Transition From High School To College Successfully

My transition from high school to college can be summed up in one word: overwhelming. Hotchkiss, an 827 acre boarding school of about 500 students, sits in the very Northwest corner of Connecticut on the picturesque Lake Wononskopomuc. Most of the teaching faculty live on campus (often within student dorms), so my advisors and teachers acted more as supplemental family members than they did teaching professionals. These amazing people offered great advice, unlimited moral support, and even rides to and from the train station before and after breaks.

The biggest difference from most high schools, however, was Hotchkiss’ No Chance Policy. The policy states that if a student is caught with drugs or alcohol on campus, no matter what the circumstance, that student is to be expelled without question. With weekends often spent on school grounds, this policy can stay in effect for months at a time. Its purpose is to keep students safe, and acts as a very effective deterrent against experimenting with drugs and alcohol, as most students consider a Hotchkiss diploma far more important than getting drunk or high. The problem? As they leave, many of the students have already missed out on what could be considered a valuable lesson in enjoying social stimuli (alcohol in particular) in moderation.

Fast forward to August 2011, where a naïve group of about 1100 freshman gathers together for the first and last time until their 2015 graduation. Our cocky, high school senior attitudes were quickly put in place later that night, as we walked from fraternity house to fraternity house trying to find our place within the Lehigh social scene (which is heavily dominated by Greek life). Chanting upperclassman, dormitory pre-gaming, and sexually promiscuous sorority girls made the whole atmosphere surreal. In just over three months’ time, I went from having zero alcohol access to sitting on a near infinite supply.

At times I felt like I was drowning under the wave of social and academic rigor, trying to balance a rapidly evolving social life with an intense engineering curriculum. Thankfully, experience was quick to settle in, and a healthy middle ground of work and play became the norm. The shock to my system could’ve sank the ship, but instead made it battle hardened. Whether in the classroom, in work, or in my personal life, dealing with sudden and debilitating issues doesn’t overwhelm, but encourages me to get smarter… to get stronger, because I know I can handle myself in whatever situation comes my way.


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