Preparing for College as a Homeschooled Student

Published by Gabriel Haley 6 months ago on Wed, May 25, 2022 9:36 AM

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The Covid years saw the number of homeschooled students grow dramatically. But even before the pandemic, homeschooling was experiencing considerable growth year over year. “Can homeschoolers go to college?” There is no longer any question, as homeschoolers regularly apply and are admitted to colleges at all tiers. If you are a homeschooled student, the real question you might have is: How can I best prepare for the transition to college?

Concordia University Nebraska is among numerous institutions of higher education that seek out homeschooled applicants because we know that these students are consistently well educated. In fact, numerous homeschoolers are invited each year to be a part of Concordia’s academic honors program, the Luke Scholars. Such programs can provide you with a welcoming community, full of friendship and support—along with the shared love of learning—felt throughout your academic career.

If you are a homeschooler who is thinking about applying to a Christian university like Concordia, it is likely you have already been formed by an education similarly rooted in the pursuits of truth, beauty, and goodness. You can consider these noble pursuits as a point of constancy between your current homeschool and your aspirations in higher education.

Independent Learning and the Pursuit of Truth

One aspect of homeschooling that translates well to college is self-driven learning. Of course, in college you will have valuable access to mentoring and counseling, and you have the chance to become part of a vibrant intellectual community (more on this point below), yet college students still hold a great deal of personal responsibility for their education. If you are already self-motivated to love inquiry for the sake of truth, then you are on the right track to succeed in college.

Be sure to highlight this strength in your college application. Include letters of recommendation from pastors, teachers or other mentors who can speak to your love of inquiry using specific examples when applying to college. When you arrange for a letter of recommendation, it is a good idea to provide your recommender with some supplemental materials in writing, so that you can offer your recommender concrete reminders of your academic and service highlights from your high school years. Specific examples can help your recommenders compose an informative letter for admission departments to consider.

Since you may have fewer institutional documents in your application, report standardized test scores, even when applications are test optional. They can help to give admissions a sense of your abilities in addition to the grades you report. One option that homeschooled students may wish to consider is the Classical Learning Test, which provides an alternative to the SAT or ACT. Since other standardized tests can be influenced by Common Core standards that are not always a curriculum priority for homeschooled students, the Classical Learning Test can provide a good gauge of your English, Mathematical, and Critical Reasoning abilities.

If possible, take the opportunity to schedule a campus visit, and meet professors and admissions officers personally. A campus visit can give you a great opportunity to display your love of learning.

Daily Habits and the Pursuit of Beauty

As a homeschooled student, you have probably cultivated a daily routine. It might be unusual to think of this as an art form, but one finds a sense of meaning and fulfillment in a well-crafted day. This concept of the ars vivendi, or “the art of living,” is an old one, but it continues to have practical application to today’s world. As a homeschooled student you have had to take special ownership of your day-to-day habits, and in doing so you are well poised to appreciate your college experience.

Whether one’s homeschooled experience was highly scheduled or highly flexible, it is likely that your time in college will offer a distinctly new experience. Students find that course workloads vary in type and in time. Where one class may consist in reading and writing, another will involve multiple group projects. The highly scheduled student may need to exercise flexibility and the student used to a relaxed pace may need to exercise efficiency. Take charge of these necessary alterations in your habits. Continue to practice the “art of living,” by intentionally crafting good habits throughout your time in college.

Set appropriate goals. It may be surprising to hear, but at the start of college, you don’t need to worry excessively about making a definitive career choice. Many students come to college unaware of the possibilities available to them, and today’s career paths vary and veer much more than they did in previous decades. This means that many of the classes outside of your major have just as much relevance as those within your major. It also means that college courses are about so much more than preparing for your first job out of college. Concordia’s Lutheran heritage holds a view of Vocation that encompasses the many roles you will have at home and at all your future workplaces.

Joining a Learning Community and the Pursuit of Goodness

As you pursue an “art of living,” be sure to take advantage of the social opportunities provided by college. Whether your homeschool participated in group activities or not, the number and variety of social opportunities provided by college is sure to be new. There are academic clubs, honor societies, spirit weeks, service projects, athletic competitions, dramatic and musical performances, and more. It is important to recognize how your social choices end up characterizing a large part of your college experience. When you recognize this, you are best positioned to use your time in college well, and—more importantly—to live the kind of life you were created to live.

Fundamentally, you go to college to get an education. Moreover, any college education is in some way a participation in a learning community. So, consider how to find specific communities that enrich your education. Applying for honors programs is one way to become an immediate part of an intellectual community. Concordia’s Luke Scholars, as mentioned above, provides students with an interdisciplinary community that seeks to honor the life of the Christian student. Its members take classes together, meet informally to discuss and debate, and share an enthusiasm for the life of Christian scholarship. Specific disciplines will also have honor societies and clubs that can enhance your appreciation of the discipline and motivate you to thrive.

Be sure not to neglect your spiritual life. Aim for regular church attendance. Maintain an active prayer life. Continuing your faith formation will help you to confront the various stresses and challenges that arise during and after college. Concordia also offers daily chapel. It is not mandatory, but it provides you a way to be nourished in faith and in love of your neighbor. When challenges arise, look outside yourself for spiritual and emotional support. 

College is a formative and unique time in life. If you come to college seeking truth, beauty, and goodness, you come prepared and ready to succeed.

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About the Author

Dr. Gabriel Haley is Associate Professor of English at Concordia University, Nebraska. He serves on the board of directors for the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education.

Meet Gabriel