Most people—if they haven’t already—will have to venture far outside their comfort zones in order to achieve their desired goals and fulfill their dreams. I remember when I was eighteen years old, for the first time I had packed my bags and was leaving home for a short while. I remember the feeling of nervousness as my parents waved goodbye to me at the Schenectady train station as I made my way down to NYC to fly out.
Although that was over ten years ago, I can still vividly recall my feelings on that day. Stepping outside of my comfort zone to better myself and to achieve a goal was the best thing I’ve done for myself.
For most of us, leaving home in order to go to college and start our new lives is exciting. However, when we are all packed and wave goodbye to Mom and Dad, fear becomes a very real emotion.
There are so many different real-world struggles that we will inevitably face as we start our college careers. In order to gain a better perspective on the transition from homeschooling to life at college, I sat down with Doug VanNostrand to hear what he had to say about the difficulties he faced.
Doug was homeschooled from kindergarten all the way up and through high school. He was the first of his family to attend college, so he had little to no guidance from his family on what to expect. This was a whole new world to him.
Like anyone venturing out of their comfort zone, Doug was nervous about the entire process. He felt the need to grasp the various concepts of college—the school’s layout, the professors’ methods of teaching, and how the individual classes operate. Up until this point, Doug was self-paced, and basically self-taught through the curricula his family used.
Struggles and Secrets to Success
Even before his first day of school, Doug was singularly determined to succeed. He told me about his struggle of working over forty hours a week on top of his social activities and full-time student status. He also shared with me some of his secrets to success, which landed him a spot on the dean’s list. The first and foremost secret—which he constantly repeated throughout the interview—was his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Doug shared with me that in order to succeed and comfortably make the transition from homeschool to college, one must set their priorities as early as possible and keep them. Doug holds to three specific categories of non-negotiable priorities that are key to that delicate transition. These priorities are one’s relationship with Christ, which is cultivated through quiet time, education, and social activities. Doug shared with me in detail these priorities and how to cultivate a habit of keeping them, and how they are all interconnected.
Personal time with God is an essential part of each and every day. It’s not only the driving force behind our success in our work and studies, but should be the aim of every believer to worship, glorify, and draw strength from our loving God before beginning the day. Starting each day with a devotional reading or Bible study coupled with time with God in prayer is essential. Don’t procrastinate or try to wait for an opportune time—do it as early in the day as possible before starting any other activity.
The main and obvious reason we go to college is for an education. So second to our relationship with God, education is a priority that demands our focus and attention. It’s important to set up a study schedule that is balanced and manageable. Don’t try to take on more than you can realistically handle. Likewise, don’t do any less than you should or the bare minimum—maximize your effectiveness by adding work when you can, and taking breaks before burnout happens.
There seems to be a near-infinite range of various social activities that we can partake in. It is recommended that one gets into a community of people who share the same interests as you. Although cliques are discouraged, it would be highly recommended that you seek out other students who come from the homeschooling background in order to both give and receive encouragement. By the same token, it’s a good idea to build relationships with those who come from the public school setting in order to learn from them as well. So whether it’s sports, a club, a prayer group, or just casual hangouts, it’s essential to be involved with others in order to relieve stress and have fun!
Doug shared with me that his transition from homeschooling to college wasn’t easy. He had his periods of struggles. He didn’t have a Christian mentor or a Christian community that he could lean on and draw strength from. This led to depression, sleepless nights, and eventually burnout.
In order to mitigate these problems, it is important to find a Christian mentor and getting into a community of believers to worship God collectively and to share in each other’s academic journey. This is important in maintaining a strong spiritual walk with the Lord and success in making the transition from homeschool to college more comfortable. Although this may be a turbulent life chapter now, it will certainly be something to look back on as a positive growing experience both in the Lord and in life for the sake of His service.