Last week, a group of Chapin alumnae currently in college* held panel discussions for Class 11 and 12 students to answer their questions and ease any fears about the college experience. These alumnae are pursuing degrees in a wide variety of areas including international relations, recorded music, English, biomedical engineering, and broadcast journalism, and are in various stages of their college careers, from first semester freshmen to seniors.
The Upper School students listened intently as Sofia D’Angelo ’17, a freshman at New York University, explained why she chose to attend college in New York City. “I was excited to stay in the city. It feels very different than when I was at Chapin (…) I love living here and taking advantage of all that the city has to offer. It is the best experience!” She encouraged the students not to discount a school just because it is located in the city they grew up in, and shared stories of the unique opportunities in the music industry that she has discovered.
Eve De Muheto ’17, a freshman at Amherst College, discussed the perks of attending a small liberal arts school. “I knew I wanted to attend a small school because I couldn’t imagine being in huge lecture halls. I wanted to have close relationships with my professors (…) But even though my school is small, I have so many different pockets of friends that I don’t feel like I’m always seeing the same people every day.” Eve feels that the small class sizes she enjoys at Amherst help to hold her accountable and keep her engaged.
But, as Carnegie Mellon senior Molly Kaissar ’14 explained, it’s possible to make an impact and connect with professors at larger institutions by being “brave for self.” She shared a story about the benefits of being bold. “I walked up to [a professor], introduced myself and said that I hoped to do research with him one day.” He was impressed by her confidence and went on to offer her a research position.
All of the young alumnae agreed that earning some extra money during college is great, but managing your time can be tricky. Eve, who works part-time in her college’s admissions office, shared her tips for managing it all. “Especially during exams, you really have to plan out your time in advance. It helps to look at your class syllabi [at the beginning of each semester] and plan around that (…) But having a job actually makes me more productive because I know I don’t have as much free time to get things done as everyone else does.”
One of the biggest concerns many high school students share is the stress of imagining starting over in a new environment. When several students inquired about making friends, the alumnae were quick to offer reassurance and honest advice.
As Wassa Bagayoko ’17, a freshman at Brown University, explained, “Going to a new place and making new friends is hard. It becomes a full time job. But give it time and go out and meet people. I didn’t meet my best group of friends until Thanksgiving.” “Everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is scared,” added Sofia. “Let your true colors fly and meet lots of people. Talk to as many people as you can and (…) just go for it!”
Tess Tarantino ’16, a college sophomore who recently transferred to New York University, shared that she enjoyed the fresh start that transferring provided but still felt apprehensive about her decision in the beginning. By joining a sorority at her new school she gave herself a “home base” of friends to whom she could always turn. “Make homework friends!” added Molly with a laugh. “Homework friends are the best friends to have in college.”
As the panel discussion concluded, the alumnae offered some last minute advice and encouragement. “Make sure to never skip classes, because when you skip you just end up losing out in the end. I never missed a class this first semester!” Grace Guenther ’17, a freshman at University of Virginia, proudly shared. “All the work you do at Chapin really does help to prepare you to get through your college classes easier,” Wassa noted reassuringly. “Make sure you save time for rest, exercise and hanging out with friends,” added Molly. “Put yourself out there and try lots of different things, but remember to use the time management skills you’ve learned at Chapin.”
The juniors and seniors shared hugs and quick conversation with their alumnae friends before returning to their days. They left with a stronger sense of the college experience that lies ahead and the reassurance that their older Chapin classmates are always close at hand with a kind word or helpful advice.
*The alumnae panelists were Wassa Bagayoko ’17 (Brown University), Sofia D’Angelo ’17 (NYU), Eve De Muheto ’17 (Amherst College), Grace Guenther ’17 (University of Virginia), Molly Kaissar ’14 (Carnegie Mellon University), Claire Lee ’14 (Harvard University), and Tess Tarantino ’16 (NYU).
Browse photos from the discussions below: