This week, students in Grades 11 and 12 had the opportunity to hear from recent St. Johns alumni about making the most out of college. Panel members included:
- Hannah Reese '17, a freshman at Baylor University, Waco, Texas
- Matt McMullen '16, a sophomore at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL
- Abbey Fagan '16, a sophomore at the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Questions ran the gamut covering academics, schedules, advisors, social life, exams, homework, housing, and much more. Each alumnus kicked things off by telling current students where they are attending college, what they are studying, and what their schedule looks like in a typical week. They discussed the role of advisors in a college setting and how that can vary depending on the type of school you go to, how big it is, and the academic track you're in. Hannah Reese, for example, is pre-med at Baylor, and she said that her advisor is always there and available for her-- she can just walk in any time. Abbey Fagan, a business marketing major at UF, said that it can sometimes take weeks to get into see her advisor.
All three alums agreed that time management is essential. At St. Johns, most classes have fairly regular homework, the graduates said, which helps keep you on task and moving forward. In college, though, many classes don't have much homework at all, if any. This means you have to take the time regularly to study the material, go over class notes, and stay up on the content. Otherwise it's too overwhelming and there is too much to cover for exams or finals. Matt McMullen, an aerospace engineering major at Illinois Institute of Technology, said that in most STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) classes you'll have more homework more regularly. This is important to keep in mind from a time management perspective.
Student to faculty ratio at a school can also have a big impact on your educational experience, agreed the alums. Reese said the ratio at Baylor is 14:1, the same as St. Johns, but Fagan said the UF ratio is "a lot to one." This affects faculty availability, whether your classes tend to be taught by teaching assistants, and much more.
When it comes to meeting new people, the alums had similar advice. "Just go to stuff," said Reese. It's the best way to meet new people, she said, and it's easier than you expect to get to know them. Everyone is new, so everyone is looking to meet new people. McMullen agreed and suggested joining groups. Look for groups centered around hobbies or interests you have, and just try them out. You're not under any obligation to stay if it's not a good fit, expanded Fagan, so give it a try and go outside your comfort zone.
Other topics covered included public transportation and having a car on campus, different housing situations such as dorms or apartments, and dealing with social issues, particularly with roommates. "It's important to learn not only how to talk to people," said McMullen, "but *to* talk to people." There can be a lot of stress involved in your living situation, he added, and roommates can contribute substantially to your stress load. Keeping the lines of communication open and talking early and often can help. He recommended roommate contracts as one way of preventing and dealing with roommate stress. It can be helpful to reference them later if and when problems come up.
When it comes to finding the right school for you, they said, don't worry too much about it right now. Your teachers and Mrs. Worthington have you doing what you need to be doing and on track, they said, so take some time to enjoy being here and hanging out with your friends while you're all still here together.
When it comes to careers, McMullen advised, it's more important where you end up, so don't worry too much about getting into one of the top schools. Things like internships and recommendations from your college professors can matter a lot more than where you went to school, and often your chosen career will require a master's degree or higher. In some cases, where you get your advanced degree matters much more than your undergraduate degree.
These St. Johns graduates have no regrets about their choices, and love the leg up they got by attending St. Johns. Reese and Fagan both cited the college credit they received by taking AP courses, and Reese added that the credits she earned from having taken AP courses got her halfway through the requirements of her math major. McMullen mentioned the faculty member that complimented him on an essay, adding that many kids in college-- even sophomores and juniors, don't know how to structure an essay or speak very well. These graduates all agreed that their St. Johns education set them on the path to success.
Hannah Reese '17, Abbey Fagan '16, and Matt McMullen '16.