Some of you may have seen the article, A Homeschooler Goes to College. I found a link to it at The Homeschool Apologist. The article itself was an account of some of the author's first experiences with going to a community college. While it was not at all like my daughter's experience--the author had issues with a professor who treated her unfairly because she was homeschooled--it was definitely interesting to read. I also read through several pages of comments. These comments ranged from helpful advice to mockery and mean-spiritedness. It's funny how complaining about something you've chosen to do causes some people to act like the head of a fraternity during Hell Week. We are not very forgiving about our rites of passage. Starting college is hard. It was hard for me and I didn't homeschool. In fact, the only valid complaint I read in the comments was that the the commenter was hoping for something more informative, along the lines of what to expect as a homeschooler going to college. So I thought I should address that. Full disclosure: I'm writing from my observations and what my daughter has told me about her experiences. Hopefully I can convince her to eventually add some of her own thoughts, but she has a paper due this week and a midterm she's worried about, so I didn't want to stir the emotional pot right now.
My daughter's experience started just before she turned seventeen. Our homeschooling group had arranged a talk and tour at the local community college that was supposed to be geared toward homeschoolers, except this was all new for the admissions counselor, so she couldn't really answer all of our questions, such as earning credits when the child is still high school age. Since Marina was going to be over sixteen, those issues didn't apply to us. We simply took an application to fill out.
This was the first hurdle. The application asked for all sorts of information, like date of graduation and grade point average. We were stumped. I don't align with grades, and I'm not going to write down an "A" just because it looks nice. So we left a lot of it blank or wrote "homeschooled" on the application. We were told to direct it to the admissions counselor who gave us the tour, so we hoped she would understand. I also pulled out quarterlies I had done during her high school years and wrote up a transcript. Finally, years of following state regulations paid off. After adding work and volunteer experience, it looked more like a job resume, but it was acceptable.
The next step was placement tests. Like me, Marina has test anxiety (and she never even went to school!) Needless to say, this wasn't her favorite part of the enrollment process. Tests in writing, language skills, and math came one after the other over a three hour period. She was panicked about the essay because she doesn't write fast. That's my fault. From my own school experience I knew writing was painful. I didn't like writing until I started learning to type (thanks for all the typewriter ribbon, Dad). Since actual writing was more important to me than handwriting skills, I encouraged Marina to use the computer. Silly me. Essay tests are still hand written, at least at our community college.
In spite of her complaints that she "got sloppy" at the end of the essay hour, she did awesome. Math however... That was the last section of the test. She was panicked about running out of time and rushed several answers. She failed. A second try at the math portion got her within points of passing, but she still failed. We decided we should consider it a sign that she should take the non credit algebra class. It had been several years since she had studied algebra and that had been the beginning of a lot of her math phobia, so maybe a professor could clarify it for her.
I should point out that she did not take the SAT. Not every college needs this test. I never took it when I went to college, although I did take placements and passed the math section simply because it was all still fresh in my mind. The SAT was originally intended to predict college success, but all that has happened is that an entire industry has been created for the sole purpose of getting high marks on the test. I'm hoping some day all colleges will scrap it as a requirement since all of the test prep skews the results for it.
Through the entire application process, Marina was a mess. She was anxious and uncertain if she was making the right decision. Her main reason for going was that she was tired of being asked what college she was going to. Not really the best reason, but when you are at the end of your homeschooling or high school career, that question often comes up in conversation. Like many teens, she felt that college was expected of her, even if I told her she had other options. She felt directionless, exactly how I felt toward the end of my own high school career. She wanted to go, but at the same time it intimidated her. Since she had never been in school, I suggested she take one class, to ease her way in and see what college was all about.
I'll talk about her first class in Part 2 on Thursday.