In high school, I was just like you. I spent hours surfing college websites, organizing my high school transcript, and checking every little box. I wanted to go to college and be a success. Not just college—I wanted to go to grad school and really do something with my life.
At the time, I planned to follow the medical path, pursuing a career as a naturopathic doctor. I’m not sure what motivated this dream beyond a passing interest in humans, biology, and health. But somehow, the plan had formed in my mind, and that meant I had to work out every kink and detail until my dream became a reality.
But I was paranoid that, as a homeschooler, my chances of getting into college would be slim. And, worse, my chances of getting into grad school would be nonexistent.
What about you? Are your big dreams causing anxiety about whether the world of traditional scholarship will take you seriously? Before you waste your time in high school attempting to perfectly arrange the next 8 years of your academic life, let me offer you a little advice.
You might be getting ahead of yourself.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t end up becoming a doctor.
“But Abigail,” you say, “it was your dream!”
Yeah. Sure. If you look back at my story, you’ll notice in my flurry of research, studies, and college course comparison, I forgot to account for one tiny detail.
I was 15 years old.
Ten years later, I look back on little high school Abigail and her big dreams, and I chuckle. I was so obsessed with the idea of going to grad school and becoming a doctor that I didn’t realize I was nearly failing Chemistry. I didn’t think about how I was spending all my free time writing novels or that my favorite hobby was reading fantasy books. I also, for some reason, didn’t find it suspicious that my path toward a doctorate started with enrolling in college for an English degree.
I didn’t notice how poorly suited I was to a future in medicine because I was 15 years old. I was doing what 15-year-olds do: dreaming, experimenting, learning, living. When I finally realized I was actually a writer, I only did so by looking back on my high school years to discover I had already been one the whole time.
Trust me, most 15-year-olds don’t know themselves well enough to discern where they’ll be when they’re 25. Give yourself some time.
The best way to prepare for the future is to do well now.
Does that mean you shouldn’t dream big? You shouldn’t start down a path that will take 10+ years to reach the end?
Not at all. Dream as big as you like and make as many plans as your heart desires. And even feel free to start working toward them! Just don’t marry them.
You probably feel more pressure than ever to ensure you’re on the “right” path right now. That’s why I’m here to remind you that high school isn’t the time to engrave your life plan into stone. It’s your time to experiment. To learn who you are and what you like. To learn what you’re interested in, what you’re good at, what you’re naturally drawn to.
If you really feel convinced that grad school is in your future, that’s awesome. Start preparing by completing high school and college to the best of your ability. Try as many new experiences as possible and discover what you’re truly passionate about. That will be your best chance.
Feel free to follow whatever path you’re most interested in, but if you focus on completing what’s in front of you to the absolute best of your ability, I guarantee the rest will fall into place.
What about grad school? Won’t homeschooling ruin my chances?
I just want to put this out there: homeschooling will not bar you from grad school.
Whew! You can breathe a sigh of relief. Your homeschool years haven’t been a curse, keeping you from a more traditional college education. In fact, they’ve probably been a blessing. Having so much freedom to pursue your education more or less on your own has likely taught you the most important skills for grad school: curiosity and self-motivation.
Grad school is even more hands-off than college. Many of these degrees are research-focused, requiring students to have the ability to pursue their studies on their own. Sure, you’ll have guidance, but you won’t have a teacher (or mom) explaining assignments or helping you through lesson plans. That’s up to you.
And, let’s face it, grad schools don’t really care how you checked the high school box anyway. So take your homeschooling adventure as an opportunity to practice studying independently and taking ownership of your education—that’s the best grad school preparation you can get.
Want some more practical advice?
If you’ve finished this post and are still chomping at the bit to learn more about grad school and what it might take for you to get into the college of your choice, check out our free ebook Homeschool to Grad School.
It was written by my friend Shawn: homeschooler, Unbound graduate, and master of business administration.
In this book, Shawn talks you through how he walked this exact path, following his dream and graduating from the school of his choice.
A former student counselor and Unbound student, Abigail is passionate about empowering others to achieve their goals. When she’s not dreaming with her friends, you can find her reading or singing Broadway songs. Loudly.Read more by Abigail