8 things I learned my first year in college (Homeschooler Edition)
Nobody judges you
At the start of my school year, I instantly tensed up when someone asked where I went to high school, since I knew my answer was far from what everyone was expecting. But, every time I proceeded to explain that I was homeschooled and went to a community college as my form of high school, I got a nod, response along the lines of “oh, cool,” and the conversation continued on like nothing had changed–because it hadn’t. At university, people come from all walks of life and background to pursue a degree, so whether you’re a re-entry student, unusually young, or any other kind of non-traditional student, odds are good nobody will bat an eye. I mean, at my school, there’s usually at least one sort of protest every week and a physics tutor who will walk around the quad with a cape and flute playing music, so there are much more interesting things around than someone with a unique path into the university.
Being an introvert is fine
This goes hand-in-hand with nobody judging you. I’m on the more introverted side and prefer to do a lot of things alone–I focus better and generally feel more comfortable that way. I went to two parties in the whole year and left early both times because it wasn’t my “thing.” Nobody will judge that, and honestly, most students are in the same boat due to long work hours or large homework loads that restrict their schedules. The stereotype I had going into college was that everybody hung out in groups and then partied on the weekend, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Sitting by yourself to study is no big deal, and neither is staying in to get to bed early or work ahead on a project.
Time management is necessary
Because there are so many events in college, especially if you join an extracurricular club or team like I did, it’s very easy to get carried away in fun outings and later end up panicking in piles of homework on Sunday night. Being homeschooled, I was so used to being able to just do my homework whenever I wanted that strict deadlines greatly stressed me out. That said, I learned that being able to properly manage my time and make sure I prioritized getting homework done before I went out to join a fundraiser or head downtown for a team dinner made my experience so much easier.
Don’t overwork yourself
In the same vein, though, if you overwork yourself and turn down all the fun opportunities presented, you end up missing out on a lot of amazing experiences. I’ve always been a perfectionist, so there were a few weekends that I spent working entirely on projects with no contact to the outside world. I ended up feeling totally drained and exhausted, which put a damper on my whole college experience. Realizing that sometimes, homework can wait, or that you don’t need to devote your entire life to one assignment got me out of my room. I took trips to the farmer’s market or into the neighboring city to give myself some time to relax which helped immensely.
Balance is key
Of course, ignoring homework too much is detrimental just as stressing over homework is. The biggest thing I learned in college was definitely to find a balance– I can’t overwork myself without going crazy and thinking negatively of the school, but I also don’t want to completely ignore my responsibilities. By finding a balance that worked for me, which let me take breaks to see friends and enjoy the freedom of college, but also prevented me from falling behind or doing poorly in school, I found that I was incredibly successful and so much happier in everything I did. I spent a weekend at a friend’s house and also aced my midterms that following week!
Independence is important, but you don’t have to be completely on your own
A big component of moving away to college was being independent. I was always around my parents, since they work from home and I was only at a physical class at community college twice a week, so I was used to always making decisions with my parents rather than on my own. The freedom of college and learning to not rely on my parents for every little thing was amazing, as I could run on my own schedule. However, being independent doesn’t mean you have to do every single thing alone. I still talked to my mom for help whenever I was creating my class schedule for the next quarter, and I was either e-mailing or meeting with my advisor a few times every quarter to get advice on anything academic-related. Being independent is great, but it’s even better to have a team of people you can get advice from when you need it so you can be as successful as possible.
Talking to professors opens doors
Going and talking to my professors was super nerve-wracking at first since most of my previous teacher interactions were solely online, but once I got used to it, I learned how much it helped open doors academically. I could always approach my professors about assignments to receive feedback, which got me far better grades than just doing the assignment and blindly turning it in. Talking to a professor also landed me an internship one quarter, as I told her about my skills in hopes of her mentoring me for my Senior year project. Although she was unable to be my mentor as she was going on sabbatical, she connected my experience to an MFA student who needed interns. Because of that, I was able to complete an internship that covered my Honors program requirements for the quarter.
Change is good!
Since I was homeschooled and didn’t have many concrete classroom experiences to base my major choice on, I went with what I thought I enjoyed and assumed it would be a perfect fit, which it definitely wasn’t. I felt like I was beating my head against a wall spending every day on nothing but classes for the major I despised, and had no idea what I was supposed to do if I hated what I was in. When spring quarter came around, I decided to take no classes related to my major and instead take classes that sounded fun, so I could give myself the chance to explore and see if I wanted to double major or add a minor. I left that quarter with an English minor and a different focus to take my major in and felt ten times better about coming back to school in September. It’s hard to tell going in if your major will be right, and it’s totally fine to realize what you were doing wasn’t working. If I hadn’t taken these classes, I would’ve left feeling discouraged and unwilling to return the next year, so taking the chance to explore and try new things is definitively the best thing I did my first year at college.
Kaytlin Smith has been fondly known as the original G3 boarding student. Daughter of founders Jaime and Ben Smith, Kaytlin was homeschooled and took Online G3 classes until she began taking community classes and eventually joined the Honors program at a 4-year public university.