I do not excel at transition, but life is loaded with it. It stretches, humbles, and teaches me. One marked transition in my life was when I stopped being a homeschool student and started being a college student. A few years later, it’s almost time for me to go through the transition from college to the next venture. But, before I get swept up in the excitements and stresses of another change, I want to look back and consider what I learned.
There seems to be general agreement that starting college is difficult for everyone who does it. However, it poses some unique challenges to those who were homeschooled: changes in time management, energy for studies, and overall culture were big things for me.
How you adjust to the timing of your college life depends on how you did homeschool. In my experience, scheduling was nil and curriculum was very flexible. It was a delightful way to do school, but the change to syllabi felt very counter to what I was used to. The rigidity seemed constricting at first – and the impetuous part of me marveled that most students grow up in this way! WHAT?!
So, at the core of the tension was fear coated with arrogance. I feared the demands of classes and tried to minimalize them with nostalgia. I felt a sense of loss, and I didn’t feel free until my mother suggested that I grieve. But – grieve? Yes, grieve, because life changes are important. During my first semester of college courses, I gained appreciation for my former lifestyle and mild bewilderment for the new normal. And honestly, I hated that the change itself was harder than all of the homework put together.
Humility was an unanticipated lesson, and the difference in the structure of homeschooling compared to college was the medium for this lesson. Having to be in the same classroom, at the same time, every Monday/Wednesday/Friday or what-have-you? That was strangely difficult. My homeschool experience was easygoing, so being compelled to show up in class all the time was tedious and frustrating. Some mornings, all I could think about was the score of other places I’d rather be. But this was ungratefulness reigning in me.
Turning my thoughts toward the benefits of the experiences helped to combat this discontentment. For example, college is a place where you can meet people that you never would otherwise. It facilitates the acquisition of useful and delightful knowledge. Plus, it induces you to read the classic novels that you always said you would.
A great aspect of college is that it teaches you to do things that you don’t necessarily want to do. Discomfort, druthers, and intimidation are usually the factors for me. Over the semesters though, I have seen my energy for school spike and plummet in weird and inconvenient ways. My homeschooling days were admittedly free-spirited, but college meant that I had to get over my own desires and submit to professors’ expectations. Sometimes that can mean rote memorization of information for an exam or writing reflective papers that don’t have a perceivable purpose! But it also can mean pursuing information that will equip you to do hard and good things. Faithfulness to little things is a reflection of faithfulness to big things. Going to college is about learning to submit – not only papers and homework, but to submit myself to an authority that I don’t necessarily agree with and maybe even have philosophical objections to. It’s also about learning to pursue the things that you were made to do.
Aside from a new sense of time and syllabi, there is also the matter of culture. This is all very subjective and based in each individual’s story. I encourage you to look at your life and identify what values and norms you live by, because no matter what college you attend, there will be times where they are challenged – and rightfully so!
I go to a secular university. There are so many attitudes circulating about the God of the Bible in that place, ranging from apathy to animosity to relativism. Unlike other communities in my life, school is no echo chamber for me. I love that. When I see God move in an environment that denies him, it bolsters my faith. And He does move – it takes faith (which counters what most professors and other students respect) to see that.
Be the light at your school. If God is leading you there, He has a set of good works waiting for you, so engage boldly and strongly in them.
And sometimes, the good work is simply being faithful to God: maintaining daily contact with Him, despite busyness, the misunderstanding of others, and negative feelings on your part.
Community is another important factor in the transition. The sense of refuge and refreshment to be found in the company of fellow servants of Christ is incredible. Pray and look for like-minded people to be with during your time at school. Seek out Christian clubs, Bible studies, or simply a group of people. At my first school, I was walking through the cafeteria and ended up sitting down with a group of people I hardly knew. They ended up becoming some of my best friends, as our shared cultural background (#homeschoolers) and similar beliefs drew us close. On the other hand, befriend those who have completely different backgrounds and outlooks than you do – compatibility for friendship exists in surprising places. Seek out connections, or simply stay open to them. If you’re an introvert like me, this will probably have a tiring effect on you, but it is worth it. School is exceptional at facilitating interactions.
The most important thing I have learned as my obligations and responsibilities have intensified is this: your identity is in God. Let the kingdom come in all of your endeavors. Seek Him always, no matter where you are or where you’ve been.
Be it at home with your family or interacting with complete strangers. No matter where you are, God has purpose for you. Be a light for Him.