A year ago, I was just finishing up my senior year of high school. And as I congratulated myself for surviving twelve years of school at home, I started to panic. Because while the light at the end of the high school tunnel was growing brighter, it was quickly becoming apparent that the light I was seeing was not the welcoming glow of the summer sun – but the harsh fluorescents of the college classroom.
I was excited for college, yes. I had dreams and goals, and college would help me to meet them. But I was also terrified that twelve years of being homeschooled would leave me helplessly unprepared for the college experience. Would I be able to keep up with assignments with no parent reminding me what was due? Was my mom’s grading harsh enough to prepare me for the rigor of university? And what about all those people? (Okay, I am going to a school of about a thousand students – but still. That’s a big step up from three.)
But to my surprise, while college’s fluorescent lights did give me headaches, life under them wasn’t as difficult to adjust to as I’d feared. Being homeschooled prepared me for university in ways I hadn’t expected.
One of the perks of homeschooling is flexibility. Instead of being stuck in a classroom for hours at a time, you have the ability to go on field trips, participate in extracurricular activities at all hours of the day, or dedicate time to things you are truly passionate about. Of course, school still has to get done, and learning how to get a week’s worth of work done in three or four days really helped me last year. I’ve been able to juggle everything – my regularly scheduled classes and shifts at work, those clubs I really want to attend, and unpredictable hang-out times with friends – and to get all my homework done on time, too, without pulling a single all-nighter. Sure, there were times I was finishing reading as the professor walked into the classroom, but half the class didn’t even bother to start it because they “didn’t have time.” Homeschooling taught me that, no matter what you think, you really do always have time. It might be while you are eating lunch, or in those five minutes before something starts, but you have the time, if you’re only willing to take advantage of it.
As for getting assignments done without someone looking over your shoulder constantly, it isn’t that difficult. One thing I did every week in high school was to look at the schedule my mom had printed out, of all the assignments and reading I needed to finish, and plan it out on my calendar. I carried that skill into college, copying assignments from my syllabi into my planner and then figuring out when I would actually be able to do them. I’m still working on remembering to check my planner – but almost everything got done on time. And next year, things will flow even more smoothly.
Next, the matter of academics. The thing about homeschooling is, parents have the ability to teach to the top students in their class – not the average student. They meet you right where you’re at, whether that is several grades behind in math or several grades ahead. And that meant that I was always on the top of my academic game. Never bored; always challenged. I always liked doing my best (not having to redo my math lesson was a great motivator), so I found that college wasn’t too difficult. So long as you can use basic reading comprehension skills, take notes, and write an essay (oh, and never skip class – you really do need to be there) you should be able to keep up. If not – free tutoring! College does have its perks.
I did pretty well in most of my classes, but there were a few times when I realized that home schooling hadn’t left me quite ready. (Yay, science. It had been far too long since I’d taken physics.) But even then, lessons I’d learned at home came to my rescue. That is, the ability to look something up when the teacher wasn’t giving you all the information you needed. If you get stuck, talk to your professor. If the textbook isn’t clear, use Google. Get the professor to actually teach you, or teach yourself. (I recommend Crash Course on Youtube.) I think homeschoolers actually have an advantage over public schoolers in this respect. We can survive without having information fed to us on a spoon.
Finally, socialization. The terror of us poor sheltered homeschoolers. How on earth are we to survive if you force us to deal with – gasp – people?
Seriously? In my experience, most homeschoolers aren’t as unsocialized as anybody thinks. We know how to deal with other people our age (from homeschool groups, youth groups, extracurricular activities…), but in healthy ways, without the conflict that can arise from the constant togetherness of schools. We deal with siblings, the most annoying people in the universe, all day long – perfect preparation for living with roommates. (I’m sorry, sis, I really do love you.) And, best advantage ever – we know how to communicate with people who aren’t our age. We talk with our parents all the time, which, in my opinion, has been great preparation for communicating with professors and other adults, an absolute requirement for living “on your own.”
For those of you who are stressing about going to (or sending your children to) a large school, here’s my word of advice: find your group. Find the people who care about what you care about. Find the people who will watch Star Wars with you at midnight, who will write poetry with you in the coffee shop, who will play Ultimate Frisbee with you. Join a club. Plug in. Even introverts like me need people some of the time. College is a bad place to be lonely – but also an easy place to find people like you. You’ll have to be intentional – but homeschoolers always have to be, if they want to be “socialized”. You’re already one step ahead of the curve.
So, to all you seniors and parents of seniors – the light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter by the day. Keep fighting the good fight. Do your best. Learn everything you can, because it will help you as you move forward in life. Don’t freak out too much about college. You’ve got a good start.
And from those of us already there – welcome. We look forward to meeting you next year!
Rachel Thorn just finished her freshman year at Corban University in Salem, Oregon. Despite being homeschooled her entire life up to that point, she decided to major in education – and is loving every minute of it.