Walking into the local college at 15 years old to take my first class was an intimidating experience. Having been homeschooled from pre-k forward, I had no idea what to expect in a classroom setting, especially a college classroom. As a college graduate reflecting back, these are a few of the tips that I wish someone would have given to me:
1) Don’t Forget Your Due Dates
A huge benefit of being homeschooled is having flexibility. While my mother would let me postpone assignments due to extracurricular activities, my professors weren’t so lenient. If your professor tells you to turn an assignment in, turn it in on time. Unlike your parents, your professors aren’t concerned about your social activities. They expect you to turn assignments in when they are due with few exceptions. So make sure to keep track of your due dates and turn your assignments in on time.
2) Your Professor Is Not Your Parent
As a homeschooler, you get used to your parents teaching and grading your work. I knew exactly what my mother looked for in my papers and would write them accordingly. However, when I turned in my first paper to my English professor, he informed me of all the errors it contained. So, I got to know my professor and what he was looking for. Just like every parent is different, every professor is different too. If your professor has published work, review some of their writing to get a sense of their style. Go visit them during their office hours and ask them questions. Ask them how you could have done better on certain assignments. This will help you learn more about their teaching style and will show them that you care about your work.
3) Study Groups Are Your New Homeschool Co-op
Have you ever joined a homeschool co-op? I did, and I’m thankful for it. It taught me that a lot of learning can happen in group environments. This is why study groups are so important in college. During my first year of university, I decided to take Japanese. It was a very difficult class. Joining a study group allowed me to converse with my fellow classmates in Japanese and also gave me a chance to learn new ideas from them. They helped me see things in a different way. Don’t isolate your learning; join a study group.
4) Get Involved
One of my biggest regrets in college was not getting involved more. My homeschool years were full of sports, theatre, and volunteering. However, my college years were focused on academics. In my senior year of college, I took a class that taught students how to utilize their degree after college. That class stressed how important getting involved is. For us seniors, it was already too late. Get involved early. Join a club, volunteer, or complete a work study. Find things that interest you, and do them. This will not only help you to establish social relationships, which will help you learn how to network better, but will also show employers that you are able to balance multiple responsibilities.
5) Have a Plan, and Then Have Five Back-up Plans
When I was homeschooled, my parents knew what courses I needed to take. My input boiled down to picking out which curriculum I liked best. In college I had to stay much more proactive. I had to research my major requirements, figure out which classes I could take, and hope that they wouldn’t fill up before I registered. It can be a little overwhelming, so come up with a plan in advance. When course schedules are released, come up with a first choice, second choice, and even a third choice schedule.
Back-up plans help for your major too. I changed majors twice during my four years, and that’s ok. Don’t choose something simply because it sounds interesting. Make sure it’s what you want, and come up with multiple plans in case you discover it’s not.
Bonus! My number one tip for parents:
Let your student make mistakes.
This is the time for your child to take control of their education. I know it’s scary, but I promise they will be ok. They’re going to make mistakes. That’s how they’re going to learn. I had to remind my mom that just because I was telling her about my classes didn’t mean I needed her to remind me of various due dates. Sometimes I knew my mom was right, but I needed to learn that on my own. You’ve done a great job. You’ve gotten them this far, but now is your chance to stop running the race with them. Sit back, relax, cheer them on from the sidelines, and cry as they cross the finish line. They’ve got this!