
  • Recommendations from significant adults (tutor or online instructor, employer for high school job, volunteer coordinator)
  • Transcript and grades for one or more community college classes

Using these methods, “non-accredited” homeschoolers are routinely accepted into colleges and universities across the country.

What if I still want accreditation?

Even though accreditation is not required for college admission and is not an indicator of academic excellence, some homeschooling families prefer to enroll their children in an accredited home-study school because it makes them feel more comfortable. Situations in which accredited school records could be useful are:

  • If you are homeschooling a stepchild or are separated from your spouse. Enrolling with an accredited school would make it difficult for the child’s other parent to object to your decision to homeschool. This is because your child will be enrolled in a private school, so technically, you will not be homeschooling.
  • If you are seeking U.S. citizenship for an adopted child, you may need to provide proof of your child’s residency in the U.S. Accredited school records are one way to provide this proof.

If you feel strongly that you want accreditation but still want the freedom and flexibility to adapt the curriculum to your child’s needs, you might consider enrolling in Clonlara School’s Off-Campus Program. Like all accredited enrollment programs, Clonlara charges high tuition fees and requires periodic progress reports. But Clonlara does an excellent job of allowing homeschoolers the flexibility and freedom to use whatever curriculum they want or even to design their own curriculum.

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