Your child has spent his or her entire academic life in homeschool. It’s been a fun and engaging way to learn—with lots of variety, flexibility, and self-paced learning suited to your student’s learning style.
But soon your student will leave the nest and head off to college. And the idea of new living arrangements, new routines, new faces, and sitting in new classrooms with dozens—if not hundreds—of students is daunting. Throw in several semesters of remote learning in pandemic-driven isolation, and it’s understandable that many homeschool students are unsure about how to adapt to the brave new world of college classes.
To help your student prepare for education in a traditional classroom setting this fall—after a lifetime of homeschool and the dislocation of COVID-19—here are 8 tips to ease the transition.
1. Use this summer to prep
While it’s common for homeschool parents to offer a variety of enriched learning experiences with other families in co-op or hybrid settings, the pandemic drastically reduced these options and many students have spent more than a year cut off from opportunities to socialize and learn alongside their peers.
To ease back into group learning that comes with college, consider enrolling your student in a summer co-op or classes at the local junior college to get some classroom experience and maybe even earn some transferable credits before starting college.
2. Be mentally prepared for anything
The good news is that COVID-19 appears to be on the retreat in the United States. But even as vaccination rates rise and restrictions are lifted, it’s possible there could be a resurgence of the virus that triggers another round of shutdowns. This means that your student needs to be mentally prepared to quickly transition back to remote learning—including returning home.
Given that most students have already made this transition at least once, it’s likely they will adapt more easily this time. Still, at least being aware of the possibility for a return to remote education smooths the way should the situation arise.
3. Engage in class with students and professors
Some college classes can be quite large and intimidating. If your student sits at the back of the lecture hall, or where there are lots of distractions, he or she won’t learn as well. Encourage them to pick a seat where they can easily engage and ask questions, participate in discussions, and talk to their professors. By doing so, they will quickly start to feel at home in the classroom and not feel like the atmosphere is impersonal and off-putting. Not only will this make for a more enriching academic experience, their professors will recognize them in a sea of faces and be more willing to offer individual help.
4. Establish a personal routine and learn to budget time
College brings many new freedoms and distractions. That’s why it’s more important than ever to eat and sleep well and establish new rhythms to keep each day as consistent as possible. If your student typically goes to bed early—but everyone else stays up late—remind them it’s OK to be focused and disciplined. And by learning to budget their time, your student will be less likely to procrastinate, and instead, get to class on time, block out study time, and complete assignments when due.
5. Find a great place to study
Unlike homeschool settings, college campuses can be huge and full of distractions. That’s why it’s important for your student to find a study spot that works. Encourage them to explore out-of-the-way places on campus where it’s easier to concentrate and be productive. This could include isolated tables and chairs in the library stacks, empty classrooms, cafés, or coffee shops.
6. Be proactive in meeting people and making friends
While many homeschool students are confident in social situations, others have less experience making friends and establishing peer networks. To help your student adapt to college and succeed, encourage them to make small talk to at least one new person in every class so they will feel more comfortable. Also, consider checking with the student life office to see if there’s a network of former homeschool students on campus to plug into. Connecting with students who come from a similar educational background can be a huge support and enhance the college experience.
7. Get involved
One of the most important things homeschool students can do when they arrive on campus is to get involved in clubs and activities. This opens the door to connections to college life and makes the process of making new friends with similar interests and passions easier. Soon, feelings of homesickness will fade and it will be easier to thrive in this new season of life.
8. Exercise and explore
College is a whole new world. Encourage your student to get out and explore the new surroundings. This can include taking a hike, going bowling, hitting the student recreation center, joining an intramural sports league, visiting the local zoo, or heading out to the lake for a change of scenery. Even a 20-minute walk can reduce anxiety and improve brain function and academic performance.
It’s not uncommon for homeschool students to think they’re at a disadvantage in college compared to their traditional school peers. In reality, even elite universities understand that homeschoolers are well-positioned to adapt to college and succeed.
Because most homeschool students are independent learners—a trait that bodes well for college. And while the method of instruction at college is different than at home—with large classes going through material at the same time—the faster pace of college can be a good fit for homeschoolers who tend to be self-starters. So by staying positive and keeping these 8 tips in mind, homeschoolers can successfully navigate college and reap the rewards.