CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- High school students nearing graduation received some useful college advice from their slightly older peers during an alumni panel recently at Cambridge Central School.
The informational event organized by school counselor Andy Akins, librarian Terese Brennan, and English teacher Pam Friers allowed 11th and 12th grade students opportunity for an unfiltered, peer-to-peer talk about what to expect through the college transition. "These kids, they listen to their peers," said Akins, who helped coordinate a similar panel at Shenendehowa High School where he previously worked. "(These) are good, real things you don't get on the campus tour," he told students during the second morning session.
In the effort to better prepare students post-graduation, Akins said he was also involved with the school committee that worked recently on an alumni feedback survey. While the guidance counselor said he kept in touch with graduates after they left CCS for work or higher education, that pool was spread across the country and typically "they don't come back unless you force them back."
The five panelists were queried on a gamut of topics covering dorm life, academics, and financial aid. University at Albany freshman Thomas Hemmerling summed up college in a single key word: "Freedom." As is, the freedom to do or not to do class assignments.
"You're kind of just out there winging it," Jordan Hastings told students. A senior at Union College, Hastings said he found he needed more structure and, as an incentive system, he began listing daily tasks which he then crosses off for a sense of accomplishment (no matter how small the task).
Contrasting college with high school, panelists said professors largely didn't take class attendance. "The teachers, they surprisingly expect you to be adults," said Adrienne Hamilton, CCS class of 2006 and a graduate of Southern Vermont College.
Hemmerling said while high school was about preparing students to learn, college professors were more interested in the dissemination of information. "They're not going to hound you to do your work. ... You're expected to (show up in class and) know it," he said. Hastings indicated the cost of tuition had served as some motivation.
"They're not going to coddle you," agreed Morgan Hall, a freshman at Loyola University New Orleans. Each panelist represented a different college experience. Hall said she arrived on campus shortly after Hurricane Isaac hit the northern Gulf Coast.
Meanwhile, Hamilton said she commuted to school and mostly avoided the "dorm life." Working on time management and organization and not procrastinating were some of the panelists' chief recommendations, although Hamilton told students to not forget about their social lives.
Hemmerling described college as a mind-broadening "overall experience" -- not just studying and classwork. Panelists said they had encountered a huge diversity of perspectives, from both professors and students, and they said local CCS graduates brought their own diversity to the mix. Hastings illustrated that point with a discussion from a college economics class, where he was the only one to raise his hand when asked who among them knew someone who owned a farm.