LHS PTSA January 2014 Forum Summary

“Life after LHS Graduation” – A Panel of Lexington High School Alumni share their experiences at the latest PTSA Forum

With over 80 parents and students in attendance at the January 7th PTSA Forum, nine recent LHS graduates shared their stories of life after LHS.  The graduates represented a variety of paths open to students after high school.  Some students took a more traditional path of researching school choices, visiting campuses, speaking with counselors and parents, and applying to several colleges.  Others needed a change after high school and took a “gap year” – traveling, working, or participating in a service program.  Adam Goldberg, Associate Principal, moderated the discussion and solicited great advice and responses from the alumni.  The students were articulate, thoughtful, and entertaining when sharing their experiences.

  1. Our first graduate is a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis.
  2. Our next alumnus graduated in 2011, attended McGill University for a year, decided to take a year off to work, and is now attending Skidmore College.
  3. One student had spent her junior year at LHS attending a foreign exchange program in China.  She realized that she wanted to continue to live in Asia and is now a freshman at Yale NUS College in Singapore.
  4. Our next graduate is a junior at Connecticut College and spent last semester studying abroad in Brazil.
  5. Our next alumnus is a sophomore at Brandeis University.
  6. Our next panelist is a freshman at Columbia studying computer science.
  7. The next student is a freshman at Wesleyan University after taking a gap year during which she spent a summer in Ecuador, worked, and then spent time in Cameroon working with a NGO.
  8. The next graduate is a sophomore at Columbia University.
  9. Our final alumnus is a sophomore at Texas Christian University.

Adam Goldberg and members of the audience asked questions of the panel:

How hard was it to live away from your parents?

  • Not as hard as expected.  Finding a community at school really helped.
  • Already having spent a summer abroad made it easier.
  • College improved my relationship with my parents.  They appreciated my becoming more independent.

What advice would you give to juniors about the college process?

  • Don’t be afraid to apply to different types of colleges.
  • If you’re smart about your choices, you don’t have to apply to many schools.  It’s too stressful.
  • Be open to new ideas when looking at schools.
  • Look around before deciding.
  • Consider your learning style in choosing a school – if you thrive on small classes and discussion, a huge school might not be the best fit.
  • Only apply to schools you would like to attend.

What do you know now about college that wish you had known before applying?

  • Stay positive throughout the application process.  Parents can help you stay positive.
  • Your college experience is what you make it.  Take advantage of the many opportunities offered at your school.
  • Try new things at college – sports, academics and participating in clubs.
  • If there is a college you love, then let the college know that.   Show that you are invested in the school.
  • You will enjoy whichever school you attend.

How would you compare the academics at college versus LHS?

  • College was almost easier than LHS.  LHS students are well prepared to handle the work.
  • College work is different. It’s more independent work.
  • Nice to choose the type of work you want to do and take courses that interest you.

Gap Year

  • Everyone in the room should take a gap year.
  • It taught me independence.  I learned what it was like to live on my own.
  • Students taking a gap year are often more grounded and appreciate global diversity.

Did you feel a lot of pressure to pick a major or area of interest during the application process?

  • No.  Don’t be afraid to say you are undecided.
  • If you do declare a major it’s usually quite easy to change it later.

How do you balance social life and academics?

  • Participating in organizations at school can help you build a network.
  • Take the first few months to dive in and participate in college life.
  • There are many opportunities to engage – take advantage.

If there is one think you could do differently in your high school years, what would that be?

  • Befriend my teachers.  They are a wonderful resource and it makes a big difference to your high school experience.
  • Listen to the advice of those who have been through the process before.
  • The name of the college you go to doesn’t matter.
  • Take advantage of the resources available to you.  There was a small army of people who helped get me through high school – deans, guidance counselors, and teachers.
  • Don’t feel obligated to take all the difficult courses.  Was not happy to have taken music classes and several APs, leaving no “frees” during my senior year.
  • Participate in a diverse group of extra-curricular activities.
  • Focus on fewer activities so you can enjoy what you’re doing and get more sleep.
  • Take AP calculus instead of AP statistics.
  • Worry more about grades freshman and sophomore years and worry less during junior and senior years.

How did you decide which school to attend if you were accepted at more than one?

  • Visit the schools.
  • Trust your gut.

Links to Adam Goldberg’s handouts concerning “gap year” information and the role social media plays in the admissions process.

Gap Year Resources & Programs:

http:/www.yale.edu/yalecollege/international/welcome/gap_year

“They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets”

http:/www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/business/they-loved-your-gpa-then-they-saw-your-tweets

“Experts say parents need to be online, too.”

http://lancasteronline.com/news/experts-say-parents-need-to-be-online-too/article_693bf421-e207-5fff-b7a1-dcdfdea79cd5.html

Cybrary Man’s Educational Web Sites

http://cybraryman.com/digcit.html

Submitted by Jen Vogelzang, LHS PTSA Co-President