Recently I shared a post about what my unschooled kids learned this past year. The single most common question I got was, “But what about preparing them for college?”
Now, you have to understand that they are 5 and 7. If we were following “normal” grades, they would have been in kindergarten and first grade this past year. Even if they were going to public school, they would not be involved in college prep yet anyway. Not for several years. The way that young children learn — say, up to age 9 or 10 — is not the way that they learn when they are older. Looking at our methods now and how completely “free” they are (no curriculum, no tests, etc.) and assuming that they’ll remain the same and leave our children unprepared for college is, well…silly. We don’t educate public-schooled kids the same way in 1st grade and 10th grade, do we?
Anyway, getting back to the question at hand. Can unschooled kids go to college?
Why College Is Not the Ultimate Goal
First of all, college is not our ultimate goal for our children.
We do not believe that all children need to go to college, or that college guarantees success. Many of my former college classmates are not working in the same fields in which they earned their degrees. Many are working low-paying jobs in other industries. Several have gone back to school, sometimes an associate’s or trade program to learn a specific skill to get them a better job. Having that college degree didn’t do them any good.
We believe there are many paths to success in life. Some include college — obviously, people who wish to be teachers, doctors, etc. will need a college education. If our children want to follow a path that requires a college degree, then we’ll absolutely support them and help them prepare for that.
However, if our children want to do something that doesn’t require college, or if they are unsure what they want to do, then we will encourage them to explore through apprenticeships, shadowing, taking free online courses, or other ways. There are a lot of paths to success in life, and we want our children to feel free to explore them all, and not feel bound to just one option, which may or may not be right for them.
But Can Unschooled Kids Go to College?
The short answer is yes. They can.
In fact, many unschooled and homeschooled children start college at young ages (typically online) and do very well. They have always managed themselves and their own workload, and do not find college to be challenging. (There are studies showing this, plus quite a bit of anecdotal evidence.)
Legally, in many states, parents can fill out a transcript for their child and can award a diploma. In other states, they can get a GED. Often times, a high enough SAT or ACT score is enough to get into college (depending on the school). These days, schools often specifically target homeschoolers.
Why? Because honestly, many homeschoolers are better prepared for college. They’ve done more rigorous studies at home (and sometimes post-secondary options online). They have a lot of self-discipline because they weren’t relying on teachers for a grade; they learned because they wanted to.
That’s not universally true, obviously, it’s just the way it tends to be when looking at groups as a whole.
How do Unschooled Kids Get Prepared?
There’s kind of a misconception about unschooling — that it means that kids simply do whatever they want, just live life, and don’t ever dive into any sort of formal studies. This, the theory goes, would leave them woefully unprepared for both college and life in the “real world” (whatever that means).
But the thing is. Think about yourself, as an example. Surely, as an adult, there has been something you wanted to learn. Whether it was just for personal knowledge (say, a photography course), or to further your job skills. We’ve all had that, right? And when that happened, did you just “live life” and hope you’d figure it out? Or did you specifically seek out information, classes, etc. to develop those skills?
I don’t know about you, but I seek out classes, books, experts, etc. when I want to learn something new.
And that’s true about unschoolers, as well. When they are older, and they show a strong interest in something, they seek out information about it. They find classes, textbooks, other books, multimedia, experts. They study it. They work at it.
It’s “unschooling” because it’s not a parent-directed curriculum. It’s self-study.
So, if an unschooler desires a particular job, they will seek out information about that job. They will study the information they need in order to get into college and learn more about that job. They will spend quite a bit of time preparing themselves for their education, for the job they want. They might even take on internships, audit online college courses, and more. They have the time and freedom to do so, after all.
That’s the truth — unschoolers do study. They do take classes. They do pick curriculum. They do prepare for college, if it’s in their plans! It’s just all self-directed.
I hope this clears up some of the misconceptions about unschoolers and college!
If you were homeschooled or unschooled, did you go to college? If not, what other questions do you have?