This article was originally published in Homeschool Indiana, Fall 2018 edition.
The beginning of a new school year inspires a certain excitement--- new materials, new topics to explore. Other emotions mix with anticipation when the years of homeschooling are drawing to a close. Graduation-- that great goal you’ve been waiting for-- brings feelings of accomplishment, relief, sadness, and fear of the unknown. What’s next? You’ve been forward thinking in planning your homeschooling. Don’t stop now! Help your student make wise decisions about what comes after high school. Will college be the next step or some other kind of preparation? Think carefully with your student and help plan their path. Show that you are excited about their future and God’s plan for them. When to start? Ninth or tenth grade is not too early to begin the discussion. What kind of work might God be calling him to? How can she best hone and utilize her God-given talents? Make opportunities for practicing different skills and learning about a variety of careers. Help your student excel in their studies and find out what special talents and interests they have. Develop in them a vision for their calling. Look with them at career interest surveys online. Allow them to volunteer or find part-time work in their areas of interest. This will help tremendously in choosing whether college is for them. By junior year it will be time investigate further. What about a Christian College? If college is the chosen path, don’t disregard a Christian college because you think it might be too expensive. Many Christian colleges provide excellent scholarship packages which make them very competitively priced. As a Christian home educator you’ve worked hard to provide a Christian education for your child; perhaps the logical next step would be a Christian college.
But Christian colleges are not all alike; not all are equally suitable for all students. There are four areas to consider when evaluating a Christian college: Theology: Does this school’s statement of faith or denominational affiliation agree with your family’s? What is the teaching of the Bible department concerning the Bible, creation, sin, and salvation? Student Life: Do students live in dorms? What are they like and what lifestyle policies must students abide by? Are chapels or Bible study participation required? What extracurricular activities are available to your student? Academics: Is the major that interests your student offered? Is the program respected and does it include internships or other practical job-readiness preparation? Costs: Complete the financial aid form (FAFSA) as early as possible so the college can give you a realistic picture of the costs. What scholarships does the school offer? Is it possible to take dual enrollment or study online? How can you find out the answers to these questions? See the college’s website. Call and speak with an admissions representative. Make a visit. Ask questions of professors, students, and administrators; go to chapel. Can a Christian student thrive in a public university? Yes! Sometimes a secular school can be a good fit. Maybe there’s one close to home or your student’s preferred program is only offered at a state university. A Christian student can thrive in that place too. There are three things to do to prepare for a faith-building time in a secular school: Find a church: If your student will be going away to school, help him get established in a church; find one or more churches to visit, and go there with your student. Attending a church “home away from home” is vital. Find an active Christian student group: Perhaps the local church has a student group, or there is a chapter of Cru, Navigators, or other Christian group meeting on campus. Your student can contact the campus leader and attend a meeting when you visit campus. There are other Christians on that campus who join together for learning, fellowship, and encouragement; find them. Find a Christian roommate: If your student will be living away from home is there a Christian friend who’ll be attending too? Or a Christian student group which pairs Christian roommates? Roommates with similar values will be an invaluable support to each other. When these are in place, even a secular college campus can be a very rich environment for a Christian young person to grow spiritually and learn to be “in the world but not of it.” College is not the only way What if traditional college is not the best fit for your student? Other worthy avenues of preparation exist: The skilled trades: there is a significant need for electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and other skilled tradesmen. Contact your local vocational school, community college, or trade union for more information. After one year of schooling or less, your student may receive certification and will be ready for an apprenticeship or employment in their chosen occupation. Entry-level paid work: in retail, restaurant, sales or clerical positions it is possible to work up to management positions or gain experience to start one’s own business. Starting a small business: perhaps the student already has the skills to start a business in computer repair, landscaping, pet grooming, cleaning, or other field. Young people have the time, energy, and low personal expenses needed to get a business off the ground. The military: homeschooled students are welcomed into the armed forces. High school students interested in the military would benefit from participating in youth training programs such as Civil Air Patrol, Boy Scouts: Eagle Rank, or Law Enforcement Explorer. Each branch sponsors its own youth program; investigate to find what is available in your area.
Transcripts Providing well-written transcripts will be important for all these avenues, so be sure to prepare excellent transcripts that highlight your student’s academics and extracurricular activities, whether they are planning on college or not. The most important thing God has a calling and a plan in mind for your young person. No matter the avenue of preparation, God will be faithful to complete what He has begun in them through your home education. Launching them into the next stage of life takes the same faith, purpose, forethought, and cooperation you’ve exercised all these years. Work with them to discover their talents and calling, encourage them to follow a suitable path into adulthood and meaningful work. With faith in God, you can let them go.