Homeschooling has offered you a lot of positive experiences, including opportunities to discover who you are as an individual and the skills you needed to learn independently. Now that you’re ready to graduate, you have an important transition to face. Heading off to college after being homeschooled can be intimidating, but it’s also one of the most exciting experiences and growth opportunities you will ever have. Northgate Academy has witnessed their students heading off to college and seeing great success by focusing on four important areas.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
First of all, stepping outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean that you need to compromise your morals or beliefs, and it doesn’t refer to socializing alone. However, it is important to get involved in activities and clubs on campus. Get involved in activities that pique your interest, including things you might not have tried before. You might find that an intermural athletic team gives you the chance to meet knew people, build your teamwork skills, and help you get a good workout in at the same time. Maybe you want to get involved in a theater group or the campus Christian fellowship group. By at least trying out different clubs and activities, you will get a clearer idea of who you are and who you want to be in the future. Exercising your social skills will set you up for success moving forward. Just remember, you don’t have to keep attending meetings if you find it’s not the right group for you.
You’ll want to step outside your comfort zone academically as well. From note-taking to test-taking, you might find that the way things are done on campus are new to you, and that’s okay! New academic styles are a great way for you to develop different parts of your brain, something you will want to keep doing throughout your lifetime. Be ready to find the best study methods for your personal learning style given the new academic environment you’re in, and if that means heading to your adviser to find out what your campus offers to aid you in the academic transition, then do that. Your advisor wants to see you succeed, and they’ll be happy to guide you toward that success.
You might also find that you need to adapt to quite a few different teaching styles during your time on campus. Every instructor has their own unique style, and that might come as a bit of a culture shock to you as you head into your courses for the first time. Some will be very casual but end up giving very formal, detailed assessment, while others will seem very formal but give exams that allow you to express creativity and critical thinking. You never know what you are going to experience when you walk through the classroom door.
Especially while you’re getting used to each individual professor and class, remember to pay really close attention to each instructor as they are speaking and take notes on both the lecture and the reading; once you have been in class for a couple of weeks and have at least one graded assignment on record, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect with each course. Patience and attention to detail will be key in making the transition from homeschooling to multiple teaching styles.
Be True To Yourself
Most freshmen on campus feel the strong temptation to do whatever it takes for them to fit in. You might even feel insecure about being a “homeschooled kid.” Before you put one foot on campus, be sure you know who you are right now as well as who you want to be moving forward; remind yourself of all that you’ve learned and accomplished as a homeschooled student. You have had many opportunities to learn independently and stretch your mind in ways that many students from traditional schools haven’t had. Being able to share the benefits of homeschooling with others might prove enlightening to them. But most importantly, you just want to be true to who you want to be.
Part of trying to fit can lead to losing who you are. As you begin this new chapter in your life, be truthful about what is important to you and stick to your morals and beliefs. It can be hard to do, and there’s nothing wrong with becoming your own person. However, what you don’t want is to find yourself completely off the path that you intended, unable to recognize the person you once were. Growth is important, but anything that sets you backward for the sake of fitting in is not worth the social acceptance in the end.
Know your strengths and your limitations. Find like-minded individuals who will help you dive into your strengths and develop them even further, but it’s good to know your limitations socially as well. You might have had a lot of social opportunities as a homeschooled student, but you might not have. It’s okay to opt out of certain activities or stay in to have some quiet time. Everyone needs to feel mental peace, so taking care of yourself instead of heading out to socialize is a mature way to demonstrate that you know your self-worth and needs.
Take Small Classes
At least to start, you might want to ask your advisor to help you find classes with smaller class sizes. A lecture hall with hundreds of students can be intimidating to any freshman in college, and it can be hugely distracting, too. If it’s possible, finding the smallest sections possible for at least some of your classes will give you a place and time to breathe a little easier as you transition to this new learning experience.
Smaller class sizes will provide you with a place where you are comfortable and an environment closer to what you’re used to. This isn’t to say that you will be able to fit only small classes into your schedule, but at least easing into the larger classes should be investigated as a possibility. Smaller class sizes will help you make more personal connections with your peers as well as your professors, helping you feel a bit more “at home” in the environment.
Don’t rush yourself! By the end of semester one freshman year, you’ll have enough experience under your belt to know what you prefer, and even the larger classes won’t be as intimidating anymore.
Coming from a homeschool background, one advantage that you might already have is knowing how to learn independently and think critically on your own. However, one difference in college is that you will have a very strict schedule to follow with a syllabus for each class. Following this list of assignments and due dates is going to be essential for success. Most professors won’t remind you of upcoming work and deadlines, so make sure you’re organized with a good paper or online calendar or agenda.
Know the campus, too. Be sure to walk through your schedule for each day of the week a few times before classes start so that you aren’t feeling frantic. Instead, you’ll feel ready to tackle the new academic challenges college life has for you one step at a time if you are calm and collected instead of rushing around last minute, worried about where to go next.
Finally, get to know your professors’ office hours and how to schedule time with them. Too often, freshman don’t reach out to their instructors until it’s nearly too late. If you start a course and immediately feel ill at ease about it, schedule time to talk to your professor sooner rather than later. Professors, like your advisors, want to see you succeed; give them a chance to help you do that by meeting with them right away.
College is an exciting time of academic and emotional growth. Taking things one step at a time is key for a good experience. By giving yourself time to acclimate to the new environment and expectations, you’ll be well on your way. Keeping these important tips in mind, you have a chance to make college a time that you will look back on with fondness and pride.
We at Northgate have seen the benefits our families experience from online homeschool academics. Feel free to contact us Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, at 800-339-7132 to discuss your options. Enrollment is easy, so if you’re ready to take the first steps toward this exciting experience, enroll online today!