A Homeschooler's Guide to Freshman Year

By Ceanna Hayes Daniels
August 16, 2022

For many former homeschoolers, the idea of college is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. As intimidating as it may seem, stepping outside of the comfort zone created by home and family will allow you to grow and flourish in new ways. The path ahead of you may not be clear yet, but it will be filled with unforeseen triumphs and joys that will make that uncertain journey more worthwhile.

Although you may worry about beginning your freshman year, take heart —being a homeschooler has prepared you for college elements you may not have even considered yet! For example, the time you've spent directing your learning while your parents taught your younger siblings can help you confidently approach otherwise-daunting assignments, like research papers and exam preparation.

Similarly, your experience working a few weeks ahead in an easy class to create uninterrupted time for a complex one will help you to balance an uneven workload. The discipline you've developed in pacing yourself to finish assignments on time, despite no strict external deadline, will help you to manage lengthy projects and term papers, where work is expected throughout the semester but only clearly "due" during finals week.

While many homeschoolers rapidly acclimate to the academic side of college life, some may worry about other elements, such as whether they’ll fit in with their peers. With that in mind, here are a few things that graduating homeschoolers may need to prepare themselves for when they arrive on campus.

Introverted homeschoolers may find themselves exhausted by socializing far more quickly than their peers. For students used to plenty of time alone or exclusively around familiar people like family members, the sheer volume of people they encounter at university can create a culture shock and cause their energy to drain rapidly. Rather than beating yourself up for not going to as many events as your peers or for not immediately establishing a friend group, give yourself credit for the number of people you’re interacting with daily — at the dining hall, on the way to class, in the dorm lobby, and more.

Most importantly, remind yourself that those interactions are proof of your willingness to step outside your comfort zone and grow. Allow yourself to block out time for intentional quiet. Activities like going on a walk, taking time to journal, or reading alone will help you to recharge your social batteries and enjoy time with new friends.

In addition to these reminders, it may be encouraging to introverted students to know that many people find their best friends in their second semester or second year of college, rather than right off the bat. Your freshman year should focus on settling in and figuring out college, not cementing an identity as a member of a particular group, so don’t let your anxieties about not being social enough lead you to exhaustion and burnout.

Before moving on to the extraverts, there is one other piece of advice introverts may consider helpful. If you are anxious about socializing and making friends, consider joining the speech and debate team, trying out for mock trial, or auditioning for a student theatre group. Plenty of the other students there will be nervous about public speaking so that you won't feel as alone in your struggle. At the end of the semester, you’ll have gained confidence and likely a few friends and mentors.

Extraverted homeschoolers — or introverts attempting to rebrand themselves as more social people than they feel — may find themselves so eager to make new friends that they begin over-committing to extracurricular activities or social events. During the first few weeks of school, there may be little enough homework that this over-commitment isn't immediately obvious. Allow yourself to express interest and sign up for the email lists of whatever interests you while remembering that signing up for the email list is not the same as signing up to attend every event.

Early in the semester, sketch out a schedule that includes your classes, homework, and whichever activities seem like they'll be most fulfilling. (Make sure that the schedule leaves time for sleep!) Focus on the topics and events you're especially passionate about rather than what you feel obligated or pressured to try. As the semester continues, if something you committed to early on becomes detrimental to your mental or emotional well-being, permit yourself to leave it behind. Whether that means you drop that club, leave that group, skip that party, or even take a break from that friendship. Prioritize wellness, not a packed calendar.

Whether introverted or extraverted, homeschoolers who grew up within large or tight-knit families may suddenly feel isolated after moving to a college campus. After years of spending every day with people who have known you for your entire life, suddenly being almost exclusively around strangers can worsen feelings of homesickness more than expected. If you start to feel this way, don't worry — you're not alone. Setting up an intentional time to meet with new friends can help you to feel more at home on-campus, and calling your family or old friends will affirm that you are still loved and known, even when you feel lonely. Know that you will build community in college, and it will get easier over time; these feelings will not define you or your college years.

For those used to being just a few students — or the only student — in a class, facing frequent interruptions in a lecture from other students can be jarring. Because homeschoolers are often used to working on a subject within their timelines, you may initially be confused or even frustrated at having to adjust to a different student's pace. Although it takes time to get used to this, the best strategy is to pause and learn from other students' interjections rather than dwelling on any negative emotions you may feel.

The last worry that graduating homeschoolers have is the fear of being stereotyped. Don't worry about this too much — people will only ask where you attended high school and what you did there during the first few days of college. Within the first week, the questions will shift to what dorm you live in, which classes you're taking, and what major you're considering. College students will care far more about what you’re doing now than what you used to do; odds are, the only person who will think of you as "that homeschooled kid" is yourself.

Ceanna Hayes Daniels

Ceanna Hayes Daniels is freelance writer and editor. In 2022, she graduated Hillsdale College summa cum laude with a degree in politics. In her free time, she continues to enjoy studying philosophy, political theory, and literature. She and her husband live in Michigan, where the two enjoy perusing bookstores together for new books and old records.
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