How to Help Your Homeschool Graduate Transition to College Life
First of all, congratulations! You are the proud parent (and teacher) of a home school graduate. Whether you facilitated your child’s education from day 1 or transitioned from public school to homeschool later, you have carefully walked your student to the finish line. Bravo!
Even though you have competently taught your student thus far, you may feel at a loss as to how you can prepare them for the big leap into college life. Make no mistake. The life your student is about to begin will be vastly different from the life you have carefully cultivated at home. With help, encouragement, and support you and your homeschool graduate can feel confident about the next step.
Here are several ways both practical and inspirational to help your homeschool graduate transition college life:
Take your student on college tours.
Although your student may already know where they want to attend college, call to set up a tour of the campus with your student. A friendly, helpful admissions staff member will likely escort your student to important locations such as the cafeteria, library, and administration building.
Try to hang back just a little bit during this tour to help give your student the feeling of independence. After all, the campus life and experience is your student’s and you will mainly be an observer during this season of life. Resist the urge to satisfy your own curiosities during this visit and let it be about your student.
During my first college tour, my mother walked a few feet behind me and the student from admissions. I did not realize until many weeks later how independent I felt because of her simple gesture of trust. My mother had raised me and taught me to ask good questions and to discern important information.
Enroll your student in freshman orientation.
Enrolling your student in freshman orientation will give them a true freshman experience without the added stress of class schedules and syllabi. Usually lasting just a few days, orientation immerses new students into campus life including dorm living, meals in the cafeteria, activities with other new students, guided tours of campus, and a taste of campus culture.
Your student might feel nervous about attending orientation and let’s be honest, you might feel nervous about sending them, but it’s good to have this experience under the belt. It’s better have you and your student have the first taste of separation and campus life without the entire student body on campus.
My freshman orientation was a shock, but I am so grateful the shock came in July and not my first week of Fall classes. Sharing a dorm room with a stranger, a bathroom with a hall of strangers, and the icebreakers meant to bring us all together, were almost more than this introvert could handle. It wasn’t all bad. I found my roommate during orientation and recognized a few familiar faces on the sidewalks my first week of school. It was the first step to feeling at home on campus.
Encourage your student to sign up for intramural sports or clubs.
Ease comes with engagement. Giving your student a good foot in the door for quick friendships by encouraging them to sign up for intramural sports or clubs. These groups form quick bonds over sports, activities, travel, and like-minded interests. Intramural sports get students out of the dorm room and the library for physical activity which is so important for emotional and physical well-being.
If your child is not the athletic type or perhaps more introverted than others, there are countless clubs that meet on a variety of other topics including film, photography, politics, cooking, 4-H and academics.
Help your student find their affinity groups on campus.
Apart from clubs and sports, there are affinity groups on campus for your student. Helping your student find people that they connect with on issues of importance and culture is a great way to create even more cross-campus connections. Examples of affinity groups are Hispanic and Latino Professional Association, Asian and Pacific Islander Business Majors, Women of Color Colleague Network Group, Future Leaders, and DiversAbility.
In additional to the valuable connection affinity groups provide, they also focus on development, awareness, representation, and leadership in the community. On most campuses, the organization and activities of affinity groups are highly structured which will provide your student an early education in governance.
Buy your student a school bag.
This suggestion may seem trivial and your student may already own a school bag but the suggestion is based on principle. Your student has known one way of studying, attending classes, participating, and even learning. Buying your student a first book bag or supplies for the dorm room is one way to establish a shift in expectations.
Help your student get on a budget.
Hopefully, your home curriculum included important lessons in personal finances and stewardship. If not, now is a critical time to talk to your child about getting on a budget. College is an experience in freedom and independence, and if your student goes away to school, it could be a lesson in consequences. A budget can help your student understand the ebb and flow of income, the wisdom and power to say “no” to an unrealistic expense, and the value of what they earn.
College life is full of unexpected expenses: the surprise trip home for the weekend, an unexpected car repair, club dues, bookstore fees, parking tickets, and grocery store trips for Ramen noodles. With a realistic budget, your student can experience college without the added stress of unnecessary debt.
Reinforce healthy eating and sleeping behaviors.
Give your student the gift of a good night’s sleep and a square meal. I’m sure the homeschool education you have provided has covered topics such as rest, nutrition, exercise, proper hydration, and many other health topics. Encourage your student to keep a normal schedule of rest, healthy meals, and exercise during the summer before their freshman year when most students tend to sleep in, graze, and lounge by the pool. Keeping up a healthy regimen is better than starting one at the beginning of the school year.
There is no doubt about it. Your college student will sleep through their 7:00 am geography class, get soft-serve ice cream from the cafeteria every day for a week, and learn to drink coffee by the gallon. There is no question that your student wants and needs to experience the freedom of making bad, but not necessarily unsafe, choices.
But a day will come when they realize that the Freshman Fifteen is a real thing and they cannot pass a class they sleep through. Knowing when to the body needs rest and the effect of a balanced diet, can give your student a map back to a healthier lifestyle.
Take your student on a tour of the city.
It’s easy as a student on a college campus to get myopic and forget about the world around them. The focus of every college student quickly becomes campus life, studying, grades, extracurricular activities, and of course, the social scene.
Before your student gets immersed in campus life, take a tour of the city where the school is located. See the places that shaped the history of the city. Visit a local church or community outreach ministry to see what the community cares about and the issues that need compassionate attention. Taste the food of local cultures and listen to the music of artists who call the city home.
Practically speaking, help your student orient themselves both physically and culturally to the city that will be home for several years. Be sure your city tour includes important public sites such as a city library, court house, grocery stores, pharmacy, and hospital. You can also pick up a city map at the visitor’s bureau which may come in handy down the road (literally and figuratively).
BONUS: Take a step back. You were your student’s parent, teacher, principal, guidance counselor, and coach for many years. Now, it’s time to enjoy just being parent for a change.
When I graduated from high school, my mother who had already graduated my two older siblings, faced an empty nest but a wise admissions officer had a piece of advice for our parents. Get a hobby. Your child is beginning the journey to change the world, and you need to let them go.
For 16 years, my mother was preoccupied with raising three children, preparing lessons, running a full house, and supporting my father’s small business. With three kids now out of the house, my mother took that piece of advice and finally pursued her passion in genealogy.
Your college student is, as the title of this post suggests, transitioning to a new life. You may feel a little lost and even sad. Remember that your student may feel these things too even if they cannot articulate it. Be supportive and understanding. Hold on loosely to the grown man or woman your student has become and show them you believe they are ready to step out into the world.