April 30, 2016
Transition to University
I knew my homeschooling years were drawing to a close when my peers stopped asking me the perennial question, “Do you do school in your pyjamas?” and instead started wondering, “How will you get into university?” In my case, leaving school and heading off to university wasn’t the life-altering shock that leaves many students reeling from the dreaded ‘Freshman Fifteen’—fifteen pounds heavier, 15% lower grades. Instead, my transition from home to university was, in many ways, far smoother than many public-schoolers experience.
In the fall semester of my grade 12 year, I got permission to take one introductory English course from our local university. I showed up in the nick of time the first day, hiding away in the back corner between two guys with hoodies, only daring to put my hand up once. The first essay was a nerve-wracking experience; although I wrote creatively throughout highschool, I hadn’t ever written a formal essay. After working through three drafts, I visited the prof in her office hours and explained the situation. “So, I’m the first one to tell you if it’s any good?” she asked, somewhat apprehensive. Our fears were unfounded, however. It turns out that while homeschooling might not have drilled the five-paragraph essay structure into my head, I had learned how to handle words well enough to pull off a solid A first time around.
The second semester, I returned to university full-time, enrolling in four courses. This time around, I had to learn that although my homeschooler work ethic made me one of the strongest students in most of my classes, I was far from invincible. I still have my first Roman Civilization test with a big C scrawled at the top, all my mistakes marked in angry red pen. I’d love to tell you how I worked hard and came out of the final exam with a beautiful A+, but unfortunately I never managed to pull my mark up all that much.
With a semester’s worth of credits under my belt, I transferred to a bigger university in a different province. Standards were higher. Classes were larger. My initial marks were lower, but I worked hard and managed to end the year on the Dean’s List. What I found most frustrating, though, was the overwhelming apathy so many of my classmates conveyed. It was hard to stay motivated when the prof assumed we wouldn’t have done the assigned readings and my peers competed to see who could start their essays closest to the deadline.
Most people assume homeschoolers will find transitioning to university difficult because we’re not used to exams or classrooms or teachers or deadlines. In reality, the self-discipline, time management, and love of learning that homeschooling instilled in me was far more important. It turns out that university, with its limited classroom time and focus on independent study, is actually more similar to the autonomy of homeschooling than the structure of public school. We might be unfamiliar with the classroom, but homeschoolers can certainly get the work done.
Editor’s Note: Homeschoolers do fare very well in postsecondary settings of every kind. Whether your child is looking at college, university, or the trades, your HSLDA membership gives you access to additional support and resources to help your child’s admission process. Contact our office today for the help you need!