Leaving for college can feel scary to anyone. Whether you’re staying near New York City or going across the country, you are beginning a new life – one that is vastly different than what you’ve known for the last 13 years.
Easing some of Chapin’s juniors and seniors’ worries were the 8 Chapin alumnae panelists* assembled for College Alumnae Day on January 10. The former students, who are currently enrolled in college, discussed a variety of topics from life on campus to the admissions process.
One of the Upper School students’ most pressing questions was how to make friends at college, especially coming from a community as close-knit as Chapin. “It’s not as hard as you may think,” began Cornell University freshman Katherine Cornett. “Hang out in your common room,” said Eve De Muheto, a junior at Amherst College. She explained she met a lot of people just by sitting in her common room doing homework or watching TV. Another advised starting conversation with people in their classes because that can often lead to a friendship.
“How do you stay connected to Chapin friends?” asked one curious senior. Each alumna said they must make the time to see and talk to friends. College is rigorous in academics and it can be hard to focus on anything else. “Text throughout the school year and make definitive plans for breaks,” said Brown University junior Wassa Bagayoko. Another noted, “Social media is always a good place to see what people are up to.”
Often there is misconception that there aren’t as many opportunities at a small school but Eve quickly refuted this assumption. “I found it to be the opposite,” she shared. “People know me and are personally invested in me.” She noted an exciting job she has – conducting research for one of her professors – which she may not have gotten to do at a bigger school.
Two alumnae openly discussed the difficulty of being deferred, waitlisted or denied from your first choice. “It was really tough at the time,” said University of St. Andrews senior Liddy Cotter. “It sounds cliché, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.” She explained that after her early decision didn’t come back in her favor, she was able to sit down and delve into research, to think about what else excited her.
Carly Lynch, Cornell University: Hotel School sophomore, concurred. After transferring from Tulane, she found her niche at Cornell. “Ultimately I’m really happy. I never thought [transferring] was something I would do.”
Both shared that they would not have had certain great experiences if they had ended up at their initial school choice. Liddy, for example, touched on her unique experience of studying abroad in Scotland, for those who may have been interested. “It’s so enriching,” she remarked. “I study International Relations. I talk about world issues with a Russian on my left and a Costa Rican on my right. I’ve learned an incredible amount.” She advocated for the adventure saying that it is extremely integrating and rewarding beyond belief.
Each alumna encouraged students to keep an open mind concerning all aspects of college. Bucknell University freshman Paris Gallagher shared, “Ms. Boals would add colleges to my list [of applications] and I’d say ‘ew, no.’ But one day, she added Bucknell. I visited and here I am. I love it.” She continued, saying that there may be pressure to go to a certain school with a certain name and reputation, but that doesn’t matter. “The Upper East side isn’t the whole world. No one talks about any other school except the one you’re at.” Jewel Grell, University of Southern California sophomore echoed her advice, “Cast a wide net. Keep researching.”
Jewel also underscored the idea of taking different classes to find what truly interests you. “You can step outside of your major. I’m thinking about taking a songwriting minor. I really encourage you to explore.” Another alumna noted that even if you major in one subject, you can end up having a career in a completely different field.
No matter where the college decisions takes them, the alumnae were confident that all would be okay. “You’re Chapin girls,” Liddy said, smiling. “You are all prepared. Be confident in what you know. Women empowerment - you know it to the bone.” Another declared, “You’ll all be fine. Trust me. Everything is going to work out.”
*Alumnae panelists included:
Wassa Bagayoko, Brown University (’17, junior)
Fiorella Chacon, Columbia University (’19, freshman)
Liddy Cotter, University of St. Andrews (’16, senior)
Katherine Cornett, Cornell University: School of Engineering (’19, freshman)
Eve De Muheto, Amherst College (’17, junior)
Paris Gallagher, Bucknell University (’19, freshman)
Jewel Grell, University of Southern California (’18, sophomore)
Carly Lynch, Cornell University: Hotel School (’18, sophomore)