From home to hall: The transitional experiences of homeschooled students entering residential university settings
Soufleris, Dawn Meza
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Research regarding homeschooled students and their transition to college has been focused on two distinct areas: their academic performance and success integrating into a university community. The purpose of this study was to analyze the transition experiences of students who were homeschooled prior to attendance at a residential university campus compared to students who were conventionally educated and attending the same university. My research uses a sociological framework and a qualitative comparative research design to focus on the ability of students from different educational backgrounds to garner social capital, network with peers, manage "rite of passage" experiences (such as dating and exposure to substance use) and nurture friendships. I interviewed 50 students: 25 students who had been homeschooled prior to college entrance and 25 conventionally educated students who attended the same university. Interview data were supplemented by focus group data from 13 homeschooled students. Using social capital, socialization, college student adjustment as theoretical frameworks, my findings challenge assumptions that homeschooled students' lack of formal school-related social exposure prior to attending college typically leads to adjustment problems in the university environment. There were some differences in assimilation experiences and the strategies used in the transition when comparing homeschooled versus conventionally educated students. However, the homeschooled students who transitioned to the university environment were socially engaged with others, both in the residential community and in co-curricular activities, on par with their conventionally educated peers. My findings suggest that, despite receiving their earlier education outside of formal settings that characterize conventional education, many homeschooled students have the skill development, social exposure and capacity to transition successfully to a residential university setting. Homeschooled students' ability to develop social capital, nurture social networks and assimilate into a collective community challenges the position of homeschooling opponents, who assume negative impacts due to insular relationships, lack of routine experience with age peers and limited access to conventional social opportunities. These empirical findings have implications for sociological research, homeschooling families, and critics and proponents of home-based education. Keywords: homeschool, transition, social capital development, socialization, college student adjustment, student engagement.