A few weeks ago, five former students came to talk to my seniors about transitioning to life after high school. This is one of my favorite traditions, and this year did not disappoint. Former students (left to right in pic) Haley, a senior at Mississippi State, Talia a sophomore at Franklin and Marshall, Andrew and Paige, sophomores at Georgia Tech, and Bo, a freshman at Notre Dame, eagerly agreed to come back; I love all of these students and am so proud of them! I had a few questions that I asked my former students and then opened it up for Q&A at the end. Here’s some of their advice:
What advice do you wish someone would have given you before college? Or what advice did you not follow that you wish you had?
- Get involved immediately in college. It’s not like high school where you see the same people all of the time and making friends is easy; you will need to seek out ways to meet people and get plugged in.
- Take advantage of office hours because not only is this a way to get help, but you can also get to know your professors and demonstrate to them that you care about your studies. More than one student said that visiting office hours has definitely helped their grades.
- Get to know your professors – not just because it has potential to help with your grade but because they are generally interesting people.
- Stay active; the freshman 15 is real.
What do you miss most about high school?
- Less pressure
- Free time (even though it didn’t feel like there was a lot of free time)
- Having classes with friends
- And yes, even high school teachers 🙂
What would you do differently your last semester of high school?
- Hang out more with friends and stress less about grades. Relationships are what matter at the end of the day – not grades.
- Not take such a difficult load. Several of these students took 4 AP classes the spring semester of their senior year because they were just in the cycle of harder, harder, and harder. Many regretted stacking their schedule this way.
- Spend time with different types of people and get to know some people outside of your “friend” group. College life opened my eyes to realize that I missed out knowing some cool kids in high school because I was afraid to get outside my bubble.
What’s your favorite part of college?
- Learning. More than one student said this which just makes my heart happy. One boy talked about the excitement he felt in some advanced math class which he explained three times to me before giving up. Another girl spoke about an English class where she just thrived and LOVED the content.
- Specialized classes. Students are able to focus in on what they enjoy instead of classes that don’t interest them. One spoke of a Tolkien class and another of a theology class. One girl spoke of specialized research in her major she had conducted and presented at a national conference. It’s fun to learn about things we are interested in.
What was most difficult in your transition to college?
- Studying. High school asked students to regurgitate knowledge whereas college asks students to apply knowledge; this has been a difficult transition that was mentioned by more than one student.
- Managing your own schedule. High school was planned out; you go to class, extra-curricular activities, work, study, bed, repeat, but the college schedule has large blocks of time. Students also spoke about how a professor would give exam and paper due dates and never mentioned these again all semester. There have been some hard lessons learned.
- Learning how to fail. For a lot of these students, academics and activities came easily in high school. College proved to be more challenging with students receiving their first D on an exam or not being elected for a position they wanted. Students viewed this positively knowing that learning to handle rejection and disappointment is a needed life skill.
How did you choose your school? (the top question among my seniors)
Students spoke about applying to several schools and just getting that feeling about one school being “the right school.” Others spoke about not being accepted into their dream school, so they ended up at their back up school. One girl said her high school English teacher introduced her to Mississippi State. The one thing they agreed on was whatever the path to their school was, they are all at the right school for them.
Did any of you not get in your dream school? If not, how did you handle the rejection?
A couple of students spoke specifically about not getting into their dream schools and their feeling of disappointment at the time; however, they encouraged students to trust that all works out the way it should. Another student told about how she needed a scholarship to attend her school of choice and feel just below the requirements; she took a risk, called and asked for the money to be granted to her, and got it. Her advice – try, try, try.
What’s your favorite part of college?
Football, weird college traditions, 24-hour cafeterias, and parties (let’s be real – it’s college).
Two things that stood out to me that day.
First, one girl spoke of something I had done for her that I had completely forgotten about. She was one who did not get in her dream school. I knew the school was very competitive but felt like they made a mistake, so I wrote the head admissions counselor a letter (without the girl knowing at the time) asking them to reconsider. She was still denied, but this girl said this is the nicest thing a teacher did for her and communicated to her that someone believed in her. I don’t share this to draw attention to me because I see teachers do things like this frequently. I tell this story as a reminder that acts of kindness make more of a difference in students’ lives than we realize.
Second, we’re never too old or too young to be sharing our life experiences with others. Find someone a little further down the road of life than you and ask them some questions. Or take a student out for coffee and make yourself available to them. We can all learn from each other.