One month into my freshman year of college, my math professor asked me to stay after class. “Were you homeschooled?” he asked. My face flushed, certain I’d somehow been outed as a dysfunctional outcast. (Pervasive stereotypes can affect even the most confident homeschool grads.) I nodded nervously.
“I thought so!” he replied enthusiastically. “I can always tell. I love homeschooled students. They’re always so engaged, and they actually turn in their work!”
I heard this same refrain over and over throughout my university experience—professors love homeschoolers. Students educated at home consistently demonstrated greater enthusiasm toward learning, my instructors told me, and were much more proficient in writing than their traditionally educated peers. Yet even today, although homeschooling has been mainstream for quite some time, many parents remain concerned about the ability of homeschool students to succeed in higher education. I still hear this question all the time: “What about college?”
Both my husband and I were homeschooled from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, and we both went on to receive four-year degrees in traditional university settings. Neither of us found the transition from homeschooling to college particularly traumatic. Our home education prepared us extremely well for the college environment, since we had already
- learned to study on our own,
- become accustomed to structure and deadlines,
- written countless papers, and
- been researching information independently for years.
In most homeschool families, the focus is on learning, not just school. This gives home-educated students an advantage in college. What’s the difference between learning and school? Learning is a lifestyle, while school is something you have to get through. This emphasis on learning, and other traits many homeschool graduates have in common, makes homeschool students ideally prepared for the college classroom.
1. Homeschooled Students Have Excellent Independent Study Skills
For homeschoolers, there’s no way to sit through a class period without actually doing work. The work itself is the class. When the bell strikes eight, you can’t count on thirty other kids to flip open textbooks and begin the discussion without your active contribution. You have to actually begin doing the problems yourself. If you do not participate, math class (or literature analysis, or biology lab, or any other subject) simply does not proceed. Homeschooled kids enter college already knowing how to dive into individual assignments and work through them independently.
2. Homeschooled Students are Self-Disciplined and Self-Motivated
As a homeschooled kid, I quickly realized the advantages of being self-motivated. If I could
- block out distractions,
- focus, and
- work quickly and efficiently,
I could complete a fifty-minute lesson in twenty minutes—and gain a half hour of free time to pursue my own talents and interests. In a traditional school settings, such motivation is rarely rewarded, since every student is required to stay in the classroom until the bell rings, regardless of progress.
Rather than expecting to be spoon-fed, or relying on the hard work of those around them, homeschool students enter college already accustomed to the idea of taking charge of their educational progress. And of course, discipline and motivation aren't just academic assets—they are essential when it comes to succeeding in the real world workforce.
3. Homeschool Students View Learning as Collaborative, not Us Versus Them
When I was in college, I often asked my professors questions during open office hours. Why not? Instructors, after all, are there for the students, available to offer guidance, give research pointers, and award extra credit.
Because these meetings were such a valuable resource—especially in understanding exactly what was required to succeed in the class—the reluctance of my peers to take advantage of open office hours struck me as particularly odd.
But when you think about the difference between traditional education and home education, their reluctance makes sense. In a traditional school setting, the majority of a student’s time is spent alongside same-age peers. Homeschooled students, on the other hand, regularly interact with a wide range of ages. (Inter-age learning, of course, more closely mimics the real world. How many corporate offices are filled with only twenty-three-year-old workers, whose birthdays fall before the first of September?)
Because of this intergenerational advantage, homeschool students tend to enter college without the adults vs. children or teachers vs. students mentality. Homeschool kids view learning as collaborative, rather than oppositional. So because they are not intimidated by adults, homeschool graduates are much more likely to
- take full advantage of professors’ standing office hours,
- ask for help, and
- seek clarification.
4. Homeschooled Students Have Time to Develop Extracurricular Interests
It’s no secret college admissions departments look for more than academic prowess. For a long time, universities have been very clear about their preference for well-rounded applicants—those who have cultivated talents and interests beyond classroom success.
One of the advantages of homeschooling lie in its inherently time-efficient nature. Homeschooled kids simply have more time to pursue personal areas of interest. Traditionally-schooled students may be just as passionate—about coding or invasive species or medical technology—but find themselves limited by time. Homeschoolers, on the other hand, are not constrained to evenings and weekends, and have the liberty to pursue extensive research projects and unique job opportunities before college even begins.
And it’s not just the admissions officers who are happy about this. This drive, authenticity, and experience outside the classroom makes homeschool kids the ideal candidates to
- pursue collegiate internships,
- go after research grants, and
- take advantage of other credit-earning independent study opportunities.
But in the end, maybe professors love curious, driven homeschool kids for reasons which go beyond academics. Because when I stop to think about it, what’s served me best in my real world life has less to do with college coursework, and more to do with why colleges love homeschooled kids in the first place: self-discipline, diligence, and the enormous importance of tenacity and perseverance.