Friday, August 15, 2008
Looking back: Carlisle students assess their freshman year at college
The first year of college is often the toughest year facing newly graduated high school students. To find out how Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) graduates fared in their freshman year, the Mosquito interviewed three students from Carlisle whose freshman year is now behind them. Bill Mills of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Megan Herman of Hobart and William Smith College (HWS) in Geneva, New York and Lauren Lamere of Commonwealth College (Honors College at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) share their thoughts on how they handled the demands of this crucial year away from family and friends.
What courses or programs offered at CCHS gave you a leading edge or made your life a little easier as freshmen?
Mills: I took a few AP [Advanced Placement] courses which really helped me as they counted towards college credit.
Herman: The regular Geometry and Algebra courses I took sufficiently prepared me for taking Calculus. I was drawn to Environmental Science by the first course I took in my freshman year at CCHS. It was during this class that I decided to pursue a career around Environmental Science.
Lamere: Definitely the AP courses I took. The AP Statistics class served as an extra credit. With AP Biology I did not have to take an Intro to Biology class, and AP Chemistry class worked as a pre-requisite for a couple of college courses. The AP Calculus class put me a semester ahead in mathematics!
Apart from the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), what criteria unexpectedly helped boost your application?
Mills: Applying to Ivy Leagues I knew most applicants would have an impressive resume with high academic scores, multiple sports and music instruments along with community service. Together with my own natural interest in computers and Biology and encouragement from my parents, I started a computer repair business and in addition took a variety of jobs throughout high school, including one with a medical device company. I am not good at gloating, so the essay was awkward for me to write. The real reason could be my height! I am 6 feet 5!
Herman: Playing the clarinet. I have been playing since I was in fourth grade all the way through senior year in CCHS. At college interviews, I could see the positive expression on the faces of the interviewers when I explained about the CCHS band playing in Japan, at our sister school. They were also equally impressed with the number of clubs and teams I was involved in, like the yearbook and the swim team.
Lamere: I think it was my high GPA score. My high MCAS score could be why I got full scholarship, although I am not sure. For my essay, I wrote about the spring musical at CCHS. I played the trombone in the pit by marching down the aisle; I had to have the discipline to memorize the music, and play it with accuracy, and in harmony with the rest of the band.
Were you accepted at your first-choice school? If not, are you happy with your current choice?
Mills: No, Cornell was not my first choice, it was Princeton, but all my experience with Cornell has been so great.
Herman: I was really looking for a small school in Pennsylvania called Juniata. I got accepted there, but when I went there for a stay-over I just didn’t feel like I fit there. With HWS, I felt at home from my initial interview, and decided on it without even staying over.
Lamere: UMass was one of my top two choices. The endless opportunity in Chemical Engineering the college has provided me is great. Currently, I am one of ten students selected nationwide to participate in a research program called Research Experience for Undergraduates, which is funded through the National Science Foundation. I am spending my summer at Auburn University in Alabama, conducting a research study on optimizing a process to make silver nanorods under the mentorship of a professor.
Did you feel the college stayed true to your first impressions, or to what was described in their brochures and orientation sessions?
Mills: The college promised a great program in biology and computer science which attracted me, and it has stayed true to the image I saw during the tour.
Herman: The college advisor I had hired to help me through the college selection process had warned about how preppy the college was. Yet I was shocked by the obvious display of wealth; for some [fellow students] owning yachts in Key West is very common. The college itself is on a gorgeous campus and reminds me of my second home in Vermont, which is by the lake. I am very happy with the curriculum, and I plan to major in Environmental Studies and Geo Science and minor in Psychology.
Lamere: The college did stay true to my first impressions, but there are small things that I have yet to figure out. During the tour it was mentioned that students would be provided free printing of 500 pages. Finding a printer on campus with free printing is not obvious; neither the Engineering web site nor the library web site has information that is easily accessible.
Considering that you graduated from a suburban school with limited diversity, did you notice more diversity at your college?
Mills: It is really cool meeting people who don’t live close by; I loved getting to know students from different states. A classmate from Charleston, South Carolina, always cautioned us not to go near rivers or ponds as he had deep-rooted memories of alligators. And a friend from California was always concerned about wildfires erupting – all this in Ithaca, New York!
Herman: I appreciated the METCO program, which brought inner-city kids to CCHS, and I actually dated one of the guys. At HWS we have a similar program which brings inner-city students from New York. My roommate and my best friend are both from this program. They are some of the smartest kids!
Any regrets over things you did during your early transition period, like dropping courses?
Mills: I wish I hadn’t placed all my money in a CD; this gave me a budget of $300 of free cash [to spend on recreation] for an entire year!
Herman: I can’t think of anything, but I wish I had joined a lot more recreational teams. I also was very homesick in the beginning and longed to be much closer to home.
Lamere: I didn’t do anything drastic.
How would you summarize your first year of college?
Mills: Overall college was an amazing experience; it was better than expected. I also became very close friends with my roommate, which I had never imagined.
Herman: Initially I wanted the classes at my college to be more like CCHS. The pace at college is very fast; it was not easy for me to adapt. One of my Sociology teachers spoke fast and if you didn’t write it down, you could fail the exam. In the Science class, they used presentation material that was not online. I had no friends in the beginning to ask for notes if I missed anything.
Lamere: I had a great time meeting people. The transition from a 300-plus class to 20,000 students is truly a great experience. College is a great place. You get what you put in; you have to put in your time and effort to make it happen.
Did Carlisle look different to you when you first returned from college?
Mills: Carlisle is my one constant.
Herman: It was not really the look; it was the smell! There was a distinct smell I caught getting out of my car the first time back from college during the fall break.
Lamere: I appreciate the trees but miss not having the public transportation that I was used to in Amherst. It would be nice to have a pizza place to walk to.
What advice do you have for next year’s college hunters? When and how should they start their search?
Mills: I started my search during the summer of my junior year in high school. First, I made a list of all possible places and read a lot about the colleges and narrowed down the list. In my senior year, I visited the colleges to get a sense of the environment, school size and type of people.
Herman: Be open. Never in a million years did I think that I would be happy with a small, unknown school. I was very nervous with all the application process. Having a knowledgeable college advisor was beneficial; she eased my anxiety and built confidence in my decision making. Finally, don’t procrastinate. [A message directed to her brother, who is a senior now at CCHS.]
Lamere: Start early, don’t apply to many schools. I only applied to four colleges. I was confident in my choices and saved myself the extra time and money on application process. And think about where you want to be in relation to your home. The whole school does not have to be great – focus on the strength of the program you are interested in. ∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito