Ask the Experts

Table for One

I was homeschooled from 6th through 12th grade and starting college this semester. What do I need to know to make this a smooth transition?

With an estimated 2.3 million home-schooled students in America, many of these students have concerns about making the transition to a college-learning environment. Most homeschooled students flourish in college, with some research suggesting that these students actually achieve higher GPAs than their freshman counterparts. However, the social elements and shift from one-on-one attention to a larger learning center are things that the homeschooled student will face. Acknowledging the potential issues and concerns can help to smooth the transition.

Moving from a homeschooled environment into a college one is definitely a challenge and there are a number of things to consider. The flexibility of learning at home will be gone at college; deadlines are real. Assignments that can appear relatively manageable to start can quickly become intimidating as the deadline approaches. Homeschooling students do have a strong sense of self-motivation which will be an advantage when managing and working to deadlines.

Your college lecturers and peers will be accustomed to structured lessons, courses and materials that you are not. This does not mean that you are at a disadvantage; know your strengths and use them. Not studying with the same age group should have given you the ability to interact with all ages. This will be a benefit when dealing with professors and faculty.

Another strength should be your ability to teach yourself. At college, you will be given the materials in class, then learn them in your own study time. Homeschooling should have already prepared you for this. You will need to learn how to take effective notes in class because learning at home does not necessarily teach you this, so take time to practice organized note taking.

You will need to learn how to plan your schedule, succeeding at college will depend on it. Time management and planning skills are essential so work on getting everything done without getting stressed out.

The college environment is different to anything you will have experienced before. Learn how it functions and be prepared for some big changes. Lecture halls will be the biggest change since you are used to more one-on-one learning. You will have far less interaction with your professor during lectures and making friends will be harder as classes are often packed. Professors will be top of their field, experts in their subject, whereas you are more used to being taught by parents who have general knowledge and experience.

Dorm life will be a new experience for you so be prepared to share and compromise. You will need to balance this new life of study and down time. Choices whether to study for a test or go out with your roommates will come up often; learn how to prioritize what is more important to you. Needless to say, some of these are not good choices.

A flood of new options is now available to you, being in a dorm surrounded by classmates and new friends. The change from being the sole student or with your siblings to sharing a group experience is a marked shift in your social environment. Homeschooled students now have opportunities for participation in group sports, clubs, dance classes and theatre.

Finally, do not be afraid to seek out help if you feel lost at any stage, you are not alone and most colleges have good student support and counselling services.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world… Nelson Mandela.

John Regan is a former Director of Sales for equity research.