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Transitioning to College – Advice from Dublin High School Alumni

April 4, 2013

It’s decision time for high school seniors across the country, and the reality of leaving home for college is beginning to take hold. For many students, and their parents, it’s a scary and exciting time. Since was founded, twenty-four Dublin High School alumni have shared their freshman college experiences, covering 2 and 4-year colleges from across the country. Below are excerpts from their stories.

Dublin High Class of 2012 graduate and University of California – Berkeley student Tatum Wheeler:

Tatum Wheeler

Tatum Wheeler

“You will be fine.  Thinking of college is scary and thrilling, you feel like you’re so ready to leave one moment and then another you just want to stay home and never grow up. Enjoy the fun that college offers. Go to the football games, make new friends everywhere you go and attend the club fairs at the beginning of the year. Remember you will stay friends with people from high school too, so long as you make an effort, which does not take much with Facebook, Skype, Twitter, e-mail, cell phones, and mail (everyone likes to receive mail in college).”Take advantage of the college experience, but remember how blessed you are to have this opportunity. Make your family proud and strive your hardest in your classes. Check out your on campus learning center for tutoring and academic resources. There are so many resources available in college; it’s usually just a matter of navigating the system. Make an effort to go to class and ask for help, it will pay off in the end. But overall remember that you will be fine.”

Dublin High Class of 2010 graduate and University of California – Davis student Kevin Cappa:

Kevin Cappa (right)

“You have to manage everything. You need to be aware of what you are doing, how you are spending your time and money, You need to seek out any help you need because it won’t be spoon-fed to you. If you are failing all of your quizzes in chemistry, no one will have a meeting with you and your parents talking about what can be done to help you. YOU need to attend an extra set of lectures, YOU need to study and do all of your homework, YOU need to go to office hours of your professor and TA. No one is helping you any more.

“My professor told me that the difference between K-12 and university is that K-12 is all about fitting in. In university, you learn how to stand out. You learn how to take control of your life, you learn how be academically individualistic, you take chances, you stand out. In the real world, you don’t get a job by fitting in, you get a job by standing out.”

Dublin High Class of 2012 graduate and current Chapman University student Katelyn Haubert:

Katelyn Haubert

Katelyn Haubert

“Get involved – when you start high school or college it can be scary because you don’t know everyone. If the college you choose has Greek life, consider it; I’m in Gamma Phi Beta and it’s a big part of my life. Once you get into a sorority or fraternity you have a group of built-in friends on campus, a lot of people you can depend on right away. You also have a network of people who might help you after college. Sororities and fraternities also provide leadership opportunities, volunteer opportunities and numerous events to participate in.

“In college you need to take tests and assignments very seriously because unlike high school there aren’t any marks for homework. In college they don’t check if you’ve done your homework, you have to show you know the material with your performance on tests, presentations and assignments. You have to keep your head in the game and avoid being distracted by all the fun stuff that is going on to find a balance between school and having a social life.”

Dublin High Class of 2012 graduate and College of the Holy Cross student Clint Jackman:

Clint Jackman

Clint Jackman

“I can’t recommend being a college athlete enough. The trials I faced during my first season of college football were, perhaps, the hardest I had ever had to face. But I stuck with it, and I was molded into someone I never thought I’d be. Whether it’s joining a giant intramural team, or even a small club team, try to be a part of athletics wherever you end up.”The two most important tools you’ll need most in order to be successful in college are the ability to communicate effectively — with your teachers and through your writing – and being able to manage your time well. Also, look ahead to see if your AP credits will fulfill common requirements. I didn’t have to take an English or history class because of them. This will allow you to take other classes that you might not otherwise be able to take, or you might even find that you will be able to graduate early.”

Dublin High Class of 2012 graduate and St. Mary’s College of California student Sarah Finn:

Sarah Finn

Sarah Finn

“My advice is don’t stress about your future plans. I was originally going to have stage management as a profession and teaching as a backup, and now teaching is coming into the forefront. I’m finding my priorities are shifting, because I’m really enjoying English.”If you are looking at colleges of course, have a plan, have an idea of where you want to go, but don’t stress about the details because as you go through your first year your plans may change. It’s not worth stressing over those details now when you are trying to get ready for prom. Enjoy prom, enjoy your senior year. Your future is important, but don’t stress about the details. Focus on the community you want to be a part of, because it’s hard to know where life will take you.”

Dublin High Class of 2012 graduate and University of Chicago student Andrew Song:

Andrew Song

Andrew Song

“Why the University of Chicago? It is a question that I have heard so much this past few months that it has become akin to a greeting. And although it is something that I have been asked countless times, there is not a single definite answer than I can pinpoint. Was it because of the university’s academic prestige? Maybe it was its proximity to the city of Chicago or the unique essay questions I was asked when applying to the school that motivated me to commit to the U of C. Whatever the underlying reason was, something about the University of Chicago felt right. And now, after successfully completing my first quarter there, I can confidently say that I made the right choice.”

Dublin High Class of 2012 graduate and Pace University student Chris Harral:

Chris Harral

Chris Harral

“Don’t be afraid to go for it. Don’t be afraid to put everything you possibly can give into a role or an audition. I didn’t know this was what I wanted to do until my junior year, after I’d had some experience. I remember my first play that I attempted to audition for at Dublin High was “Lend Me a Tenor”. I walked in, got the audition form, looked at it, put it back down and walked out. I know what it’s like to be afraid to do it, but you have to just go for it, and good things will come.”

Dublin High Class of 2012 graduate and University of California – San Diego student Lauren Koa:

Laurent Koa (right)

Lauren Koa (right)

“I tried to think of the most important things I could advise anyone planning to go to UCSD or any college in general, and I’ve narrowed it down to these few. I really think it’s important to make the most out of every opportunity at Dublin High. I’m so confident that all the AP classes and activities I participated in at Dublin High have made all the difference at preparing me for college in one way or another. I would also really stress how important it is to have an open mind when it comes to choosing a school. Take it from someone who didn’t fall in love at first visit. Sometimes it just takes time. And now I really love UCSD and glad I made the decision to go here.”

Dublin High Class of 2012 graduate and Santa Clara University student Annie McDonald:

Santa Clara University Freshman and Dublin High School Graduate Annie McDonald

Annie McDonald

“I’ve had to adjust to is taking care of myself, and I don’t just mean making sure I get to bed at a decent hour and all that. Because there are so many people living in such a tight space in the dorms, germs are everywhere, and I’ve been sick three times in the ten weeks I’ve been on campus. When you’re sick, there’s no one to bring you tea or medicine or to take your temperature for you (unless your friends really love you). It’s up to you to suck it up and gut through whatever it is that’s wrong with you.”There are certainly things I do miss, being at college, such as home-cooked food and having my own room and bathroom. But it’s been amazing, the way living with people instantly brings you closer, and the people at Santa Clara are amazing. I’ve met people from Southern California, the East Coast, Hawaii, and even the Philippines.”

Dublin High of 2012 graduate and Syracuse University student Chandler Bullock:

Chandler Bullock

“Moving all the way across the country has been a huge learning experience and change in my life. Now that I am 2,700 miles from my parents, I am totally independent when it comes to my day-to-day existence. Being self-reliant has allowed me to step outside my box and try new foods and activities, and to experiment with conducting my life in different ways. Time management is huge in college. Although hanging out in your friend’s dorm until 2am talking about how the Syracuse  2-3 defense seems like fun, studying for your Sociology mid-term is significantly more important.”

Dublin High of 2011 graduate and Harvard University student Michelle Lee:

Michelle Lee

“One of the best things Harvard has to offer is its diversity.  I’ve already met so many incredible people from all over the world, and many of my closest friends are international from places like Macedonia, Switzerland, Germany, and Greece.  Listening to them makes me keen to study abroad in the future.  Every single person here has the drive to learn and succeed, and I need only look across my classroom to find inspiration.”

Dublin High Class of 2011 graduate and University of Arizona student Emily Edlund:

Emily Edlund

“College was truly a fresh start for me, unlike some of my other Dublin High classmates, because no one I knew from Dublin or the Bay Area was going to the University of Arizona. I would have to make all new friends in a completely new state. I soon discovered that is what college is all about. Everyone wanted to meet new people and make new friends so it was not hard at all! When the first day of classes came around, I was surprised to find that the classes were not much different from the high school classes that I took: just the number of students! One of my lectures had 800 people in it! I feel that the AP classes I took at Dublin High definitely prepared me for the classes I am taking now.”

Dublin High Class of 2011 graduate and US Military Academy at West Point cadet Ben Young:

Ben Young

“Dublin High was a great place to get involved and that mindset translated over to West Point for me. I tried out for the club water polo team and was fortunate enough to make it. It has been a great release for me to get away from the strict regimen of military life, and meet new people. The team is tons of fun and we get out almost every weekend to different tournaments (which is a big deal because as a freshman at West Point  you can only leave campus twice a semester).”

Dublin High Class of 2010 graduate and University of California, San Diego student Jamie Somerville:

Jamie Somerville

“Despite being kept busy with school and sport, I did still get a little homesick. I came back home three times this quarter and it definitely made me appreciate what a wonderful place I had the privilege of growing up in, not to mention the good cooking. I know so many people in Dublin and have so many friends that it was very hard to just start anew. Even with a quarter down, I still struggle with this but it is getting better with time.”

Dublin High graduate and University of California – Los Angeles student Deanna Hong:

UCLA Scavenger Hunt

“Moving away from home was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. One thing that made the move to UCLA a lot smoother for me was the fact I am among a number of other Dublin High graduates that have become UCLA Bruins. First and foremost, one of my two roommates is one of my best friends from high school. We have very different majors, are involved in different activities, and have different groups of friends, but we still end up spending a lot of time together. I’ve also made a weekly ritual of watching Glee every Tuesday with two other DHS graduates. I have found that it’s really nice to have familiar faces from home on such a large, exciting campus. It’s almost as if we brought the tight-knit community of Dublin to UCLA with us!”

Dublin High Class of 2010 graduate and Hamline University student Erik Wong:

Erik Wong

“If you were shy in high school, if you were too busy (or just too lazy) to participate in school activities, college is your chance to make a difference, to get involved.  Getting involved in college is what will make the experience a lot more fun and memorable. With classes, football and studying, I always find a way to spend with friends and attend the many school activities held around campus.”

Dublin High Class of 2010 and Santa Barbara City College Class of 2012 graduate, and Syracuse University student Cynthia Moore:

Cynthia Moore (left)

“The biggest adjustment academically is that you are solely responsible for your education. You will no longer have the same schedule from day to day. In high school, you are at school for the same amount of time every day and you take the same classes everyday. That’s not the case in college. You may have one class one day, then the next day you have four. You need to be able to remember which days you have particular classes. You also need to rely on yourself to do well in those classes. Class sizes range from 20 students to several hundred students, depending on which school you attend. With so many students, professors don’t have the time or energy to keep track of every single student. You are responsible for going to your professor’s office hours if you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask if you need help.”

Dublin High Class of 2010 graduate and Stanford University student Ravali Reddy:

Ravali Reddy (left)

“There are days when I miss Dublin. I miss the familiarity. Being at Stanford is scary, but it’s new and exciting at the same time. I know that the friends I am making are going to be my friends for life, and I know that over the next four years, I’m going to have access to resources and opportunities that I couldn’t get elsewhere. So to those of you still at Dublin High, make sure you make the most of it, because you never want to look back with regrets.”

Dublin High Class of 2010 graduate and Columbia University / JTS student Sarah Wolfish:

Sarah Wolfish

“I’m not going to lie. I miss Dublin a lot. Being 3,000 miles away from home has its drawbacks. I am not a few hours’ drive away and round trip flights are very expensive.  I miss my family, friends, the food, the weather, and just being home. College has made me realize how unique Dublin High really is and how lucky I was to be a Gael. I have encountered many students who went to private schools and were shocked that I went to a public high school and was successful. I have also met many students who hated their high school experience, which is such a foreign concept to me. I guess I sometimes forget that not every high school is like Dublin High.”

Dublin High Class of 2010 graduate and Penn State University student Melyssa Lloyd:

Melyssa Lloyd (right)

“College so far is everything that I had expected, which is definitely a good thing. Professors aren’t as mean as our high school teachers say they’re going to be, and even though it doesn’t matter to their paycheck whether you bomb their class or not, they really do want you to succeed. Because college professors are experts in their field, they are extremely passionate about what they are teaching to you, which keeps you attentive and for the most part, really interested in what they have to say. I’ve already gotten into some really good discussions in some of my classes and it’s so inspiring to know that all of the other students feel the same way about their education as you do.”

Dublin High Class of 2010 graduate and Sonoma State University student Ann Kenney:

Ann Kenney

“My first fall semester at college was not always a walk in the park, but I felt that the intensity of my high school curriculum prepared me to enter college, ready for anything. While my schedule in high school wasn’t littered with advanced placement and honors classes, I was able to take a few classes that I was interested in, while being enrolled in band and being a member of the swim team. My high school experience adequately prepared me for college because of all the challenges that Dublin High presented.”

Dublin High Class of 2011 graduate and Carroll College student Veronica Rubio:

Veronica Rubio

“Dublin High School really prepared me well for the rigor of college and what would be expected of me. Dublin’s teachers make sure that their students know their information and want them to do well in their classes. All of the AP classes at Dublin also helped me because I was able to experience college level courses in high school that would help me understand the information and rigor at the college level. Dublin High gave me the foundation and experience that I needed to be successful at Carroll College. Dublin is also a great place to be, just like Helena, Montana.”

Dublin High Class of 2011 graduate and University of California – Berkeley student Aslan Brown:

Aslan Brown

“AP courses are reflections of college courses and if a student wants to see if college is for them, because some people say ‘college is not for me’, AP courses give you an opportunity to try college while in high school. You’ll never know if you don’t try. If you try an AP class, do your best, stick it through to the end. You’ll feel more confident – you’re that much more prepared going into college – ‘I can do this’.”

Dublin High Class of 2011 graduate and University of Nevada – Reno student Summer Benavidez:

Summer Benavidez

“The first month was great – I’m on my own, this is great, I can do whatever I want. But after that month was done it hit me like a wall and I was really homesick. I’ve lived in Dublin my whole life and Reno is so different from the Bay Area. I felt super homesick and anxious, and I couldn’t focus on anything. I considered coming home because I thought I couldn’t handle it, but after my mom told me to stick it out for a semester, after Thanksgiving break when I came home for a week, I felt a lot better.“The hardest part was being away from my mom and my family. It was my comfort zone. In high school when something’s hard at school or in your life you know you can come home – this is your place to be at, to be comfortable – but in college, you are far from home in a dorm room with people you barely know, and you don’t know how to open up to them. But once I got over that it was a lot easier.”

  1. Mary Lou Bullock permalink
    April 6, 2013 6:44 am

    This is a really great series of articles, James! Please continue it, as insights from former students probably are more meaningful to students on the verge of graduating from high school than anything a parent, guidance counselor or other “adult” might offer.


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