As Class 12 students filed into the Lower-Level Dining Room one recent morning, they were greeted by warm, familiar faces – Chapin young alums! After a brief reunion with many hugs, the seniors took their seats facing their guests.
Thus began our College Alum Day, a treasured tradition started by our College Guidance Office that joins college-aged alums with current juniors and seniors. Following an introduction from Director of College Guidance Karey Boals, the alum panelists* began to speak about the application process, college life, the transition from Chapin and more. (The juniors’ session was held at a later time that day.)
“The college admissions process looks different for everyone,” said Cornell University sophomore Erin Limb ’21. “Don’t compare yourself to others – especially what you see on social media.” Each alum echoed this, encouraging students to focus on their own paths and not worry about the chatter that may surround them.
The panelists also emphasized the vast possibilities ahead of each student. “The most exciting part is the freedom,” said Mikayla Kitsopoulos ’20, NYU sophomore, noting that the “opportunities feel endless.”
“Cast a wide net,” suggested Washington University in St. Louis freshman Angelica Barnes ’22. “Join clubs and look for things that you’re interested in.” Noting that there’s something for everyone, she said, “I mean, there’s a beekeeping club and a butter churning club at Wash U!”
Barnard College sophomore Erin Donahue ’20 agreed, “I didn’t like sports in high school – I used to try to get out of P.E. – and now I do rugby voluntarily!”
Cornell University senior Katherine Cornett ’19 and Ashfah Alam ’21, a sophomore at Columbia University, echoed their peers’ sentiments, with Ashfah noting, “Be open and really lean into new experiences.”
While having plans and ideas is certainly helpful, the alums noted that best laid often go awry. Students, too, may feel differently about certain things in the years to come. Erin shared that while in Upper School, she was certain she would pursue Engineering. Now, after taking a gap year, she majors in Women’s Studies.
“Everything is still up in the air for me,” said Duke Unviersity sophomore Ayanna Chatman ’21. “I haven’t officially declared a major – and that’s okay.” She explained that by taking an array of classes like Chinese and Sociology and exploring finance-related extracurriculars, she’s able to tap into her various interests.
Mikayla and Georgetown University sophomore Rosie Kaissar ’21 both spoke candidly about their experience with transferring while underscoring that it is completely normal to do so. “I wouldn’t change my process at all,” Mikayla stated.
“I didn’t end up where I submitted my early decision,” Rosie explained, sharing that she ended up going abroad to McGill University in Canada for her freshman year with a plan to attend Cornell afterward. “I wasn’t psyched at all, but I ended up loving it [in Montreal]! I thought I might stay.” While there, she applied to Georgetown and ended up getting in just before her scheduled departure for Cornell. With a change of heart and a week to spare, she decided to go. “I’m so happy at Georgetown. You will end up where you need to be,” she declared. “I know you hear that a lot but just trust me!”
The panelists also touched on potential roommate quandaries – another very normal aspect of college life – the college workload, maintaining a relationship with professors, making friends and more. Equally important, the alums underscored that they felt fully equipped to tackle the world beyond Chapin. “We [at Chapin] are really prepared for the transition to college,” encouraged Erin.
Smiling, Angelica said, “The assignments in AmEx [Chapin’s American Experience course] will be very helpful – I know they can be tough, but you’ll appreciate having done them!”
Similarly, Katherine added, “Use the tools Chapin has taught you. You’ll be just fine!”
Rosie also advocated for using Chapin’s vast alum network should students have questions about a particular school. “Everyone wants to talk about their school that they love! I would definitely reach out to chat.”
“Thank you for your time and expertise,” Ms. Boals concluded after a robust round of applause. “Come back again to visit us again soon!”
Ashfah Alam ’21, Columbia University (Sophomore)
Angelica Barnes ’22, Washington University in St. Louis (Freshman)
Ayanna Chatman ’21, Duke University (Sophomore)
Katherine Cornett ’19, Cornell Engineering (Senior)
Erin Donahue ’20, Barnard College (Soph/Junior)
Rosie Kaissar ’21, Georgetown University (Sophomore)
Mikayla Kitsopoulos ’20, New York University (Junior)
Erin Limb ’21, Cornell University (Sophomore)