College here I come!

Alumni give advice to seniors about what they wish they knew before coming to college


Arely Sun

This College Starter Pack lists items seniors might want for college. In this article, alumni offer advice to the seniors about what they wish they knew before coming to college.

In just a few months, a quarter of the Harker Upper School population will be heading off to college, into the great beyond. To prepare our beloved seniors for the next stage of their journeys, seasoned alumni shared some words of wisdom that might enrich soon-to-be freshmen’s college experience.

Advice #1: Try everything

With its vast amount of resources all within one campus, college is the time and place to step out of one’s comfort zone and try new hobbies.

For Mikail “Misha” Tseitlin (‘17), a sophomore at Princeton University, his concern about choosing a major inhibited him from following his passions.

“I wish I spent less time worrying about what my major would be and simply exploring what I was interested in,” Misha said. “The only way to truly know if you want to do something is by trying it: generally, the way a discipline functions in the professional sphere is hard to contextualise and even harder to understand if you’ve never done it.”

Jacqueline He (‘18), a freshman at Princeton University, encouraged students to take advantage of the topics offered at college and search for unique courses that may not relate to their future occupation.

“Take classes outside of your career focus, like linguistics or Asian American studies or a seminar on cuisine,” Jackie said. “In no other time nor place would you be able to explore different disciplines so conveniently.”

Advice #2: Manage your time well

One of the new responsibilities college students acquire is the freedom to plan their own courses. Ashwini Iyer (‘15), Georgia Institute of Technology graduate one year out of college, found that having a tight-knit schedule helped her utilize her time to the fullest.

“Don’t have huge breaks in between your classes unless you plan on spending that time for something productive, like a club or a sport, because that time will just go wasted and you’ll end up overwhelmed,” Ashwini said. “You might as well just have your classes as close together as possible and just finish them off.”

Other than allocating time toward academic workloads, college students must also prioritize their mental and physical well-being. University of California, Berkeley junior Evan Lohn (‘16) emphasized the importance of eating three meals a day.

“Make sure you take care of your health, [like] eating and sleeping enough. It’s surprisingly easy to miss meals in college, since it’s generally entirely up to you when and where to eat,” Evan said.

Advice #3: It’s not all about the academics

Although college is the place to pursue a higher level of education, Meilan Steimle (‘17), a sophomore at Stanford University, revealed that being a college student has taught her more about social and personal life than academics.

“Most of what I’ve gotten out of my [college] experience so far hasn’t really been academic,” Meilan said. “I’ve put most of my energy into exploring interests, building relationships and learning to be content with contentment.”

While the academic jump from high school to college might be well known, not many people discuss the social hardships. Alexa Grossman (‘17), a sophomore at Wellesley College, found that the transition from having close friends in high school to developing new friendships in college was more jolting than expected.

“The hardest expectation to come to terms with was my expectation of friendships,” Alexa said. “It was difficult for me to go from having many people I felt I could tell anything to, to not feeling like I had anyone who I could share certain successes, failures, struggles or just random occurrences with in person.”

Advice #4: College is what you make out of it

The process of moving away from a familiar place to a startling new environment and community may seem daunting at first, but ultimately, the college experience will only be what the student chooses it to be.

Julia Wang (‘15), New York University graduate one year out of college, believes that one’s life in college depends on the student’s own decisions.

“There’s a lot of stress and pressure and excitement before going to college, but remember that [college] is just what you make out of it,” Julia said. “Whether you’re super happy or slightly disappointed about where you’re ending up going or even scared to move to a new city, even if things didn’t turn out as you expected, there’s always a silver lining.”