Tuesday, January 7, was a hallmark day for the Indian Creek Upper School faculty, as they welcomed back over 20 alumni who came back to the Creek to share the many ways in which they are thriving in college. Sponsored by the ICS College Counseling and Alumni Offices, annual Alumni College Panel gave current eighth through twelfth grade students the opportunity to hear directly from nine recent alumni about their diverse college experiences.
This year’s College Panel included Starr Isacson ’16 (current senior at Suffolk University), AJ Jones ’17 (current junior at Shenandoah University), Jordan McDonald ’17 (current junior at Dartmouth College), Juhi Narula ’17 (current junior at the University of Maryland), Katherine Desrosiers ’18 (current sophomore at Washington College), Johnathan Gorum ’18 (current sophomore at Loyola University of Maryland), Nina Gumbs ’18 (current sophomore at the University of Southern California), Niya Harden ’18 (current sophomore at Spelman College), and Akira Holland ’18 (current sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University). Many other alumni who are currently in college also came to campus to enjoy the annual Alumni Breakfast and visit with former teachers and peers.
The College Panel covered a wide variety of topics, as the nine alumni on the panel shared their individual experiences with college applications, the school choice process, financial options, dorm life, academics, and preparing for the world beyond college. Students on the panel represented schools near and far, big and small, as well as Ivy League Schools, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, small private colleges, and more. Their areas of studies also ranged from the Arts, to Business and Finance, to Education.
College Counselor Ruthie Shrum invited the students to share insight into their college application and selection process. AJ shared that his application process was minimal because he chose to apply Early Decision to his school of choice, while others described applying to and visiting a much wider range of schools. “Apply to every school you’d love to go to,” shared Nina. “Don’t limit yourself. You never know what might happen!” Several alumni shared the importance of doing an overnight visit at each school before making a final choice. All of the alumni shared that they had worried over admission test scores, as they advised their high school peers to stress less over that small aspect of the admission process.
Each of the alumni also shared their experience in building their own communities of friends and teacher connections once they arrived at school. When asked what surprised them the most about the college experience, the alumni gave great insight into college life. Niya spoke about the incredible diversity that met her at Spelman. “I had to realize that I’ve had a lot of privilege that other people may not have had. I’ve met people from so many different backgrounds. I learned the importance of treating everyone I meet with respect because you have no way to know someone’s story.”
Nina shared her experiences with having her academics intertwined with her dance major, and the decisions she’s had to made in order to balance the level of rigor she desired with her social life. “You can’t do everything in college. But you can do a lot.” Akira advised the underclassmen to research and understand the many resources that each school has to offer. She shared that it may take a while to find close friends at school, but many people are going through the same experience. AJ agreed, sharing “It takes time to build friendships. But you’ll get through it.”
Katherine shared her surprise at how much free time she actually had in college, with classes only taking up about two hours a day. She talked through her process of learning how to study on her own and chose extra-curricular and social activities that expanded her horizons.
Jordan advised the ICS students to carefully consider the location of a school before committing to attend. She shared that Dartmouth’s New Hampshire location brought an entirely different kind of winter season than she was used to.
Johnathan said that his greatest surprise about college was how “cool” the professors are. Each of his peers agreed about the importance of close relationships with professors, and many credited their experience at ICS with preparing them to make the most of these relationships. The alumni advised the future college students to use the app Rate Your Professor—but to use it with an open mind.
As the alumni told the students what their best and worst college classes to date have been, the importance of professors in the college experience came to light again and again. From Womens Studies, to The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Intellectual Property, to Chromatic Music Theory, to Philosophy, most of the college students’ favorite class choices were due to great teachers.
Finally, Ms. Shrum asked the students to share advice with the underclassmen on how to maximize their time at ICS. “Take time out for yourself,” shared Nina. “Pay attention to what gives you energy and inspiration.” Akira agreed, sharing “If you know you love to do something, go for it.” Niya and Johnathan both advised the students to experience a variety of clubs and community service projects. “Find your passion, play sports, become well-rounded, make friends, and enjoy this life while you can.”
AJ advised the students not to obsess over taking AP classes in high school, and Juhi emphasized the danger in taking part in activities just to build a resume. Jordan reassured the students, saying “It’s really about quality of activities over quantity. The college process is so random. Please try to take acceptances and rejections with a grain of salt.”
Katherine left the Creekers with advice to enjoy their high school experience. “ICS is a really special place. The teachers want you to succeed. This is a good community to be a part of. Enjoy it.” Thank you to all of our alumni who visited last Tuesday to catch up with the Creek Community.