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Transitioning from High School to College – Insights from Dublin High School Alumni

July 11, 2018

DUBLIN, CA–In just a few weeks graduated high school students across the country will be leaving home and heading off to college. Over 80 Dublin High School alumni have shared their college stories in our popular Life in College series (check them all out here!). A common theme is advice on how they transitioned from high school to college-level academics. Below is a sampling of excerpts from their Life in College stories, focused on the transition from high school to college.

Me in front of Anteater Statue“My planner definitely helped me. Without my planner I would have forgotten some of the things I was supposed to do, a planner helped me stay organized. Taking AP classes at Dublin High School really helped prepare me for college-level classes. I especially recommend AP Bio, AP Chem and AP Calc if you are planning to pursue biology in college. My first year biology class was my AP class from high school in a nutshell, with perhaps a little more detail. When you’ve already seen the material once it really helps prepare you.” – Emily Bryant – Life as Biology Major at UC Irvine

IMG_0485“On a nightly basis the homework is less than high school but the readings are a lot more. My grades generally come down to a few ten-page papers rather than nightly homework assignments, quizzes and tests. The courses I’m taking are built around papers because it allows the professor to better gauge our understanding versus just knowing information and dates. College level courses have really improved my writing, that’s the largest thing I’ve gained.” – Nick Padnos – Life at Tulane University

IMG_2129“Cal Poly is very inclusive. I immediately felt the welcoming environment. To help students transition they have WOW (Week of Welcome)where you are introduced to the campus and life in San Luis Obispo. It was super helpful in getting to know other students because everything was so new. I made it a point to get involved right away rather than hide in the shadows. Cal Poly encourages you to join clubs and sports, and do whatever you can to meet people. It was an amazing way to start my Cal Poly experience, it made it feel like home.” – Jessica Bouchard – Life as a Kinesiology Major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

kyle_3“Pay attention to yourself and how you are feeling. It’s easy to lose your core. I’ve seen my friends deal with anxiety or depression and think a lot of that comes from being on your own and not having a connection with your family, pets or old friends who would help you deal with problems. Being on your own forces you to deal with problems in new ways. It’s important you stay true to who you want to become.” – Kyle Reed – Life in Stanford University

“Definitely study harder for the first midterm! I often did not do well on my first midterm and needed the final to catch-up my grade – so I won’t make that mistake again. I went into midterms thinking I knew the topic, but found you are expected to know so much more than what was taught in class. Berkeley has a really good tutoring center specifically for engineering students, with tutors for a wide ranch of subjects. I also watched a lot of YouTube videos, which probably helped me more than anything, because those videos provided a different voice and perspective than what I heard in class.” – Madison Hildenbrand – Surviving and Thriving in UC Berkeley Engineering

me-today-at-sjsu“A big difference in college, at least so far, is not knowing most of the people I’m working with, whereas in high school I knew everyone. Because of that I need to dedicate time at the start of the project to understand what people are good at, what roles they feel comfortable with, and what their skills are, so that we can divide up the work. Any teamwork experience you can get is valuable.” – Zoie MacDougall – Life as a Computer Engineer at San Jose State University

First snow in front of Bursley Hall (Liz's dorm)“Art is much more intensive in college and the structure of the classes is very different. Studio classes are each 3 hours long and typically consist of work sessions and critiques. Critiques are class sessions where the class gathers around your piece and discusses what they think about it. In high school, you might be able to get away with doing a drawing for art class during GAEL period or lunch, but in college if you don’t put a significant amount of time and effort into your projects, critique can tear you apart. However, in college, students have access to more resources—I’m able to use laser cutters, 3D printers, and the wood shop for my projects. High school is much more limited in terms of resources so it can be difficult for students to experiment with materials outside of traditional art mediums.” – Liz Fu – Life in College at the University of Michigan

headshot“Don’t overload yourself in your first semester! I took one of the hardest accounting classes in my first semester and that wasn’t a good decision. I recommend sticking with freshman classes and not jumping into upper level classes. High school and especially AP classes seem hard but college is a whole new ballgame. Give yourself time to adjust to college life. I also recommend living in student housing so you are surrounded by students who are going through what you are going through. And socialize and make friends – you’ll need them – school is going to be hard.” – Tori Shipp – Life at Brigham Young University

img_5759“I know how to manage my time more effectively than ever. Commuting, going to school, and working forces habits that help you out in the long run. I’ve had opportunities to begin saving for tuition at a four-year university, and have gained (almost) total financial independence. Junior college has exposed me to people of all different backgrounds, everything from students who barely graduated high school, to the next NASA engineers, to elderly people going after an education because no one is too old to learn.” Courtney Varela – Life in a Community College

IMG_9194“Meet as many people as you possibly can. Every day during first quarter I was introducing myself to someone. Apply to as many things as you can as well. Don’t get disheartened or feel too small even if you don’t get into everything that you wanted to, because you can make it. Competition will help you grow.” (Tatiana)

“Make sure you set goals for yourself for every single term or semester, especially if you are going to a really big school because it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Networking is also so important! I realized that a little late in the game and I’ve gotten better, but my first year I wasn’t networking enough. Introduce yourself to your professors and go to office hours. In four or five years, you may need your professors and they can truly help you in your career. Don’t be afraid to do different things to see what your likes and dislikes are. It is literally your job to find out what you want to do in university. This is the perfect time to try everything.” (Natalie) – Tatiana and Natalie Bouri – Sisters at UCLA

Dublin High School Senior Awards Night 2014 - National Merit Scholarship Winner Kimberli Zhong“Notoriously, classes at MIT can get very difficult, but Student Support Services (S^3) is always available to help. I’ve had friends get deadlines extended when they felt overwhelmed, and from what I’ve experienced so far, MIT’s students and staff seem to care a lot about the community’s mental health. Humanities and PE classes also go a long way towards ensuring that we don’t drown in convoluted equations and esoteric terminology; this past quarter, I shot a gun for the first time in my pistol class. … Though MIT provides a rigorous technical education, our most valuable lessons take place outside the classroom, in labs, clubs, and living groups. My friends here are diverse, brilliant, and curious, and I love learning from them.” – Kimberli Zhong – Life at MIT

More advice on transitioning from high school to college is available here.


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