Making use of freshman-year college stories


Neva Legallet

It’s the G-word: gr*duation. After marching across the amphitheater one last time, where they once ate lunch freshman year, one-quarter of the school will leave in June, most off to colleges outside of the familiar realm of Marin. Seniors’ relationships, though, aren’t confined to the graduating class. Some of the most impactful people I’ve known during my three years in high school are departing. I know they’re bound for amazing futures and will have endless opportunities to grow into even more incredible people, but a (large) part of me wants them all to stay right here.

Is that selfish? Completely and utterly. But I’ve been relying on the wisdom and stability of people who, although only a year older than me, have guided me throughout high school, and I’m not ready to let that go yet.

Although breaks and summers provide time for graduates to come back, some won’t return to interact with the high school they left behind. However, as some of them experience college as freshmen or take a gap year to explore the world, they will be gaining even more to share with us, and their experiences and advice should be passed on to members of their alma mater.

A program facilitating mentorships between high school students and Redwood alumni, with the help of the College and Career Center, would be invaluable for all involved. High school should prepare us for college, so why not utilize our biggest resource: the students.

The amount and significance of differences between high school and college necessitates teaching upperclassmen what to expect while providing them the tools to succeed in a new environment. This teaching is more effectively done by peers than adults, according to an article from Psych Learning Curve by Drew Appleby.

College students have found that the academic environments, workload and student-teacher relationships all change drastically from high school. This kind of first-hand knowledge can only be imparted by those who have experienced it themselves, and having access to this information will provide an easier transition to college life for soon-to-be-graduating high schoolers.

“Taking this advice seriously and using it to modify their academic behaviors and attitudes can prevent students from blundering into their freshman year in college and expecting it to be their 13th grade in high school,” Appleby says.

With advice addressing social and academic change, participants in such a program would ease anticipatory fears of college life that have gone unexplained thus far.

Furthermore, providing students with accurate revelations about college gives them an opportunity to hear a perspective not colored by financial motive or number-hungry recruiters. Insights from real college students can focus on how the area’s weather lifts or depresses spirits, how often the on-campus transportation breaks down, or just anything not numbers-based. High school students sometimes overlook the importance of these factors when overwhelmed by stats, reviews and outside pressure.

“Too many high school students are basing their college decisions on rankings, online reviews and peer trends rather than advice from current college students,” according to Daniel R. Porterfield, president of Franklin & Marshall College.

College counselors and parents can only do so much. Although they, too, have experienced a transition from high school to college, their experiences are less relatable because of time, but also because many haven’t gone to the same high school as their student or child.

Redwood students’ experiences are unique in many ways, and sometimes only the common background of spending hours at Cocoa and Cram, suffering through failed chemistry labs and explosions or participating in lip dubs can create a foundation for receiving advice that is truly taken to heart.

All of our shared traditions and experiences serve to create a network of deeply connected students and alumni, one that would be solidified through mentoring. When going through the college application process, or even when deciding where to begin with the process, advice from those who know exactly what we’re going through—who faced the same choices just a year ago—would be reassuring.

Connecting students with similar academic backgrounds, future career paths or college choices would also provide high schoolers with a mentor who has shared history or interests, making their knowledge even more valuable. This kind of commonality can’t be found in a college counselor, or even a school counselor.

The importance of keeping Redwood graduates involved in this community musn’t be underestimated; creating long-lasting ties between maturing college students and the students at their alma mater would strengthen the already deep connections we have.

I know seniors will come back and visit next year, and pop into classes to say hi to teachers who’ve nearly forgotten their names. But again, I’m selfish: I want more than five-minute visits of graduates gushing about how great college is. I want to spend time with the people who have influenced me. I want to hear long-winded stories about them embarrassing themselves in lecture halls, or playing frisbee in a quintessential quad, or about how they realized a major wasn’t right for them and decided to switch, and then switch again. I want to be told, one more time, that we’re going to do just fine in college—because after all, we have our graduating seniors to look after us.