Advice from Alumni

Allison Christensen, Staff Writer

It can be difficult to envision a life after high school. Each person has fallen into their own routine, making it hard to tell when one day ends and the next begins. 7 AM alarms are snoozed while drivers filter into parking lots, exiling the late sleepers to  F-lot. The halls buzz with the same mindless chatter used to get from one class to another, usually consisting of the tried and true complaints, “I’m so cold,” or “I’m tired.” But sooner than later, this endless cycle will be disrupted. Seniors will walk across a stage, accept a diploma, and walk out the doors as an alumni.

While many have fantasized about graduating ever since recess and classroom parties were a thing of the past, others worry about having to establish a new routine and adjusting to the college lifestyle.

One of the most notable differences between high school and college are the schedules. High Schoolers will go to school for seven hours, moving from class to class every 45 minutes. Whereas college students may only have one or two classes per day, forcing accountability and independence that is not typically required in high school. Alumni, Mackenzie Gleason ’20, is now a sophomore at the University of Iowa. Gleason is on the pre-med track. “I did feel like it was a hard adjustment getting to college,” Gleason said. “But that has more to do with self-discipline, time management, and my mental health during the pandemic.

Ever since middle school, students have been able to reassess scores they are not satisfied with.  However, some worry that they have become too reliant on reassessments and will feel overwhelmed when it is no longer an option in college.

Gleason supports occasional reassessing as a tool to help students learn, “I remember that preparing for reassessments gave me a chance to hear good feedback from my teacher’s and helped with my testing anxiety. Corrections for half a point back were really helpful, and it made me feel like I had a chance to prove how dedicated I was when a few bad tests didn’t.  It was definitely better for growth mindset.”

Alumni Jennifer Larson ’21  is a current student at Central College and finds that relying on reassessments isn’t beneficial in the long run, “I honestly didn’t utilize reassessments in high school because I didn’t want to make a habit of reassessing scores when it wouldn’t last past high school.” Larson said, “I would not recommend relying on reassessments because college exams compared to tests in high school classes are completely different and are much more challenging.”

Even though it may seem overwhelming having to navigate the outside world, there are many steps we can take as high schoolers to make the transition to college go smoothly. Alumni Karsten Thelien ‘20 attends Iowa State and is majoring in biochemistry. “College is different in the fact that you only have about three or four exams and a final. The majority of your grade rides on just a few scores so you have to be prepared.” Thelien said. “Learn how to study while you’re still in high school. Figure out how you learn best so that when you get to college you’ve already developed good study habits.” 

Gleason pushes a similar idea of building good study habits,  “I like to use flashcards to push memorization for science courses. Also, try not to wait too long before studying for exams, it’s really helpful to study just to stay fresh from lecture to lecture.” Gleason said. “When you push yourself to struggle with the concepts early on in classes when the course loads are light, you have lots of time to practice applying the knowledge, build up your memory, and ask questions.”

As students, there are a plethora of opportunities and resources at our disposal, including the ‘School to Work’ program and Advanced Placement classes. Larson feels like the best way to prepare for college was to immerse herself in actual college courses, “I feel that some of my AP classes prepared me for college, but it was most helpful to take classes directly through DMACC and Drake,” Larson said. “I do think that Johnston provides a better foundation than most schools do, but exposure to college level material is most important.” Larson said. 

As we near the beginning of the end for the 2021-2022 school year, and seniors count down the final days before graduation, take a moment to soak in every merry and miserable moment in your daily routine. Because sooner than later, we’ll all snooze our alarms, whip into the parking lot, and complain in the hallway for the last time.