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Life at Whitman College – Jillian Colwell’s Journey to Walla Walla, Washington

April 9, 2015
Jillian Colwell

Jillian Colwell’s popular Life in College Series continues with a profile of Dublin High School Class of 2014 alum and Whitman College Class of 2018 freshman Jillian Colwell.

Jillian shares how Dublin High School athletics, including cross country, track, and soccer, helped shape her high school experience, how she’s adjusted to life in Walla Walla, Washington far from the major cities of the Bay Area, and offers advice to high school seniors looking forward to their first year of college. What was your thought process during your senior year that led you to Whitman College?

Jillian Colwell: “Like most, my senior year at Dublin High School was spent full of excitement and query, comparing colleges, jotting down pros and cons. Quite early in the process and after several campus tours, my focus began to narrow to smaller, Liberal Arts colleges as I enjoyed their smaller feel and moreover I was still unclear about the direction I was planning to major. Along with my search for a fit academically, I was also determined to include athletics, running cross country, as part of my college experience.  In the end I applied to a handful of private schools mostly in southern California, to two UCs, two schools in Washington State, and one in Oregon. My final decision was difficult as each school that offered me acceptance had distinct and appealing qualities, however after a second visit to Whitman College, it was clear to me that this was my best fit.” Would you describe the Whitman experience?

Colwell: “My Whitman experience has been an amazing introduction to creative thinking, independence, and a whole new world of outdoor adventure.  I have definitely been challenged in the classroom, with a full schedule of courses required in a Liberal Arts distribution as well as courses unique to Whitman such as “Encounters” a class for all freshman where we are learning to analyze a variety of classic texts and novels and recognize their parallels.  On the flip side Whitman’s Eastern Washington location lends to and offers a renowned Outdoor Program where I’ve been introduced to rock climbing, cross country skiing, sand dune sliding and I hope to soon learn sea and whitewater kayaking.” What role did athletics play as part of your high school experience, and have you carried that into college?

Dublin High School Senior Night 2014 Jillian with Cross Country Coaches

Jillian with Dublin High Coaches

Colwell: “Athletics at Dublin High played a critical role in my development and growth as a student and person.  Participation in cross country, track, and a year of soccer during my four years of high school taught me important life skills including discipline, teamwork, leadership, and goal setting. As a freshman entering high school, joining an athletic team made meeting a large group of new people easy and this was also very beneficial upon entering college.  The bond you form with your athletic team is a great support system which spans all class ranks and there is no better feeling than putting on your schools’ colors and representing your school in a sport.” How did you balance your high school academic workload with athletics?

Colwell: “There is no special trick to balancing schoolwork and athletics; I believe if you love doing something you will make time for it.  Although some weeks were tougher than others to complete assignments and study for tests or exams, meeting up with friends at practices, or attending meets or games was a nice way to clear your mind, reset your thoughts and be social; a much needed break from the pressure of studies.” Were there other extracurricular activities that contributed to your high school experience?

Colwell: “On top of running in high school, I joined a few clubs with friends who were not involved in the same sports as I was and I also enjoyed volunteering, mostly over the summer months at the East Bay SPCA where I walked and cared for dogs.  I found volunteering at the Dublin facility was a great way to give back to our community and a great way to learn about animal care and behavior.  I have recently also found the animal shelter in Walla Walla where I have spent some time with friends helping out and plan to continue volunteering on weekends whenever possible.” Have you settled on a major or focus of study?

Colwell: “At Whitman you are not required to declare your major until the second semester of your sophomore year.  With my freshman year nearly completed I am almost certain I will be concentrating my focus on Environmental Studies and since Whitman has an elaborate ES Department I am choosing to pair Environmental Studies with an emphasis on Economics.” How have you adjusted from a high school to a college curriculum? Did Dublin High School’s AP curriculum play a role in helping the transition?

Jillian Cross Country Skiing

Jillian Cross Country Skiing

Colwell: “For me, the biggest adjustments involving the change from high school to a college curriculum was time management. In college independent work time now greatly exceeds class instruction time, so while “free time” during the day is more ample, time management skills are critical to get reading and writing assignments completed.  Another difference has been that now my grades are calculated on much fewer scores unlike in high school where I was given many opportunities to raise my term grade through homework assignments and projects.  Dublin High’s AP curriculum was definitely helpful in my transition this year as I felt prepared to handle new material at the college level, however the one drawback I found was next level courses were often unavailable to freshmen as upperclassmen had priority when picking schedules; the small class size Whitman offers is incredibly rewarding but this is a dilemma that arises in effect.” Unlike Dublin High School, which is close to major cities, Whitman College is centered in the small town of Walla Walla, Washington. What is it like going to school in a college town, so far from a major city?

Colwell: “Honestly, at first, the adjustment to this small of a town was tougher than I anticipated. Walla Walla is a two-hour drive to Spokane and four to five hours to Portland and Seattle so outings to those cities are rare.  With that being said Walla Walla does have a very nice downtown with phenomenal restaurants and is only 45 minutes from an amazing skiing location during the winter. If you love the outdoors, Whitman provides countless activities through its Outdoor Program and besides that there seems to always be something happening on campus for entertainment.”

OneDublin.og: What advice do you have for seniors who are just now receiving their college acceptance letters, and for juniors who are thinking about college applications for next year?

Colwell: “For seniors take a deep breath and enjoy the process, all of your hard work is about to pay off; college is FUN! For juniors, use this summer to narrow your application choices, take campus tours, and write your essays, by front-loading work I was able to thoroughly enjoy my senior year!”

At the Dublin High School 2014 Senior Awards Night Jillian Colwell earned a Social Science GAEL Achievement Award, earned a President’s Gold Award for Education Excellence and earned Dublin High School’s Advanced Scholar Diploma.


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