As you can guess from the title, I was homeschooled. From kindergarten through high school, my parents taught me everything I know—and, yeah, I confess to having worn pajamas to “school” once or twice. (Or maybe for most of my junior year.) With that background, some people expressed doubt when I started applying for college—in fact, one other student I met exclaimed, “You’re homeschooled? Good luck.” And, to be honest, sometimes I agreed with her! Moving from homeschooling into college was definitely a challenge, but here’s the good thing: it is completely possible. I’ve done it, and you can too!
Today, I’m going to share with you the steps I recommend taking to smooth the transition between homeschooling and college.
1. Know your strengths
Homeschooling is still enough of an unusual phenomenon that some colleges will not know how to deal with it. In their eyes, you will be at a minor disadvantage, simply because you didn’t have the typical courses, teachers, and extracurriculars. However, you have more than enough benefits to make up for that! Be aware of how homeschooling has positively affected your life, and notice the strengths that it has taught you. Here are several things that homeschooling taught me:
- How to interact with anyone. Since I didn’t study with a single age group, I learned to interact well with a wide range of people; I was just as comfortable talking to parents or little siblings as I was talking to kids my age.
- How to practice time management. As homeschoolers, we don’t typically have a set schedule like public school students. That means we need to learn how to plan our days so everything gets done! You won’t believe how many college students still struggle with time management, so admission counselors could be impressed—and maybe even surprised—by your planning skills.
- How to teach myself. In college, you will typically have classes that meet one to four times a week (most of mine are once or twice a week), and you are expected to fill the time in between with studying and assignments. And in all likelihood, your professor will not walk you through all of your material, and you’ll have to cover some of it on your own. As a homeschooler, I was already teaching myself for most of my classes, so I knew how to study individually.
- How to look at the world differently. My college is committed to diversity in everything from cultures to world-views, and we love to see things in a new light. Therefore, my perspective as a homeschooled student adds something new and valuable to their student base.
2. Get to know the college environment
College is different—really, really different. There are lecture halls and in-class exams, heaps of extracurriculars, and all kinds of activities that you might not be accustomed to. As you prepare for college life, make sure that you’re aware of these changes. Out of all of the differences between homeschool and college, there were four that caught me off guard. Don’t let these big four won’t ambush you too!
- Lecture halls. I took classes with homeschool co-ops (where a group of homeschool students meet), but I was never in the lecture hall environment. If you’ve never had the opportunity to be in a lecture hall, it’s just a huge room with a lot of students. The professor is up front delivering a—you guessed it—lecture to all of you. Lecture halls can be tough, because you don’t have as much interaction with your professor, so you need to go out of your way to make connections. (However, with all the students there, you’ll have good chances of making friends!)
- Professors. Even though I had different teachers in my co-op classes, I was rarely taught by someone with a lot of life experience in a specific field. You’ll need to get used to a group of different professors, rather than just your parents or whomever teaches you. Pay attention to their expectations, and read your syllabi carefully—that’s the guidebook to everything they want from you all semester.
- Dorm life. I never even had to share a room until college, so dorm life took some getting used to! But it’s absolutely amazing and so much fun. You just have to be prepared to compromise on a few things (for me, no blasting Michael Bublé . . . unless my roomie’s out).
- Exams. I know, I know—the scary one! Tests always made me nervous in high school, so I knew that I would need to spend a lot of time studying to feel confident on my exams. Be prepared: there may be several exams (or lots of quizzes) throughout the semester, depending on the classes you’re taking. However, if you set aside time to study, you’ll do great.
3. Practice “college life”
Now that you know some of the differences between college and homeschool life, it’s time to start easing yourself into the new world. Think about the things you need and want to try in college and start to practice them on your own. Are you a little nervous about exams? Ask your parents or teachers if you can join a co-op class with tests, or try to simulate an exam environment for your personal testing—studying, timing, etc. Do you want to see a real life lecture hall? See if one of your prospective colleges would allow you to sit in on a class or shadow a student for a day.
I would highly recommend attending prospective or admitted student events for your colleges too! Go on college tours or visit days. These can help you get a feel for what your new environment will be like. Also, if you meet nice upperclassmen, see if they would be willing to share tips. (I’ve found that the seniors at my school are happy to provide advice . . . especially if I provide coffee.)
Don’t forget the skills that everyone—homeschooled or not—will need for college. Know how to do your own laundry, plan your schedule, eat healthfully (although, um, sometimes five-cookie dinners happen), and clean your living space. If you start those habits before college, it’ll be easier to keep them up!
4. Embrace the change
Yes, college is a huge change, but it’s also a fantastic change. Don’t get intimidated by all the differences, because they are nothing you can’t handle! You will learn so much throughout your years at school—you’ll grow as a person, you’ll make amazing friends, and you might have a five-cookie dinner (okay, maybe that isn’t totally fantastic, but it’s pretty great in the moment). This transition is an incredible learning experience, so embrace every change you face. In all honesty, you will mess up time and again, but that’s okay! We all do. College life is way better when you learn to laugh off your embarrassing stories and persevere through the rough times with the best possible attitude.
Related: List: Homeschool-Friendly Colleges
To close, let me remind you: even though your schooling is different, your experiences and your skills are valuable, and the right university will see that. With preparation and practice—and a little courage—you’ll be ready to win at college life!
What makes you nervous—or excited!—about the switch to college life? Let me know in the comments, because I would love to hear about them!