The Transition: From Homeschool to Public University

  • Sarah Piper Editorial Intern
  • 2011 16 Aug
The Transition: From Homeschool to Public University

"What was it like going from homeschooling to college?” Whenever I mention that I was homeschooled, there’s an initial confused silence invariably followed by this question. Having finished my first year of college and with my second year fast approaching, I’ve heard this more than a few times. As I’ve thought about how to answer, it occurred to me how helpful it would have been if I had had the chance to ask this question before I entered college. Leaving for college is nerve-wracking enough for those who are used to the typical public or private school setting, but it’s arguably even more so for homeschoolers.

Unfortunately, I can’t go back in time to ask this question myself, but I can help answer it for others. And the answer is... (drumroll please): "It’s different for everyone."

Anticlimactic, I know. Since the homeschooling experience varies from student to student, some might graduate high school more prepared than others, depending on the types of classes they took, at home or at a co-op or community college, and the kinds of activities they were involved in. Every college is going to be different as well. However, there are some things that just about everyone will have in common in their transition from homeschooling to college.

For starters, no matter how small of a college you’re entering or how large of a family you come from, you’re going to be spending a lot more time around significantly more people than you’re accustomed to. This has its ups and downs; it’s an opportunity to make a lot of new friends, get involved in new activities, and generally be a part of a large community with which you have a lot in common. On the other hand, this means less time alone and many more distractions. Take advantage of the chance to get to know one of the most diverse groups of people you will ever meet; you can learn a lot just from talking to others with different backgrounds, cultures, and interests. Be sure to make time for yourself too, though. Find a place that’s an ideal study environment for you so that you have somewhere to escape when you really need to focus (hint: this might not be your dorm room).

Another notable aspect of college is the necessity of self-motivation. You’re given an assignment, a deadline, and often no reminders. You’re expected to make good use of your time and make progress towards that deadline on your own. Depending on your experience homeschooling, this might either be challenging or a piece of cake. Some homeschooled students are used to working without much supervision and keeping track of things themselves, but others may be accustomed to relying on reminders from parents. Either way, you’ll likely have more to keep track of in college than you ever have before, so make it easy on yourself and write everything down. Don’t rely on your memory; it’ll fail you more often than you’d expect—trust me. I’m notoriously forgetful, and opting not to write down an assignment or appointment has gotten me in hot water on more than one occasion.

Additionally, if you’re a homeschooler who’s still a few years from college, there are things you can do right now to give you a leg up when you get there. The opportunity to take community college classes during high school is one tremendous advantage of being homeschooled. You can often get dual credit for these classes, meaning they count for both high school and college, which allows you to enter your university with some of your coursework already out of the way. Depending on how many credits you take, this could even enable you to graduate early. Just make sure that the schools you’re considering will accept the community college classes you took; usually this isn’t a problem, but check just in case.

Another thing that I discovered to be helpful were the SAT II Subject Tests. As unpleasant as it sounds to take even more standardized testing, these are a good indication to skeptical colleges that you really did receive a well-rounded and thorough education at home. Some colleges will require them anyway for homeschoolers, but it’s a good idea to take them regardless.

No matter what you may be worried about as you prepare for college, keep in mind that regardless of previous schooling, the college experience is completely new to every freshman, so you’re all in the same boat. From everything I’ve experienced myself and heard from friends, homeschoolers sometimes tend to do better in college classes than their public- or private-schooled counterparts; they often excel at writing and critical thinking and have a strong work ethic. So you can enter college knowing you’re probably well-prepared, and enjoy the ride!

Publication date: August 16, 2011