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By Katie Brenneman
Going off to college is an exciting event for any teen. As a parent, you’ve probably been thinking about your child’s future for years – and trying to prepare yourself for it. However, now is the time to start preparing them for college, especially if they’ve been homeschooled.
While there are countless benefits to homeschooling, the idea of going to college can be nerve-wracking for a teen who has never been to a public school. They might be worried about making new friends or succeeding in challenging classes. They might wonder if they’ll fit in, or how different the environment will be from what they’re used to.
You can help them to put their fears aside by properly preparing them for the college experience. You’ve done everything you can to help them get into the college(s) of their dreams, now make sure you’re doing your part to ensure they’re ready. Let’s cover a few tips you can use to make the process easier for both of you.
Focus On Extracurriculars
A common misconception about homeschooled kids is that they’re solely focused on academics and don’t take the time for extracurriculars. While colleges will absolutely look at your teen’s academic accomplishments, including SAT/ACT scores, most universities will also look closely at everything else your teen is/was involved in.
It’s not too late to get your teen involved in extracurricular activities as a boost for college applications. Consider joining a co-op with other homeschooled kids. Doing so will give them the regular social interaction they need, and they might end up developing an interest in the activities the co-op has to offer. Alternatively, try enrolling your teen in after-school activities like:
- Music lessons
- A part-time job
Consider their interests and what they see themselves doing in the future. Letting them shine through extracurricular activities is a fantastic way to keep them from feeling burnt out, and the more things they can list on their college application to show how well-rounded they are, the better.
Help Them Create a Comfortable Environment
If your teen has already been accepted to a college or they’re getting ready to move in, do what you can to make their new environment feel safe and comfortable. When you choose to stay positive throughout the experience, they’re more likely to do the same.
At home, your teen probably had their own workspace and your constant support when it came to getting things done. At school, they’ll be on their own. It’s important for them to have a work environment that will make them feel safe and comfortable while encouraging productivity.
Most college students are limited when it comes to space in their dorms, but you can turn the smallest of spaces into productive areas with the right layout, furniture, and decor.
Keep in mind, however, that your teen’s dorm shouldn’t solely be a place to work. It’s going to be their home for the better part of a year. Take a shopping trip together and let them pick out some essentials they’ll need for living on their own. It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect and educate them on some of the basic essentials that can make a big difference when experiencing dorm life.
Finally, let them bring a few personal items from home. Obviously, they’ll bring their clothes and toiletries along, but if they want to bring photos, a sentimental blanket, or a few other things that remind them of their safe space, don’t discourage it. The smallest items can make the biggest difference for college well-being.
It’s estimated that 94% of college students experience some level of homesickness during their first 10 weeks of school. While there’s nothing wrong with missing home, you can help your teen through the transition by encouraging healthy connections on campus. College isn’t just about learning in the classroom. It’s a fantastic place to grow and learn more about life, in general. One of the best ways they can do that is by joining different clubs and organizations that fit their interests.
Some of the biggest benefits of belonging to a student club include:
- Making new friends
- Learning better time management skills
- Learning how to plan events
- Growing skillsets
Plus, as they go through their collegiate career, the more focused they are on certain organizations, the easier it will be for them to start networking with professionals who can help them land a job after graduation. College doesn’t have to be a lonely place from the start. While your teen might not be used to immersing themselves into groups of people, it’s one of the most effective ways to make friends with similar interests and work through feelings of homesickness.
As the parent of a homeschooled teen, it can be nerve-wracking for both of you when they go off to college for the first time. Use these tips to ease their worries, build their confidence, and help to ensure they have an enjoyable and memorable experience for the next several years.