Transitioning to College

November 14, 2019Stacey Lynn

At some point during the high school years, college preparation becomes very important. Some homeschooled students and parents start preparing for college as soon as the freshman year starts. Others might choose to wait until they have a better grasp of what it is, exactly, that they want to do with their lives. Neither scenario is particularly “right or wrong”, but rather a reflection of the very specific plans that each young person has for their lives.

It’s true, some occupations require a great deal of preparation that can be necessary for some occupations, while others are not so rigid. Obviously, you don’t prepare the same way for a vocational occupation as you would for working towards a medical degree. The most important thing to understand is that, no matter what your chosen field or profession, at least some prepping is necessary for a smooth transition.

Early Preparation Benefits

Unlike many public school attendees, homeschooled high schoolers can actually get a jump on preparation for college, even including a few classes. For those who take college seriously enough to take courses prior to high school graduation, it can mean a serious advantage over many same-age peers. The truth is, your age doesn’t dictate your academic preparedness in these situations, and you can come out far ahead, depending on how much effort you put into it.

Even better, you can adjust your pace to one that suits you, giving the flexibility to get lots of easy stuff out of the way or focus on courses that might be a bit more of a challenge. You can also get a good start on your chosen field if you know what you’re planning to major in and can be combined with AP (Advanced Placement) classes for excellent transcripts.

Dual enrollment is another way to get college coursework completed while still in high school. The programs to vary greatly, however, so a great deal of research is necessary to find out what is available in your specific location as well as the specific colleges in which you’re interested. If you do find a program that works, it can mean that you’ll be ahead of schedule on prerequisites even before you actually enroll in college full time.

Transcripts and Testing

It’s important to make sure that your transcripts are in order long before your expected graduation date. These should include a good synopsis of all the courses you completed throughout your high school career, as well as grades or grade point averages, and maybe a brief summary of what the class entailed. Each transcript can look different but there are plenty of examples online for your review. The most important thing about the transcript is to have a good record of completed courses, especially if Advanced Placement classes were taken.

It can also be very beneficial to take some of the standard tests that are common prior to college. The most common are the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the ACT (American College Testing), and many colleges lean heavily on those scores. They aren’t entirely necessary, but they do help, especially when the college you really want to get into demands them. Always be sure to ask or check when researching enrollment options for your chosen college.

Focus on Your Strong Points

Some colleges are quick to welcome homeschooled students, but not all are as understanding. If it seems like they are going to look at you as if you are disadvantaged, even slightly, make sure you let your strongest points precede you. It can be tempting to let their view of your accomplishments take over, but it’s better to focus on what you know you excel at.

For instance, you already know that your socialization is likely better than that of the average high school graduate. Instead of being included in a group of same-age peers, year after year, you were introduced to a wide variety of age groups, giving you a solid social foundation on which to build toward adulthood. Because of this, you’ll be able to hold viable discussions with a variety of people you come in contact with, whether young or old. This is another area where community service will give you a “leg up”, so don’t wait until your senior year to participate.

Time management skills are often better in homeschooled children as well, which comes in handy for schedules in college. While not necessarily adhering to a strict schedule in homeschool, there is much more emphasis on allotting time for getting things done. Almost like an internal clock, especially for those who have been homeschooled from the start, these planning skills can show up as an impressive trait during college admission.

During homeschool, especially in the high school years, it’s likely you did a little bit of self-teaching for some things. Whether that was for assignments that simply had to get done or things that interested you that you decided to learn more about on your own. In college, some classes do not meet every day, and your college professors certainly will not hold your hand through long assignments. This strength of being able to maintain a schedule, even when not 100% supervised, can turn into a stellar strength for college.

Transitioning to the College Environment

College is a lot different than anything you are used to. Life changes drastically, especially in certain areas, and it can help to be somewhat prepared for those changes. It’s not entirely impossible to adjust to things that catch you off guard in college but still, a bit of preparation helps immensely.

Life in the dorm could be the biggest challenge of all, especially if you’ve never shared a room with a sibling growing up. It can be fun, but it does take some getting used to. You’ll need to understand that in this environment, compromises can make a world of difference. Get to know your roommate and learn to be considerate of their likes and dislikes, especially with regard to noise levels and study times.

Professors are another change you’ll have to get used to. Unlike parents and co-op teachers, professors are usually very experienced in their field and have precise expectations which they will put down in their syllabus. Each professor is different, and each will have their own characteristics, expectations, and set ways of doing things. Learn them. It’s very important that you make this one of the first things you do once you learn who those professors will be.

You’ll notice a huge difference between homeschool “classrooms” (even in groups or co-ops) and the lecture hall in which many of your college classes will be held. These huge spaces can be looming at first, but as you begin to understand how it works, you’ll learn to adjust. One of the biggest differences is that you won’t get nearly the opportunity to connect with professors. If that’s something you need to do, you’ll have to make specific plans to do so and then follow through.

Learning to wade through the exams and quizzes, of which there can be many in any given course or semester, is another daunting adjustment when making the change from high school to college. Again, once you learn to adapt, it does get easier. However, you’ll need to study in order to become confident. Not every professor gives the same number of exams and quizzes, nor the same amount, but you will most assuredly have more of them than you think.

Get A Jump on College Living

Now that you know some of the things that will be different, you can start to make plans for accepting the challenges of change. It’s easier to fit into this new academic world when you have a better grasp of what to expect, but you can do other things that will help too. For instance, start by studying with timers and simulating exams when possible, to get a jump on these expectations. You could also consider asking if it would be possible to audit a college class at one of the colleges you’re considering, just to get a feel for the lecture hall environment.

If you find out about college tours or specific student events, try to make plans to visit and take in as much of the environment as you can during that time. This is a great time to speak with professors, counselors, and even other college students, all of whom are likely to share whatever they know with you. You might want to take a small notebook in which to jot down questions, as well as record ideas you’re given during your time there.

Most importantly, at least by your senior year, be practicing skills like taking care of your laundry on your own, creating and adhering to schedules, cleaning, and learning to eat healthy even if you’re on the run. Of course, these are life skills you should already know by this age, but if you haven’t ever had to put them into practice, it can feel completely new. So just start doing all of these things for yourself to get the feel of what it’s going to be like once you’re on your own.

Through the Hard Parts

It can be hard to leave home! It’s definitely a stressor, but it’s not one that you can’t overcome. On the one hand, you’ve reached that time of your life that you’ve waited on expectantly for so many years. On the other, it’s a brand new experience in which you won’t have your support group nearby when you feel you need them most. The good news is, you will learn, a little more every day, to make the most of every opportunity. And you can always connect with the family in your free time as well.

For those who are transitioning from conservative homes where Christian conduct rules the day, the change from homeschool to college can be harder. For instance, if your morals have never allowed you to curse, consume alcohol, or live promiscuously, being thrown into an environment where those things are commonplace can be a bit of a culture shock.

However, that same Christian upbringing is likely to have given you an excellent foundation on which to stand. You do not need to partake in those activities to know The sad consequences. And you can also be proud that your standards will keep you safer, healthier, and better set for college success than many others around you. Also, if you’ve taken part in sports or non-homeschool related activities outside the home, you’re likely to have already come in contact with some of these kinds of behavior.

The good news is, college isn’t forever, and whatever hardships you may experience in the beginning usually give way to an excellent opportunity to learn and grow.

Homeschool-Friendly Colleges

As you are considering the application process, you naturally wonder whether certain colleges are more likely to accept homeschooled students. This very important question can have many answers. In lieu of going into detail in this article, I will direct you to THIS LIST on the College Xpress website that shows many colleges that are more understanding of the homeschool background, which will be very beneficial to you.

In Closing

Gearing up for college is an exciting and hectic time, which can make it very beneficial to attend one of our Great Homeschool Conferences during this time. The resources you’ll find for your very own specific situation will help make that transition from homeschool to college much easier.

Many colleges and universities will have booths set up in the vendors’ hall, enabling you to gain a better understanding of many aspects of college prep, college application, and college life from our many workshops, speakers, and homeschooling families you’ll come in contact with through attendance. Even if you’re not yet a high school senior, this kind of planning can work much to your benefit in the very near future.

Our seven regional Great Homeschool Conventions are held in seven states. One is likely to be close enough for you to attend with no problem. However, we also understand that some families must travel further than others to attend, and we’re happy to try to help make it a little easier in those instances. Be sure to take advantage of our hotel discounts, military discounts, and free admission for active clergy members.

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