SummarySeton grad and college sophomore Sarah Kaderbek has seven tips for fellow homeschoolers so their college experience might be even more wonderful than hers!
Last summer, I had graduated from Seton Home Study School and was preparing to go to college, like you may be now.
I was excited, but there was also some anxiety about the prospect of starting. However, college was fantastic, and I loved, well, not every minute, but a good portion of my first college year, and I have come out of it with good friends, a good GPA, and lots of growth, not to mention my life and sanity. Looking back at this year, there are things all of you newly graduated Seton homeschoolers should know before you start college. Namely:
1. College is a lot more work than you probably think it will be.
News flash: college is hard. Going in, I had been told that often, but I still expected to have a certain amount of free time I did not end up having. I had all these plans for clubs I could start and things I could do, but as the time passed, I realized I did not have the time to do all those things.
College need not be a miserable, work-only period with your few breaks spent in listless stupor, and it should not be. I had a lot of fun this past year!
Simply manage your expectations. Just because your classes only take a few hours each day does not mean you’re only working a few hours each day. Don’t think college is going to be some easy, breezy experience or that you will spend your college days lounging in the luxury of free time; be prepared for the hard work.
2. You need learn to manage your time wisely and be efficient.
This harkens back to my previous point. You will not have all the time in the world, so learn how to use it efficiently.
For example, I enjoy getting with friends for a study party. We gather and work on our respective projects in community, so we’re not alone all day. However, I study less effectively during these get-togethers than when I hunker down and do it on my own. We talk and get side-tracked a lot, which is what makes it more fun, but it also makes for unproductive time.
If you’ve been productive or you honestly have little to do, you can afford distractions, but if you have a lot of work, it’s better to focus and do it efficiently. You’ll end up with more real free time, instead of just wasted time.
I don’t mean you shouldn’t try to multi-task; multi-task if both tasks can be accomplished that way! However, if you aren’t getting either task done well, it does not count as multi-tasking. Figure out early how to use your time effectively.
3. Deadlines are now real, and they have pros and cons.
Coming from homeschooling, which is far more flexible, my mother was worried I would miss deadlines and due dates because the fact is: if you do not finish a paper or study enough for a test… sorry.
Having deadlines also keeps you from dragging out assignments (*cough* Roe vs. Wade essay *cough*). This can be helpful, especially if you are a perfectionist. The paper must be turned in whether you think it is perfect or not, and when test time comes, you cannot study any more.
Something that helps me with making deadlines, without cramming too much at the last minute, is this college mantra: if you start two weeks early, you can procrastinate for a week and still be fine. I am not saying you should study for every test three weeks beforehand. You cannot do that; you will go insane, and your brain can’t work that way. However, if you start a little early on everything, you set yourself up well for future procrastination or roadblocks.
4. You have been taught to write well.
To be honest, I was worried about this, since we did basically the same few essays repeatedly with Seton. However, simply learning how to write is more important than learning different formats, and the Seton program does that marvelously.
In college, you do not have to and should not follow the strict Seton formula (you know what I’m talking about!), but you will adapt and improve the skills Seton has given you. A lot of what you have been taught, you may not even realize you learned it, but I believe you will find your Seton training will serve you well.
You must step your writing up a notch for the college level (again, the formula only takes you so far), but you have been well-prepared to do so.
5. Take advantage of all resources, especially those offered by your teachers.
For example, I frequently visited the Writing Center, an office where I could take my essays for proof-reading, and the tutor was an absolute wealth of knowledge regarding citations, grammar, and punctuation and fantastic at finding typos and other errors.
Similarly, your professors can be helpful, and I talked with mine a lot. I asked them questions, got my assignments cursorily looked over, et cetera. My biology teacher even reviewed (for every test, I think) my long study guides.
Do not presume you do not need help, and it is OK to ask for it, especially from those people who are there to help you, such as tutors, librarians, and professors. Even if you never used the similar resources Seton provides and think you’re good on your own, you may find that what your college and college professors offer is of very great value.
6. Take everything one step at a time.
There are points in the semester (such as midterms or finals week) when you have a lot of work, and obviously, this can cause stress. However, the same stress can also hit at the beginning of each semester when you first find out about all the work ahead of you. Even though none of it is due yet, it can be overwhelming.
However, you must take things one step at a time. If I think about all my assignments, I get stressed, but I am better when I come up with a plan and focus on doing each day’s work, instead of trying to tackle the whole semester at once. And if you come up with a plan that helps you be less stressed, you won’t waste as much time freaking out!
Throughout this past year, there were times when it seemed like the work could never get done and the semester would never be over, and the same can also be true of your college career. If you go into it looking at the whole picture, it will seem overwhelming, but if you take each day and each semester at a time, the next four years become more manageable.
7. College success does not determine your worth.
College is important. I will not advise you to blow off your education and barely scrape by. You are at college for the education. However, doing the best you can does not mean working yourself into the ground. God values your effort, but He also values your trust, your prayers, and your sanity.
My friends and I were often stressed and anxious about our grades. We care deeply about doing well in school, and at times, some of us took it too seriously. I did a lot more crying over schoolwork than I should have, and I had to comfort multiple friends when they were overly worried about living up to their own expectations.
I am proud of the grades I achieved this year, and I am glad I worked so hard to accomplish my goals, but I also must recognize that I place too much of my self-confidence in a number at the top of a page.
You are more important than your grades. Your worth is not based on whether you get an A or a B on that test or even in that class. No number can take away your self-worth. No grade, no test, no assignment can change God’s love for you or the love of your friends and family.
If you turn everything, even your grades, over to the will of God and work hard, trusting that He will take care of you, your college experience might be even more wonderful than mine.
Do you have any additional college advice to share or questions to be answered? Please comment below!