By Megan Spees
WARSAW, Ill. – Having survived their first semester of college, a dozen members of the Warsaw High School Class of 2012 shared advice and cautionary tales about the world of higher education Friday during WHS’ 21st annual Freshman Experience.
The panel discussion-style event, coordinated by guidance counselor Paul O’Day, provided 115 WHS juniors and seniors with insight into college life and how to prepare for it. Speakers at this year’s Freshmen Experience group represented diverse areas of study and 10 public and private colleges.
O’Day and high school Principal Bob Gound fielded questions on a variety of topics including financial aid, scholarships and work study; majors; cultural experiences; which high school courses have proven most valuable so far; dual credit classes WHS should consider offering; class sizes; instructors; study habits; extracurricular activities, clubs and organizations; advice for WHS seniors; and what the freshmen might have done differently in high school to prepare for college.
Abby Mitchell is a biology major at Drake University in Des Moines. She suggested high school students get an idea of what they want to study in college before they pick their general education courses.
Of the 12 freshmen, only one has changed his major so far. Kevin Crozier changed his major to English education when he discovered that his school, Aurora University in Aurora, Ill., doesn’t have a strong computer science program and lacks engineering courses.
The freshmen are involved in a wide variety of campus activities. Pre-law student Savannah Huston has joined the Hawkeye Marching Band at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Ashlie Knipe, a nursing major at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, is a member of the Student Nurses Association. Agricultural business major Jeremy Ferguson plays intramural basketball at Western Illinois University in Macomb and might pledge to a fraternity this spring.
If Friday’s discussion was any indication, the first semester of college hasn’t fazed these freshmen too much – although a couple of them said their campus environments weren’t quite what they’d expected.
Even after campus visits, the small size of Drake’s campus took Mitchell by surprise. All the freshmen live in the same housing, “so you see the same people every day.”
Ellie Kyle, an applied psychology major at New York University in New York City, was the only student at Freshman Experience who’s ventured beyond the Midwest. NYU is in the heart of the city, and the campus buildings intermingle with many non-NYU structures.
“You rarely see the same people twice,” Kyle said. “It’s kind of different.”
When asked by O’Day how much time they spend studying in college, the consensus was that high school was a piece of cake in comparison.
“I lock myself in my dorm and make myself study,” said Emily Harness, a radiology major at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa. “Otherwise, I won’t study.”
She added that she often takes her study materials with her when she spends time with friends.
Mitchell described high school as “a lot of busy work,” while her college courses consist mostly of tests and