According to a report published in 2016 by the National Center for Education Statistics, homeschooling has been steadily growing in the United States. This report also shows that homeschoolers come from very diverse backgrounds–regionally, educationally, and socioeconomically.
As a homeschooling parent myself, I’ve learned that homeschoolers are taught in many different ways, for homeschool lessons are offered online, through recorded video, and via independent study. Some homeschooling families even practice unschooling, where students’ interests drive the curriculum.
With such a diversity of backgrounds and approaches, most homeschoolers will find parts of the transition to college a challenge.
Having worked with many college freshmen from homeschool backgrounds, I’d say that there are five things homeschoolers need to know about college.
- You’ll have to manage your own time.
- You’ll face hard deadlines.
- You may need to sharpen study skills.
- You’ll write and speak a lot.
- You’ll have to take responsibility for your own education.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
One of the biggest challenges you may face as a homeschooler is time management. In contrast to students in traditional schools, you may not be used to completing homework outside of class. After all, all your work is homework, right?
In college, attending class will only consume part of your day. If you take a typical class load of fifteen credit hours, you’ll only attend class about fifteen hours a week. However, doing homework may take twice that many hours, meaning that you’ll have to make time for homework when you’re not in class. Sounds like a full-time job, right? It is.
However, it’s a full-time job where you create most of the schedule, which means that it will be easy to get distracted by extra-curricular activities. To succeed, you’ll have to learn to not only plan your time, but follow that plan–on your own.
A related challenge you may face is the reality of hard deadlines. Depending on your homeschool experience, you may have grown used to flexible due dates. Need more time to finish? Sure, that’s fine.
In college, many professors will not be so generous. Some may not accept any late work at all, meaning that you’ll earn no credit for late assignments. Most others will accept work late (up to a certain point) with a penalty, such as a 10% grade reduction per day. Ouch.
To avoid such consequences, you’ll again need to plan, scheduling your assignments in advance so that you’ll have plenty of time to finish your work.
Another challenge you may face in college is the need to develop certain study skills. If you’ve been unaccustomed to listening to lectures and taking notes, you may find yourself scrambling to figure out how to understand what’s important in an hour-long lecture and how you should record that important information.
Aside from taking notes, you may also find it difficult to study and prepare for tests if you haven’t been used to doing this on your own. To sharpen your test-prep skills, you’ll find it useful to use a multi-part strategy:
- read actively by taking notes or annotating text
- listen purposefully by taking lecture notes
- review reading and lecture notes early and often
- use study guides or develop your own
- work with classmates to review key information
Write and speak regularly
While some homeschoolers have grown used to writing and speaking regularly, others have not. If you haven’t done much writing or speaking as part of your homeschool curriculum, you should begin preparing now–even before coming to college–to do much more.
To improve your understanding of writing, consider reviewing the basics and practice writing often, whether it’s in a personal journal or blog post. To improve your speaking skills, consider participating in a speaking club or finding your own opportunities to speak–at home, church, or work.
The more practice in writing and speaking you get before college, the easier this transition will be!
Finally, when you come to college, you may face the challenge of “owning” your education–taking responsibility for what, when, and how you study.
Unlike many students in traditional schools who’ve experienced some measure of independence in high school, you may have grown used to your parents making all of your educational choices. If this is the case, you’ll need to be ready to take responsibility.
What does this mean?
- You’ll have to manage your own time and create your own schedule.
- You’ll have to own those deadlines, realizing that your decisions make it possible for you to complete work on time.
- You’ll have to take responsibility for understanding what’s being taught–asking questions and seeking answers for what you don’t understand.
- You’ll have to assess your own study skills, recognizing shortcomings and taking steps to improve your skills, seeking help when needed.
- You’ll have to make choices about what classes to take and when to take them.
Of course, you won’t have to do this alone, as your parents, advisors, and friends can help provide guidance. Ultimately, though, your college education is up to you.
If you’re a homeschooler preparing for college, knowing what to expect and how to get ready will help you make that transition. By anticipating these changes, you’ll be able to face whatever college requires. Get ready. Get set. Go!
Having been born abroad and raised in different cultures, Lyle Witt has enjoyed spending much of his career supporting international students. After earning a M.A. in Education from a state university, Lyle taught international students in college prep programs at a community college and university before joining the faculty at a regionally accredited college, where he serves as a division chair and assistant professor.
When he can, Lyle spends time reading, gardening, and disc golfing. He also enjoys camping, hiking, and mountain biking. While not teaching, he finds it a refreshing change to work with his hands, building decks, repairing houses, and fixing things.
Lyle is blessed to be a husband, father of two sons and two daughters, and a follower of Christ.