As a college professor and a homeschool dad, I hear this question a lot. Let me begin with a simple reassurance: if you are asking the question at all, the answer is almost certainly “yes.”
Here are two facts that you should find reassuring:
1. Homeschoolers tend to do as well or better than their peers in college.
It’s an empirical fact. Multiple studies show that your homeschooler is just as likely to succeed as the other kids in the classroom. I’m not saying college will be a breeze for your homeschooler – it’s not a breeze for most people – but you can rest easy knowing that homeschooling your child did not put him or her at a disadvantage for college.
2. Not everyone who succeeds in college is super-prepared at the beginning.
I know it looks like a high school graduate has to be super-smart and super-sociable to even have a chance of surviving the first year of college. But that’s not true. In reality, colleges everywhere graduate students from all across a wide spectrum of intelligence and preparedness levels. Every reasonable professor (there are unreasonable ones, but they are a small minority) understands that every incoming class has a wide variety of skill levels. Even if your child comes to college a little unprepared, he or she won’t be the only one – trust me on this.
But, you ask, surely there are some essential things that every high-school graduate is expected to know before even setting foot onto a college campus? What does my high-schooler really need to know to succeed in college?
Less than you might think. A lot less, actually. But to get down to specifics, here are a few questions to ask yourself about your child’s academic skills: Can my child write a coherent paragraph – one that starts with a topic sentence and is followed by several sentences of supporting detail and explanation? Can my child read several chapters of a high-school-level novel and tell you what they are about? Can my child add, subtract, multiply, and divide? Can my child handle fractions, decimals, and percents?
If you answered “yes” to each of those questions, then your child will be fine in college. Really! You’d be shocked at how many people show up in college not being able to do some (or all) of those things. “But what about calculus?” you ask. “What about Shakespeare? What about chemistry labs and molecular biology?” Well, it’s nice if your child happens to know about some of those things, especially if her or she wants to major in math, English, or one of the sciences. But lots of people come to college knowing little or nothing about calculus, Shakespeare, chemistry, and molecular biology, and they still do just fine.
If you’re a bit skeptical, I don’t blame you. Surely, you think, there’s a secret list of things every college student is expected to know.
Well, you’re right – there IS a secret list of crucial skills without which your child is almost certainly doomed to failure.
In fact, every college professor I know would admit that there are certain things every student absolutely has to know in order to have any chance of success in college.
So forget for a minute about whether your child knows enough about math, literature, or science and answer the following questions as honestly as you can: Can your child consistently show up on time without being reminded? Can your child follow oral and written directions? Can your child take some handwritten notes on a 30-minute talk, lecture, or sermon? Is your child willing to ask for clarification if he or she doesn’t understand something? Will your child complete tasks unsupervised? And will your child take responsibility if he or she finds himself or herself unable to show up or complete a task on time?
Here’s the big secret to success in college: college isn’t about showing off what you already know; it’s about learning! And learning only comes through hard work, persistence, curiosity, and self-discipline. The kind of people who really succeed in college are not just the ones who took a lot of accelerated classes in high school. It’s the ones who come to college with a work-ethic.
In other words, the best preparation for college is not academic at all – it’s character formation. And that’s one of the reasons you started homeschooling in the first place, wasn’t it? So you could shape your child’s character. Maybe you looked at the other kids around you and decided that you were going to do what it took to ensure that your child grew up to be responsible, trustworthy, independent, caring, thoughtful, and self-disciplined.
And that’s why your homeschooled child is going to be just fine in college.