I graduated high school in 2011, which is technically a mere three-and-a-half years ago even though it seems like a lifetime away. (Incidentally, however, my first year of college seems even further away than my senior year of high school. It turns out that the some of challenges college seniors face aren’t all that different from the ones faced by high school seniors.)
A lot of the things we do in high school we do with the hopes that they’ll help us get into college–a bulky resume is certainly satisfying. But once you get into college, you then have to work to succeed in college. An acceptance letter is not a guarantor of success.
Without realizing it, there are a few key things I did in high school that have allowed me to succeed in college and thrive in the small liberal arts setting that is McDaniel. Some of these things are the sorts of things I included on my resume when applying to college. Other things I did are the sorts of things that don’t necessarily get officially documented but are just as important. As you prepare to apply to and eventually go to college, are you making an effort to prepare yourself for success by following? Here are some strategies to consider:
1. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your teachers for help.
My high school had a school-wide study hall period called Enhancement, where every week, students could sign up for which teachers they wanted to visit and activities they wanted to participate in during the following week. Throughout my time in high school, I split my Enhancement periods between clubs I was involved with and teachers I wanted to chat with or get help from. (And even if I didn’t need help, finding a quiet classroom to sign up for was a great way to get some homework done before school even let out for the day.)
I was never the type of student who consistently struggled with her schoolwork, but when there were things I didn’t understand or areas where I felt like I could benefit from more feedback, I tried not to hesitate to ask for that help or that feedback. Reaching out to my teachers helped me academically but also personally. By regularly interacting with certain teachers outside of class time, I was able to develop a rapport with these people, whom I practically considered my friends. They gave me all sorts of life advice, and since they knew me, when it was time for me to apply to college, they were able to write me solid letters of recommendation.
The skills I developed in interacting with adults in high school have been absolutely useful here at McDaniel. Since we’re a small college, students have ample opportunity to interact with professors, should they choose. The legacy of Enhancement lives on through professors’ office hours, which I frequently attend to chat with my professors about academics and even life in general. There are a few professors with whom I’ve been able to develop friendships with, and I plan on staying in touch with them after I graduate.
So whether or not you have a study hall period available to you, make an effort to connect with your high school teachers. I cannot quantify the extent to which my experiences in interacting with teachers have helped me grow as a scholar and a person!
2. Be active! Join clubs!
Lots of McDaniel students are highly involved on the Hill, and those who aren’t are missing out on a key component of the McDaniel experience. Different clubs and organizations require different time commitments and levels of responsibility, but regardless of how much time you decide to commit to student organizations, do it for fun be excited about the opportunity to meet and interact with new people. (Yes, clubs can also be resume fodder, but don’t let the lure of an extra line on your resume be the primary motivating factor for joining a club!)
I was heavily involved with my high school’s student newspaper, The Jaguar Journal. By my senior year, I was even editor-in-chief. You don’t have to be a club officer for your time spent in a club to count for something (as I’ve mentioned, you are having fun and you are meeting new people), but taking on additional responsibility in a student organization in high school is a great way to learn leadership and time management skills.
I’ve been a member of the McDaniel Free Press ever since my first year on the Hill, and this year, I’m the web editor. I’m also the co-editor-in-chief for Contrast, McDaniel’s literary magazine. I totally couldn’t have done either of these things as well as I have without having been involved in clubs in high school.
The lessons in taking charge and being responsible with my time that I learned from clubs in high school have helped me not only in college organizations but also with college academics. I have confidence in interacting with and leading others, and the things being involved in clubs have taught me about myself have generated success in all aspects of my life.
3. If you can, get a taste for being away from home.
McDaniel is a primarily residential college. We do have students who commute from home, but the majority of students live on campus. For some students, living away from home can be daunting and scary. However, you can eliminate some of this fear by practicing being away from home while you’re still in high school.
I’ll admit that I’m incredibly lucky. Throughout middle school and the first half of high school, I had the opportunity to attend sleep-away camp one week per summer. (The experience taught me to think of college as one learning-filled summer camp experience!) And prior to my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to participate in a three-week homestay in Straelen, Germany, a quaint town just 6 km away from the Dutch border. These experiences taught me how to live independently from my parents and to take care of myself–no one was around to pick up my laundry for me!
My time away from home also taught me how to live and coexist with other people I didn’t know. I had to learn how to live in a shared space and be respectful of other people and their expectations. Most McDaniel students will start off their college careers with a roommate, and learning how to coexist with this person can have its challenges. However, by having away-from-home experiences, I feel that I was better prepared to meet some of these challenges.
If going to summer camp or to a foreign country isn’t an option for you, try to arrange to spend a week at a friend or relative’s house. Living with other people for a little bit will teach you a lot about responsibility and yourself, and come college, you probably won’t feel as homesick being away from your parents.
What are you doing as a high school student to make sure you’ll succeed in college? Leave your tips and thoughts in the comment section! : )