General Education

How to Survive College After Homeschool—Without Alienating People

How to Survive College After Homeschool—Without Alienating People
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Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella July 30, 2019

Plenty of "normal" college students are way stranger than any homeschooler (especially the English majors who think liking *Infinite Jest* is a personality type). I’m sure I seemed weird to a lot of people—but not because of the "AP Party" square dances I'd been to.

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How to survive the transition from homeschool to college

The biggest question homeschool students face, aside from, “How do you make friends?” is, “What about college?” While I can’t tell anybody how to make friends, I can say that applying and attending college as a homeschooler is not as hard as it sounds.

While college is unlike any other experience as a homeschooler, it won’t be different just because you’re homeschooled. But chances are, a few highs and lows will come out of your jump to higher education and eventually, the real world. Here’s how to be ready for them—and guarantee more highs than lows.

1. Earn college credit early

Every college wants to see a combination of standardized test scores and grades. As a homeschooler who didn’t take a lot of accredited classes, I put a premium on speaking the language of higher education. My homeschool group—they’re a thing!—met at our local town hall to study for the AP exam together.

We took accredited online classes and did supplemental activities together with a retired teacher that everyone pitched in to hire. When the time came, just about everybody was ready to crush the exam, as we were the SATs.

Even more important than the test was the website that all of us took our actual AP classes through. I took almost all of my AP classes through the wonderful PA Homeschoolers group, run by Susan and Howard Richman. Their approach included online games and contests, and student Skype groups for essay and study help. In total, I took six online AP high school classes through the program. I also studied for one AP exam over Skype with friends from the program.

Every year, at the end of AP season, the group would host an “AP Party,” inviting students from across the country to the Richman’s farm for a square dance. We had our graduation ceremony there, too. All of this sounds probably sounds incredibly homeschool-y, but hey, stay true to your roots.

Why AP classes are beneficial (aside from making you look smart):

  • They weight other grades. I could prove that I was doing well in the classes and with the tests, which made my other non-accredited classes look good too. College admissions were glad to see them.
  • They knock out college requirements. I didn’t get a perfect score on every exam, but I did do well enough to skip some core requirements in college, which I was grateful for.

2. Get your records in order

I moved from Connecticut to New York City as a high school sophomore. Since Connecticut’s standards for homeschool education were far more relaxed, I never took the Regents Exam, which is required of New York high school to earn their high school diploma. When it came time to graduate, I lacked a diploma. Oops, right?

To make a long story short, I had already written some amazing (IMHO) college essays, nailed my in-person interview and was offered a scholarship through the Macaulay Honors program at CUNY Hunter College when I learned that I needed to take the GED.

We scrambled to find an exam location, which was in Albany, I got sick before the exam and accidentally skipped a page of the math section—all of which resulted in an awkward drive home with several promises “not to tell your mother.”

All students will have different experiences, but there is a chance you will need to put up with unexpected paperwork or exams as a homeschooler. If this happens, remain calm and take care of it (quickly).

3. Don’t sweat the learning curve

You might think adjusting to college academics would be tough for a homeschooler. Like a lot of other students, the majority of my knowledge of higher education came from pop culture (Animal House?). But living on my own came naturally. The college I went to was in New York City, where I had already been living and had plenty of experience getting around on my own. I also barely saw my parents during senior year of high school (as it should be) and had made my schedule for years.

My college curriculum was like my homeschool curriculum. I took weekly in-person and online classes, and for the most part, I studied and completed coursework on my own. Given my background, I’d already developed time-management skills and could juggle what I wanted to do with what I needed to do.

4. Expect bureaucracy

If anything, the freedom I knew as a homeschooler is what made me resent parts of college. After years of not having to deal with bureaucracy, I had a very low tolerance for it.

The administrative duties of school, like having to pay student fees on time and transferring AP credits, annoyed me. Even being in class was sometimes a bother, especially when I wanted to be out pursuing other interests. I would joke with my advisor—sometimes very seriously—about dropping out.

Especially those classes you have to take

As a homeschooler, I spent years studying what I wanted, when I wanted to. Science was a requirement I viewed as an obstacle; mostly, I completed it during the summer after I had finished my passion projects.

I thought I was done with courses like “Human Evolution,” but in college, it was the easiest way to fill a science requirement. At the risk of sounding like one of those ultra-religious homeschoolers (I wasn’t), I didn’t care about how humans had evolved—or how they planned to.

To my relief, other students hated human evolution, too. My lab partner said stuff like, “bro, I don’t care, bro” and I appreciated him for it. When other students who weren’t homeschooled became overwhelmed, it almost comforting. I realized I wasn’t the odd one out.

5. Be honest about your background

When I first got to school, I tried to avoid the question, “Where did you go to high school?” If pressed, I’d say something like, “Actually, I was homeschooled.” People would respond with something like, “Wow, that’s crazy. You’re not like any homeschooler I’ve ever met”—which usually consisted of one kid they knew who was homeschooled because of a medical issue. Thankfully, people stopped caring about who went to high school early in my first semester.

I was able to relate to my classmates easily, even if I preferred not to commit to one social circle. After all, outside of my education, I’d had the classic high school experience—hanging in parking lots, avoiding my parents—like everyone else. I did meet plenty of students from traditional educational backgrounds that were a lot stranger than any homeschooler I had met, like Science majors who spent all their time studying or English majors who thought liking Infinite Jest was a personality type. I knew one student who had an unhealthy crush on our professor, but he kind of leveled out, I think.

6. Remember that “being different” can be a good thing

My college life wasn’t perfect and included some very stereotypical college issues. It was the first time I had been exposed to alcohol and like many students, I made mistakes with it—and learned a few lessons. It was also the first time I had my heart broken.

I also didn’t clean my dorm room until junior year. There were reports of some weird smells coming from my room—usually, lunch meat. I got my act together and replaced beer cans with seltzer cans. I got organized and even cleaned my floors.

I developed sort of a lone wolf reputation, flitting from group to group and spending most of my free time doing stand-up in bars and basements. When I would show up at a party, people would look surprised and say something to the effect of, “Woah, Lucien’s here.” Looking back, I’m sure I was weird to a lot of people. But that was because of my personality, not the “AP Party” square dances I’d been to.

I’m not sure that college was the greatest four years of my life, but they were a good four years. I became the most “me” version of myself and made lasting connections with people I enjoyed being around. And at the end of it all, I was was just Lucien, not “Lucien who was homeschooled.” Try it out for yourself and see what happens.

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