By Lily Lam
When the pandemic led to school closings in March 2020, students would have never imagined that their learning experience would completely shift online for the rest of the year. Whether these students welcomed the news with open arms or grimaces, one fact remains the same—plans of homecoming, ski trips, proms, and graduation became unpredictable. However, will college learning experience stay the same despite being online? As online learning becomes the platform that would assimilate itself within the school learning environment for the upcoming months, there are naturally concerns on whether colleges in the following years will have a drastic change in academic opportunities and programs. Let us take a look at several 279 Central graduates and their experiences at their school.
Sophia University, one of the top research institutes in Japan, is now being occupied by the former Editor-in-Chief of the Centralizer, Grace Jickling (279). The location of the school in Tokyo, thousands of miles away from Philadelphia, did not hold Grace back from applying to her dream college that best fits her needs. Sophia University stood out to Grace in many aspects, including the Japanese culture and the globalized nature of the classes. However, the key point laid within what the university had to offer—a Liberal Arts Program taught in all English despite being located in Japan. Utilizing her work ethic and time management skills that she attributes to honing in Central, Grace is currently faring well in school and making new friends despite the challenges of virtual learning. Still, as the previous Editor-in-Chief of the Centralizer, she continues to advocate for the club and vehemently expresses her gratefulness to Mr. McElhenny, Central’s esteemed English teacher and Centralizer sponsor. She praises, “I would not have enjoyed my high school half as much if I hadn’t joined the Centralizer. I promise Mr. McElhenny isn’t as scary as he seems!” Currently, Grace is on her way to pursuing a career in book production whilst majoring in Comparative Literature. As someone who has taken her first step in accomplishing her dreams, she insists that her experiences at Central were ones that were substantial in her future education. “High school is more than just learning about subjects and information. It is a time of growth, and if you don’t take time and reflect every once in a while, you will truly not be ready for college.” After all, although Grace was rejected from her top school choices, she was not disheartened but soon concluded that the schools that she had desired were not her best fit. Grace aims to spread her positivity and her motive in success to possess a good mindset and choose a school that will fit one best.
University of Pennsylvania
Enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania and studying Biophysics and Neuroscience, Jessica Lvov (279) is on her way to becoming a Dermatologist. Like many Central students and graduates, Jessica was involved in many academic courses in order to be able to enroll in her dream school. Studying became a major part of her life and UPenn was both the driving force and burden to her well-being; gradually, she found herself passing up fun opportunities in exchange for perfect scores. Senior year was the year that Jessica was determined to have her share of enjoyment and relaxation. However, with the unexpected arrival of the pandemic, she witnessed her year of “fun” drift far away. Because of these reasons, Jessica encourages students to rest once in a while and to spend more time with friends and family when they get the chance. “I wish I would have believed it when someone told me to stop worrying so much about my grades…I realized now that I exhausted myself in high school…I also wish I didn’t put one school so high on a pedestal,” Jessica recalls. Naturally, this does not mean that someone should not try and give up applying to their dream school. Instead, Jessica aims for students to be more involved, to not overwhelm themselves in the process of doing so, and to broaden horizons when considering a school when the time comes. However, despite some lingering regrets, for the most part, Jessica is satisfied with her learning environment. Compared to Central, college was naturally equipped with better resources, work and study opportunities, and more flexibility in courses. Aside from the reputation that UPenn has as an ivy league school, Jessica finds the campus to be appealing in various sectors; for example, the convenient location and the “work hard, play hard” attitude of the students and faculty pleasantly surprised her. Adjusting to a college environment unexpectedly was not too bad either. “Back when I was a Central student, I thought that college would be nothing like this and college was going to be so much harder,” Jessica reminisces, “Actually, I am finding that it is a lot easier for me to stay on top of my classes than several of my classmates.” She credits her experiences to the rigor at Central and expresses her content as a student at UPenn.
University of Pennsylvania
Ashley Ray (279), a Central graduate attending the University of Pennsylvania, College of Arts & Sciences, is considering majoring in Biological Anthropology and landing a career in the forensics field. Since classes are held virtually, Ashley admits that she feels detached from the school culture. “It’s hard to say whether I have even actually experienced UPenn. It has all been online and while they do their best to connect us and introduce us to the culture, it does not cover up the fact that I’m just taking classes in my bedroom.” Frankly, if virtual classes continue, class 280 may have to brace themselves for the same college experience and sense of distance. Nevertheless, despite classes being held online, UPenn maintains its reputation as a prestigious school. “UPenn has a lot to offer academically. There is something for everyone, no matter how niche,” Ashley adds. Overall, she has spoken about the decent preparation that Central provides and its aid in her education thus far, as she was ahead of her classmates in various fields of knowledge. However, as there are pros to the school, Ashley also honestly speaks about some cons, including money, and the nature of some professors to leave their students to self-learn. All in all, Ashley advises Central students today, “Don’t waste your time doing things you do not enjoy! Nothing is more important than your health, both physical and mental.”
As a Liberal Arts college that offers vast resources and possesses demographics predominantly consisting of women, Barnard College was able to easily capture Mariame Sissoko’s (279) interest. Mariame is aspiring to be a lawyer and currently is double majoring in Human Rights & Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, as well as minoring in Science and Society. While in Central, Mariame took part in the IB program. Having experience with the program allowed her to progress fairly well in Barnard. Mariame deliberates, “the structure of the IB program was incredibly similar to college. Honestly, college is a bit easier.” On top of this, she emphasizes the fact that it is okay to enter a school that is not one’s first pick and one that someone cannot originally envision themself in. Nevertheless, Mariame also makes sure to relieve some Central students’ worries in their grades by declaring, and quite bluntly, “One C won’t kill you.”
Hannah Poeng (279) is a Central graduate and student at Yale University. At Central, Hannah was also a part of the IB Program, which she claims to have solidified her fundamental skills and prepared her for the Yale environment. Despite admitting to not being the strongest in writing, Hannah’s Yale professors seem to think differently. She mentions, “It’s really jarring to get all the compliments for my writing, but I think that’s a testament to how well Central prepared me.” Her interest in Yale University first stemmed from the fact that the school had a shocking resemblance to Hogwarts, but gradually changed upon more research into the academic opportunities available. As Hannah found herself struggling with which school to go to, she finally settled on Yale University. “They never brought up their name-brand as a university and always talk about Yale as a place where you don’t have to compromise all your academic interest nor compete with anybody despite, ironically, being a competitive school.” To Hannah’s discovery, upon entering Yale University, the faculty and students did live up to their name in their humble yet satisfying attitude with learning. Still, Hannah hopes to offer advice to Central students who are both worried and confused about their future path. “It’s okay to be unsure of what you like and who you want to be.” Indeed, Hannah herself is still browsing her options for a major as she is still undecided in her interests. To those who are stressed about grades, Hannah advises, “Think of your grades as the first impression. You want the admissions people to be intrigued enough to open your file, but your club activities and interview are what sell you to a school.” Still, Hannah warns that one must be quick to grasp onto knowledge and avoid procrastinating at all costs if one attends Yale.
Making college decisions is always a difficult choice for students. While the insights provided by the past Central students above may offer more a deeper understanding of their schools, whether out-of-state or in-state, students are recommended to do their own research regarding the colleges that they are considering.