Graduate 2022/Evelyn Bickley

NCHE has given away more than $163,000 in scholarship money since 1998 to help qualified North Carolina homeschooled seniors afford higher education. We recently caught up with four who graduated in 2017 or 2018 to get their view “from the other side” of homeschooling and college.

  1.  Abby Wright, 2017, missions and ministry scholarship, UNC Chapel Hill, public relations major, 2020 graduate with highest distinction. Currently an assistant account executive at Ketchum in their Washington, DC, office.
  2. Anthony Chaffey, 2018, academic scholarship, Cedarville University, computer engineering with Bible minor, May 2022. Has already accepted a position as a cyber software engineer with Northrup Grumman in Cincinnati, OH, to begin at the end of the summer.
  3. Bethany Brinson, 2018, arts scholarship, Indiana University, Bloomington, double major of piano performance and mathematics with a minor in French, spring 2022. She anticipates grad school to study musicology.
  4. Kierstyn Kiser Ligon, 2018, missions and ministry scholarship, Central Piedmont Community College, associate in nursing, 2021. She passed boards and is now an RN in the Neurosurgical ICU at Atrium’s CMC Main hospital in Charlotte.

What was the most surprising thing to you about college? 

Abby: Honestly, how prepared I was! When people found out I had been homeschooled, I often got the response, “Oh man, so this must be a really tough transition for you.” But, actually, it was quite the opposite. I often felt like my time-management and self-sufficiency skills were much better than my peers who had gone to traditional school.

Anthony: I was surprised by how much free time I had. I thought all my time would be spent doing schoolwork (and a lot of it was), but there is also a healthy amount of time for hanging out with peers. Half of college life is schoolwork, but the other half is social.

Bethany: Things that I initially thought would be difficult (like academics and organization) have actually been fairly manageable (though certainly not easy), while things that seemed straightforward (balancing others’ expectations, prioritizing events/responsibilities, etc.) have turned out to be more challenging. 

Did/how has college changed your worldview? 

Abby: College did not change my worldview. In fact, it offered me the chance to own it for myself and stand up for what I believe in.

Anthony: Cedarville is an excellent Christian university and has greatly reinforced my worldview as an evangelical.

Bethany: College has refined and reinforced my Christian worldview. My church and personal devotions have been invaluable, and I’ve also had many chances to be a good witness to the many people around me. 

What advice would you give high school students for preparing for life after high school graduation? 

Abby: Pick something. Anything. Have a target in mind, and if along the road, you decide you want to veer off, veer. But don’t just sit back thinking a revelation will come to you—pick a course of action, and rule things out as you go. Go to college. Don’t go to college. Study abroad. Don’t study abroad. Just because you aren’t sure of one thing doesn’t mean you should settle for no thing.

Anthony: Try to balance work/school and social life. Work and school are important, but relationships with the people around you are more important.

Bethany: It might sound cliché, but I’d say it’s really important to not be overly stressed about the impending prospect of college. I imagine there is increasing pressure these days on high schoolers, but I think it’s crucial for both young people and their parents to realize that college, accolades, financial success, etc., are not the most important things in life. Self-discovery and figuring out a good work/school/leisure balance will happen throughout college life, but it’s always useful to start early and to not base your self-worth on conformity to others’ expectations. In short, those few years should be seen as a rigorous yet exciting time, not a stressful one.

Kierstyn: No matter if you’re still living at home or you’re halfway across the country, college is a huge adjustment. There’s a lot more freedom, independence, and responsibility. You will experience a lot of change and growth throughout these next few years, and who you become is entirely up to you. Surround yourself with peers and friends who have similar goals and similar beliefs. Never underestimate the power and influence that your peers will have on you. 

What advice would you give parents about preparing their high schoolers for life after high school? 

Abby: My parents would probably have the better advice here! But I would say speak positive vision into your kids. I didn’t know what public relations was until my dad suggested I try it as a major, and now I work at one of the largest PR firms in the world and love it. Sometimes, you know your kid better than they know themselves.

Anthony: Be ready to let your high schoolers have more freedom and not as much communication. I found it helpful to schedule a time each week to talk with my parents.

Kierstyn: You are going to see your children stretch their wings a little as they get that first real taste of being an adult, and they experience all this newfound independence. Trust in the training and the values you’ve instilled in them over the past eighteen years. It can be scary when that parent/child relationship starts to change, but you have to take a step back to let them do it themselves. I came crying to my parents several times over the past few years, and they were always there to listen. After I’d dried my tears, they’d brush me off and send me back out. I’ve fallen flat on my face several times, but they had to let go and let me make the mistakes on my own because that’s the only way I really learn from it. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Abby: I’m happy with where my journey has landed me, but don’t fall into the trap of comparing your journey with anyone else’s!

Anthony: The friend group you make your freshman year is probably not going to be the same friend group you have senior year. Look for a few great friends that you can go deep with, rather than many shallow friendships.

Bethany: Overall, my soon-to-be-four years at college have been fruitful, formative, and fulfilling. I’d say that being homeschooled has prepared me well!

Kierstyn: My life doesn’t look at all like I thought it would four years ago. I planned on enlisting in the Air Force…when a very minor health discrepancy got me sent home. I thought I’d be halfway across the world serving in the military [now,] but here I am less than four miles from my childhood home starting a career and putting down my own roots. I was devastated and angry when I could no longer enter the Air Force, but God had a totally different plan for my life. I reconnected with an old friend who quickly became my best friend. Now he’s my husband, and I love him dearly. I’ve also grown a lot these past few years working in the emergency department throughout the pandemic. Now, I have a job I love in the ICU where I get to care for people and their families during really difficult times. My point is, you may have a clear vision of what you think your life will look like in five to ten years, or you may have absolutely no idea what you want to do. Either way, you don’t know what God has planned for your life. You just have to hang on, be flexible and trust that His plan is good.

Evelyn Bickley is a homeschooling veteran. She serves as NCHE’s activities director and has served on the boards of several different support groups and as an adviser to the Zeta Epsilon chapter of the National Homeschool Honor Society. Wife to Barry and mom to four homeschooled graduates, Evelyn enjoys travelling, leading a Gavel Club for teens and advising other homeschool families on their journeys through high school.