7 Essential College Tips For High School Seniors, As Told By Recent Graduates

Posted by Ben Whitman on 1/16/20 12:54 PM

Recently, a group of CH-CH alumni returned to campus in Waltham. Their goal was to lead a discussion with the current class of seniors, giving advice that has helped them in their time in college and beyond. Here are the top 7 tips that they had for high school seniors:

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1. Balance Your Academics and Social Life

There is no “coasting by” in college. Finding a healthy balance between your academics and social life is crucial. When you enter freshman year, you’ll want to sign up or get involved with everything you possibly can. Whether it be clubs, student government, athletics, the arts, or greek life. Be aware that you could be spreading yourself far too thin with commitments, which could result in losing focus on your main responsibility: academics.


A great mindset to have when entering your freshman year of college is the Golden Rule of 7. Allow yourself to only be involved with seven commitments per semester. That being said, each class you are taking counts as 1 commitment. Say you are taking four classes a given semester, you still have three more commitments to (possibly) fulfill. Once you find your perfect balance of social and academics, feel free to add more to your plate.


2. With Freedom Comes Responsibility

The difference between high school and college is, in some ways, night and day. The campus is larger, the dorms are packed with new faces, and unlike high school, there isn’t much structure. College brings freedom, you are treated as an adult and expected to make your own decisions. Adjusting to this newfound freedom to be your own person can be difficult at first, especially with so many temptations within arms reach.


“It’s important to have a good head on your shoulders when you live at your college,” says Kamilah Washington ‘10. “Downward spirals can happen quickly and can lead to academic probation or expulsion. Even when you’re a freshman, you’re still an adult and may not realize how one bad mistake could negatively affect the rest of your academic career.”


3. Your Schedule, Your Choice

You might be thinking, “I don’t know why 8:00am lectures could be a problem, I start high school every day at that time.” Well, your first college semester will be the ultimate test of such a statement. Some like early classes because it allows for the academic day to end sooner, while others quickly realize later classes may be more suitable for them. Though there is no scientific evidence as to why 8:00am classes are so difficult to wake up for, everyone who has ever had one can recall their experience. Look on the bright side, your first semester will give you insight on if you are truly a morning person!


Word of advice? Make sure you don’t schedule too many classes on the same day. Similar to your current opinion on 8:00am classes, you might think four classes in one day will be no problem. Keep in mind, college courses usually meet Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, and even though the idea of having a couple of days without classes during the week sounds nice, it could lead to chaos. In most cases, it’s best to space your classes out and take two per day during your freshman year, providing as a transition period between high school and college schedules.


Andrew Merlino’s ‘12 advice on adjusting to a college class schedule? Go to class. “Whatever you do, go to every class. Yes, you have the option to not attend class, but it is a slippery slope,” says the Saint Joseph's College of Maine graduate. “If you miss one class, you will end up skipping a bunch of classes. Do not do it. The teachers won’t track you down and the next thing you know - you’re failing.”


Your new schedule could take some getting used to. Don’t be afraid to print out multiple copies of your schedule at the beginning of each semester, as it will be different than the last.


“Every semester, I will print out multiple copies of my schedule and place them in various locations around my room: on the back of my door, next to my bed, on my desk,” says Wheaton College senior, Cheyenne Bates ‘16. “I always know how much time I have to study, eat, and even nap between classes. Yes, you can nap during the day in college, and it’s amazing.”


4. Remember: It’s YOUR Journey

Something to remember in college: everyone moves at their own pace. Do not get stuck in the mindset of a “four-year degree”, it may take you longer, it may take you a shorter amount of time. Complete your degree at a speed of which you feel comfortable and are putting forth your best effort.


“Comparison Kills. Don’t look at the next person and their journey or path and think that is how it’s supposed to be. Don’t even look at those who came before you and think that is how it’s supposed to be,” says Ty DeWitt ‘14. “Create your own path. Focus on your individual journey and take it slow, college is a marathon, not a sprint.”


5. Colleges Have Academic Support, But You’ll Need To Find It Yourself

Academic support does not end after high school. Every college, public or private, large or small, has academic support to some degree. Unlike high school, your professors will probably not reach out to you about receiving support or guidance in your classes. You must be proactive about finding support resources yourself.


“At Lasell University, we have an Academic Achievement Center on campus full of professional academic tutors,” says Emma Maniscalco ‘19. “All you have to do is call to schedule an appointment, give them your essay, and they will help you brainstorm ideas.”


“At Holy Cross, there were Peer Editors available to help with essay-writing,” states Ty DeWitt ‘14. “The entire staff shared an office and it was like having an entire building full of Ms. Balaconis (Director of Skills and Academic Support at CH-CH) and Skills and Academic Support teachers!”


Remember, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. All freshmen go through moments of self-doubt in regards to the amount of coursework in college.


6. Connect, Build Relationships, Network, Repeat

The most common question a high school senior asks is “How do you get a job after college?”. Simply put, attending college provides as your first platform to begin building your professional circle, and jump into the wonderful world of networking. What’s networking, you ask? According to Merriam-Webster, the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. You might think of networking as attending social events or requesting people on Linkedin. What you might not know is connecting with others and building friendly relationships are also forms of networking.


“Building strong connections with people, wherever it may be, will help you out,” states Kamilah Washington ‘10. “These do not have to be people you work with, but people you know. Even if you decide to move on from a given job, make sure to keep a good relationship with your supervisor/boss, because you never know if you will end up going back to that job.”


Similarly, Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall seniors may not know that once they walk across the stage and obtain their diploma at commencement, they automatically become members of a multi-generational networking database. The name of this database is commonly known as the Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall Alumni Council. “After graduating, you will be able to reach out to council members through email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” explains CH-CH alumni council member Gary Heller ‘10. “You’ll soon find that we have connections with hundreds of alumni all over the country, of which are working in almost every job field you could imagine!”.


7. Utilize Time Management and Leadership Skills You Learned in High School

Students at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall have a unique advantage when adjusting to a college schedule. Office hours and study halls are built into the curriculum, allowing students to obtain time management skills. “As a boarder, I took the 2-hour study hall period with me to college, I found my own time that worked, and it helped me with getting my assignments done,” says Gary Heller ‘10, who notes being accustomed to such time blocks helped him tremendously.


“Having 75-minute classes in high school gives you an advantage in college,” says Emma Maniscalco ‘19. “In college, most classes are either 50 minutes (meet three times a week) or 75 minutes (meet twice a week) and are structured in a similar way as the classes at CH-CH.”



Aside from office hours and study halls, CH-CH also offers Skills and Academic Support (SAS), providing an individualized program for students to successfully meet the challenges of coursework in high school. Countless CH-CH alumni have noted that the Skills and Academic Support curriculum allowed them to develop a time management strategy that works best for them, to which they apply in college and beyond.


“The leadership and academic skills you attain while at CH-CH, whether it be through taking SAS, student government or cavalry, help you tremendously in college,” says Cheyenne Bates ‘16. “My experience at CH-CH gave me the confidence to find my voice and start my own club in college!”


Final Words of Wisdom

“Whatever you do, do you. Find something that you want to do. Don’t follow the path that you think you are supposed to do.” - Gary Heller ‘10


“Don’t be afraid to make your schedule too detailed. Put every little thing you need in throughout any given day.” - Ryan Firenze ‘19


“Sit in the first row of the classroom. It makes a good impression with your teachers, I know, it may seem scary, but it pays off. And of course, go to their office hours.” - Cheyenne Bates ‘16


“Don’t feel discouraged or feel you have to live up to the expectations of others, don’t compare yourself to someone else. If you feel that school is not the best fit for you at a certain time, then do something else, Make sure you are doing what you want. If you are not happy, it is going to make the entire process and experience unenjoyable.” - Kamilah Washington ’10


“Follow what you are passionate about. You may go into your freshman year thinking you want to do one thing, but be sure to keep an open mind and never be afraid to broaden your horizons.” - Emma Maniscalco ‘19


Thank you to the CH-CH graduates, Gary Heller ‘10, Kamilah Washington ‘10, Andrew Merlino ‘12, Ty DeWitt ‘14, Cheyenne Bates ‘16, Ryan Firenze ‘19, and Emma Maniscalco ‘19 for returning to campus to share their words of wisdom with this senior class.


Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall is a coeducational day and boarding school located in Waltham, MA. Learn more about the academic curriculum and the College Counseling Program at CH-CH.

Topics: Student Wellness, Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall, College Counseling, Alumni, Study Guide and Strategies, Beyond the Classroom, Matriculation

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