Navigating the college front after growing up in a homeschool environment can feel unsettling. Additionally, many homeschool students have pressing questions and concerns about going from a more self-driven school experience into a classroom setting in college. The social, structural, educational and qualification changes can even feel overwhelming at times for some students. However, transitioning from homeschool into the university setting doesn’t have to be a daunting task. This is a chance to break out into the world and explore learning in a classroom setting. This may be the first time many homeschool students have spent extensive periods of time away from home. At the same time, with so many options for gaining degrees online or for taking courses part-time, or attending community college before obtaining a bachelor’s, now more than ever college is more accessible to people from all educational backgrounds, including those who homeschooled.
According to the National Home Education Research Institution, an organization that “collects research about homeschooling (home-based education, homeschooling), and publishes the research journal called the Home School Researcher” on the subject, there are about two million homeschooled educated students in the United States today. Many of these students dream of continuing their education in a university setting. For those that are interested, here are some tips to help along the way.
Know What Kind of College Experience You Want
Your first step to deciding where to apply is to have a firm grasp of the kind of college experience you want. Today you can gain your degree by going to school online or on campus, or a combination of both. If you want to keep up your self-paced, student-driven learning consider going online. You’ll be able to continue to have flexibility with your learning and have the freedom to complete assignments more or less on your own. There are additional benefits to going to school online too. As a general rule, obtaining a degree online can be cheaper than attending an on-campus program. You’ll have fewer fees, like technology or club fees for example, and you won’t have to worry about paying for room and board. Sometimes online programs will include books and even laptops in their per credit costs, so if finances are a driving force for you, look for online programs that are all-inclusive. You can also get most degrees online today too, from your associate’s degree, a bachelor’s, to a master’s degree or even Ph.D. program.
Now, if you are interested in gaining some classroom experience now that you’re done with high school, then by all means find a college with a great campus in a dream location that fits your budget so you can get the best value out of your college experience. There is something special about the on-campus experience that cannot be grasped online. You’ll make friends, enjoy a classroom setting where a teacher is right there on hand to help and guide you. You’ll experience the more social aspects of learning, participate in group work, and benefit from all the additional perks that on-campus learning provides like sports and social events, study groups, dormitory living, clubs, and the day-to-day interactions of experiencing college in persons. Still, if you’re not sure what you want, you can also always consider a program that allows you to spend time on campus and online while working on your degree.
Homeschool to College – The Benefits of Early Preparation
Sometimes students and parents have a difficult time understanding how to translate homeschool guidelines and benchmarks to college pre-requisites and requirements. The first place to start is to understand that chronological age is a number and not a measurement of academic preparedness. For this reason, homeschooled children can get a jump-start on college by taking college courses while they are still chronologically not old enough to attend college, and if they are academically ready to do so.
Additionally, homeschool students have the advantage of learning at a pace that suits them best with flexibility that allows them the option to study particular areas of study in more depth if they choose. If you already know you are interested in majoring in a particular subject, consider focusing the last year or two high school homeschool years in that direction. You can also earn college credit through Advanced Placement, or AP, learning classes. By completing advanced placement classes or college courses early, as a homeschool student, you are building a strong transcript that will help you stand out when applying to college or university. Additionally, online college courses in particular are a low-risk way for homeschool students to be introduced to the pace and academic expectations you’ll find at college.
The Benefits of Dual Enrollment
Dual enrollment is a great way for homeschool students to take college courses while still completing their college years. These programs vary widely from state to state and college to college, so research is vital in finding the right program if you are interested. Essentially a student enrolled in a dual enrollment program will complete their high school courses while simultaneously enrolling in college and beginning courses at the university level. Oftentimes the college courses are marked as high school/college classes for an enrolled homeschool student until the student completely finishes his or her high school degree. At this point, the courses will be marked as completed college courses, showing the student is one step ahead with college pre-requisites complete before truly beginning their degree program!
The Benefits of Homeschool to College
There are some major benefits to being homeschooled that speak directly to your advantage when you apply for college. For one, your application will likely stand out since there are far fewer homeschoolers applying for college in the United States compared to traditionally taught students. As mentioned above, many homeschool students are also able to complete some college credit before applying, whether this is through an accelerated placement course, a college class, or a dual enrollment program. What may not show up on paper, but that you will be well aware of, is your ability to manage deadlines and assignments on your own. You are surely great at time management and these skills will only help you succeed in college.
Many freshmen struggle with managing the self-driven nature of college after leaving public or private schools where advisors, teachers, and parents kept a close watch over their assignments, deadlines, and grades. IN college the student has to manage all of their work on their own, and as a homeschooler, you are one step ahead of the game when it comes to time and assignment management. Many homeschool students often boast better extra-curricular credits on their transcripts too such as a unique internship or volunteer opportunities.
Other Great Resources for Homeschool to College Students
Some companies offer to consult services that can help parents and students navigate college admissions. Though these services can be costly, they can also ease some of the stress involved in navigating the transition from homeschooling high school to college or university, both online and on campus. The Homeschool Success website is one such example of a company offering consulting advice for homeschooled high-schoolers preparing for the college admissions process.
Since some homeschoolers don’t believe in testing, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT), The National Center for Fair Testing is viable research when trying to find colleges that accept student applications for enrollment without these scores.
If you’re wondering what your transcripts need to look like before applying to college, get a jumpstart by using this website, The Homeschool Legal Defense Association, where you can view varied examples of high school transcripts. Here you’ll be able to get some advice on what you can do now to improve your chances later. Especially helpful for students not yet in their senior year, this is a great way to navigate all the offerings and options like accelerated placement courses and online college classes that are available to you.
Going to college – whether online or on-campus – is an exciting time for so many young adults. Especially for students who are transitioning from the self-led nature of homeschool and entering the on-campus college experience, going to college can seem like a daunting task, though the adventure is thrilling in itself. Getting around once you’re enrolled and on campus doesn’t have to be hard either. You’ll have an advisor who can help you get around and don’t forget that your teachers and professors are there to help and guide you too – don’t be afraid to ask them for help. You’ll also find that many colleges admissions offices and student services offices have programs to assist students entering college from a homeschool background. Be sure to check with the offices at your college to find out what resources are available to you. And remember, no matter which path you choose, find what fits for you to ensure you are getting the most value out of your college experience, because at the end of the day, your college experience is your own!
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