Homeschooled students adapt to college life

Davy Vargo

He was in Colorado when he got the news. After weeks of studying, Nathan Ference missed Kent State’s nursing program by three places.

“I was so crushed,” Ference said. “It sounds silly but (it was) probably the most crushing thing I’ve ever heard.”

Two weeks later, he received an email. After a few students dropped from the program, Ference made it into the nursing program after all. 117th out of 117.

Like many homeschoolers, Ference wrapped his identity in academic success during his first year at Kent.

For homeschool graduates who attend Kent State, the transition from homeschool to college can have its bumps and bruises.

Less than 100 homeschool students applied to Kent State this year, out of about 23,000 applying freshmen, said Mark Ledoux, the senior associate director of admissions.

Out of those 100 students, only four homeschooled students actually enrolled at Kent State this year.

“We’re always looking for diversity in the freshman class,” Ledoux said. “I always think it’s good to have students who have different backgrounds.”

During his 22 years in admissions, Ledoux says he sees homeschool transcripts that are sometimes non-traditional, but most of them are similar to typical high school transcripts.

“Homeschool students typically have strong credentials,” Ledoux said.

Michael Farris, Jr., the director of media relations for the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, said homeschoolers learn to interact with people of various ages, instead of just their peers, making them better able to interact with others.

“I was homeschooled,” Farris said. “I went to college, and I adjusted very well.”

Holly Martin, a previously homeschool student, also adapated well to college.

“I feel like it wasn’t that hard of an adjustment,” Martin, a junior nursing student, said. “In college you do a lot of independent study, and I feel like homeschooling almost prepares you for that more.”

While she feels well-acclimated to college, Martin remembers, with a sense of humor, what kids during high school used to say when they found out she was homeschooled.

“I would get people saying things like, ‘oh you get to wear your pajamas all the time,’” she said, laughing. “Somebody was like, ‘oh you only do like two hours of school a day,’ and I was like, ‘grrhh.’ Or like ‘oh do you have to take tests?’ Well, of course I (take) tests.”

Martin said she likes homeschooling because she was able to learn at her own pace. She also likes it for a deeper reason.

“One thing I like about homeschooling is you can teach your kids the values that you consider important, instead of having the public school instill their values in your kids,” Martin said.

Emily Aiken, another formerly homeschooled student at Kent, agreed.

“You have more control over things…it makes sense to know all the things that are going into your kid,” the junior speech pathology and audiology major said.

Instead of parents who only have a vague idea of what’s going on at school, Aiken said she believes homeschooling gives parents the opportunity to help their kids. She also disagrees with the thought that essential skills are neglected when students are homeschooled.

“All those skills, when it comes to making friends, taking notes and getting grades—you can still learn how to do those things,” Aiken said. “It’s not something that you can only learn in a public school.”

One thing that surprised but delighted Aiken about college was the diversity and the sheer number of people.

“The volume of people surprised me,” she said. “But also all the different people just everywhere.”

Aiken said sitting in a classroom was an uncomfortable and stressful change.

“I felt so much pressure just walking in, like ‘where do I sit?’” she said.

While Ference transitioned smoothly from homeschool to college, he too had felt uncomfortable at times.

“I felt like I was really socially awkward for a really long time,” he said.

Ference described himself as a typical middle child—an over-achiever suited for the freedom and time-management flexibility homeschooling provided.

When the over-achiever faced the closed door of the nursing program, his mind flooded with self-doubt.

“Being homeschooled, I kind of got this perception (that) my value was in (doing) well in school,” Ference said. “Ultimately, because it was an identity issue, I had to grapple with what’s actually true about me and a lot of that has to do with what I believe God says about me. It’s not a matter of what I do that makes me significant; It’s really just that he says so.”

Davy Vargo is the Student Life Reporter. Contact her at [email protected].