How to be Ready for College, Interview with Dr. Rachel van der Merwe

A Production of the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: How to be Ready for College, Interview with Dr. Rachael van der Merwe.

How to be Ready for College, Interview with Dr. Rachel van der Merwe

How to be Ready for College, Interview with Dr. Rachael van der Merwe

We are so excited this week to be chatting with a homeschool graduate, who is also the daughter of our fellow podcaster and friend, Meryl van der Merwe. (With that in mind, you should check out Homeschooling with Technology– you will be glad you did!)

Dr. Rachael van der Merwe is a professor at a university in the Netherlands, where part of her teaching is helping young college students gain the tools for success. Therefore, between her homeschooling experiences in the United States and her experiences teaching college, we knew this was a perfect topic for her to share with our listeners.

Dr. van der Merwe’s story

Rachael and her family are originally from South Africa. While growing up there, she attended school, which she loved. School in South Africa was old-style British education with uniforms and strong education.

However, when the family moved to Tennessee, she was so far ahead of the school system there, they decided to homeschool. Rachael was nervous about starting to homeschool especially she feared the “socialization” question: Would she be too isolated?

On the other hand, she had not had the best socialization experiences in the local public school. The kids there had treated her poorly with “mean girl” questions like: If you’re from Africa, why are you white? or Do you ride elephants?

So when they joined the local homeschooling community Rachael was thrilled to quickly feel accepted in the “rag-tag” group that included a mix of different kinds of people. She found them welcoming! Also they loved asking questions in their co-op classes and learned in ways that fit well with her styles. That fit Rachael’s curiosity-based learning style and develop her interests and skills.

Dr. van der Merwe is now in her first year as Assistant Professor of Media Studies at a University in the Netherlands. Her job there is sixty percent teaching and forty percent research. Rachael is currently researching on digital media in South Africa and how it relates to national identity. While researching, she is also teaching media-related topics to video games, social media, television, film and journalism.

While she is working with her students, she has found her students needed extra emotional support as they all went through the pandemic. With all the grading, teaching and supportiveness, this is a job requiring long hours! Vicki reminded her of the research that showed that a professor who cares has lasting influence on their students.

With the idea of being supportive in mind, Rachael is excited to share some ideas on ways to be ready for college!

Here are Rachael’s tips for college success.

  • Be ready for college by developing independent-learning skills

    • Rachael found that homeschooling is the perfect place to develop these skills. Her parents worked with her to set up her educational structures but she developed her own independent learning skills and time management.
  • Learn time management is necessary for college success

    • Her mother held structured family learning time and meal times. Rachael was in charge of learning to schedule her study and social time. Therefore, she learned time management skills by hands-on practice.
  • Solid reading skills are necessary in high school and college

    • Do lots of reading of different kinds.
  • Talk to your teachers

    • Ask for help. Ask questions. In the first three weeks of each semester, meet with each professor during office hours. Share your goals for the course, ask a question about the course.

Tips for success in college that teens can develop in high school

Rachael also has some tips we can model for our teens that they can develop in high school:

  • Find community
    • Rachael’s family was active in co-ops and other homeschool communities
  • Manage media usage well
    • Model healthy cell phone usage for the family
  • Develop interests
    • She had lots of time to lean into lots of interests.
  • Nudge the development of new skills
    • Rachael’s mother nudged her to do film projects for National History Day. Through this she discovered her love of film and media.
    • She also, at her mother’s nudging, learned coding (which she now uses in her professional research)
  • Encourage exploration
    • Her mom asked questions and encouraged her to explore.
  • Learn public speaking
    • 4H gave Rachael lots of public speaking opportunities.
  • Participate in some competitions
    • Rachael participated in Science Olympiad and Quiz Bowl.

BTW- Dr. Rachael van der Merwe also teaches at her mother’s online FundaFunda Academy for homeschool high schoolers. There, she teaches visual literacy (analyzing visual components of media and the digital world).

Also for more ideas check out our interview with John Lenshow who shares tips for success in college.

Join Vicki and Rachael for a valuable conversation about how to be ready for college.


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