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From Homeschool to College—A Time of Adjustment

What can a homeschooler expect in college? Ashley Joiner, faculty member at Bob Jones University, explores that transition and shares her findings with us.

While I was packing for my freshman year of college, it hit me. Looking up at my shelf of schoolbooks, I thought, "Your high school education is over. You’re going to college, and there’s no more time to prepare. Now you’ll find out how good your homeschool education was."

Studying Homeschoolers in College

A few years later when I had to choose a topic for a graduate project, I decided to investigate how homeschoolers transition to college. I interviewed current college students who were homeschooled from kindergarten or first grade through twelfth grade. The students spent thirty minutes to an hour telling me about their experiences when they came to college.

As I listened to these students, I found that most of their transition experiences were rooted in differences between their homeschool background and the college atmosphere.

Surprises

Most of the students experienced a few surprises when they came to college. They were surprised by the amount of walking between classes, the size of the college, classroom practices (such as grading in class and using machine-gradable answer sheets), and the price of textbooks. Danielle (all names have been changed) said that she was "surprised by all of the people. You walk out of the classroom, into the hallway, and all these people are coming at you."

Because she was used to working independently during high school, Faith thought her college teachers would expect her to be even more independent. She was pleasantly surprised to find out that her teachers were willing to help her when she did not understand her assignments.

Adjustments

Most of the homeschoolers that I interviewed did have to make some adjustments when they came to college. Some students struggled with their new schedule. Instead of working at their own pace, they had to follow the teacher’s assignment sheet. Instead of working on English until they had finished that day’s assignment, they might attend class on Monday but not have time to do their English homework until Tuesday night. In homeschool most students could study right before taking a test, but in college they are required to take tests whether they are ready or not. Deadlines are rarely negotiable, so students must prioritize and give time to more important assignments. Prioritizing, a necessary college strategy, may be difficult for a homeschooler who was required to do all of the work no matter how long it took.

Students also had to adjust to having many different teachers. They experienced different teachers’ personalities and now had to learn what the different teachers required. A few students avoided interaction with their teachers. They did not want to ask or answer questions in class, and they would not visit their teachers’ offices even if they needed help. These students respected their teachers and did not want to take up their time. However, they found that interaction with their teachers was necessary for success in college. Students who struggled in this area needed lots of encouragement from family and friends to approach their teachers for help.

Reflections

When it came to academics, many homeschoolers found that history class was easy for them because they were used to learning on their own from books. Having a teacher explain things made college history even easier for them. A few students had difficulty with their English research paper and wished they had done more writing in high school. Some students observed that they were independent learners because they were homeschooled. They were used to getting work done on their own, so they adapted quickly to college classes.

Extracurricular activities in high school were important in preparing students for college. Several students mentioned jobs, sports teams, and homeschool groups. These things helped them learn how to interact socially. They encouraged other homeschoolers to interact with many different people during high school because they will be forced to do so when they come to college. In general, students felt that homeschool prepared them well academically, and adequately (but not quite as well) socially.

Conclusion

Most homeschool graduates will face some surprises and adjustments when they come to college. In many cases these adjustments are a result of differences between the homeschool and higher education subcultures. Parents can lessen the "shock" by preparing their children for what is coming, and children usually appreciate that help. One homeschooler said, "I think I was ready because of the good stuff that my mom had been doing all along. I think I was ready because of all those years of encouraging learning and encouraging reading."


Ashley Joiner received her Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Public Address from Bob Jones University in May 2008.

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