MICDS Alums Return to Give the 411 on College

Four MICDS graduates returned to campus on Wednesday to dispense helpful advice and provide a sneak peek into college life for the Class of 2020.

Anna Grace Yuska ’19 is studying pre-med at the University of Tulsa. She has joined a sorority and is exploring Greek life. Bryce Berry ’19 is majoring in political science and economics and minoring in Spanish at Morehouse College. He has become involved in the NAACP. Zion Thomas ’19 is at Case Western Reserve University, studying astronomy and theater. He is in an a cappella group on campus. Michael Gira ’19 is majoring in computer science and minoring in entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has joined programming and writing clubs.

Director of College Counseling Matt Essman welcomed the 12th graders and noted that this is the fourth year of the event. “We ask students who just graduated in the most recent class to come back and talk about their experience both in the second half of their senior year at MICDS, and the first semester of college.” He also thanked College Counselor Scott Herrmann-Keeling for his work in organizing the event.

Mr. Essman kicked off the session by asking the panel to talk about the level of preparation they felt as they started their college journey. Berry responded first, saying, “MICDS over-prepares you in the sense that everything you do is really easy when you get to college. You’re writing a paper like you wrote in 5th grade; the math you’re doing is what you did in 8th grade. You’ll be there academically, and far ahead of your peers.” Thomas took the microphone and, to laughter, said, “College is not a joke, though, people! You are adequately prepared, but it’s not a walk in the park.” He gave credit to the MICDS English department for being ready for the level of coursework demanded by colleges and universities. He said, “The MICDS English department did a lot of work teaching us how to write, how to construct theses, how to argue effectively. Writing is a big part of life. Wherever you go, you will be prepared so don’t worry about that too much.” Gira took several humanities courses in his first semester, and also credited the English department for preparing him for a lot of reading and writing.

The panel then talked about the most challenging part about transitioning to college life. Yuska said that she learned about how being on a college campus is like living in a bubble. “It’s crazy to think you’re living in a city of a thousand 20-year-olds,” she said. Bryce said his challenge was learning how to be an adult. “This is the real world now,” he said. “You have to remind yourself to eat and do the basic necessities of life. Pay your bills. You’re living life away from home and surviving.” For Thomas, learning how to use public transportation in Cleveland was challenging, in addition to other “adulting” tasks. “When I’m sick, I have to go talk to the doctor by myself, I have to call people myself. It’s basic skills and it’s a little bit of an awakening, a tough transition. I’m my own person now and no one is going to hold me accountable for the decisions I make.” He advised the 12th graders to focus on learning how to operate independently and to surround themselves with people who can help. Gira recommended creating a calendar immediately, as he found it difficult to remember everything he wanted or needed to attend.

The college freshmen then shared helpful advice for navigating a new campus and living situation. Berry recommends vetting your college roommate. “If you’re not compatible it’s not going to go well,” he said. All of them agreed that communication is important and that signing a roommate agreement that spells out ground rules is helpful. Thomas recommended making an effort to meet people, and not just fellow students. “Talk to people in leadership positions. There are a lot of those who are willing to help. I go out to lunch with people over our multicultural leadership department. These are good resources or safe spaces, and become people I can rely on for recommendations or jobs on campus.”

One 12th grader asked the panel to talk about how college professors are different than the teachers at MICDS. Berry took the microphone and said, “High school teachers care.” The audience laughed, and then he continued. “They have a more personal relationship with you. College profs have 400 students they’re dealing with at a time.” He said he sometimes still reaches out to his MICDS teachers for help. Thomas said, “College profs won’t show you as much attention as your teachers here, but don’t let that discourage you from walking into their office, emailing them, setting up a time to talk to them. They do like to work with you. They like to see you try to help yourself. Establish a relationship so they know who you are and they know your effort.” Gira agreed, saying, “You need to take the initiative. No one is going to yell at you if you don’t show up to class.”

Another senior asked, “How do you make friends in college?” Thomas led the discussion, saying, “Talk to people. Literally. You forget how you establish friendships, but they will come. I’ll be walking down the street and will say to someone, ‘Yo, I like your hat.’ We have a conversation, then have lunch together. Go to social events on campus. All relationships are not going to last, but try them. See what makes it through the filter of time.” Yuska agreed. “Those cheesy activities at orientation? Yes, they’re optional, but you should go. You get to meet everyone in your class.” Gira proposed joining clubs and recruiting study buddies in classes.

Sprinkled throughout the lively discussion were a lot of gems for our rising college freshmen:

  • Don’t blow all your cash on UberEats. If you have a meal plan at a campus cafeteria, that’s a much more economical way to eat.
  • You’ll have a lot more discretional time during the day. Take naps when you need to.
  • “8 a.m. classes are the devil. Don’t sign up for 8 a.m. classes.”
  • Keep a calendar from the beginning and enter in all your test and major project due dates. Task tracking apps are also helpful.
  • There are a lot of great jobs available on campus, and some of them allow you to study while you work.
  • Cherish these last four months at MICDS. Sometimes it’s hard to stay in touch with your old friends, so enjoy this time together.

The panel was united in their final words of wisdom:

“Don’t freak out. You’re going to be fine eventually.”

Our panel also stayed after the presentation to talk one-on-one with students, dispensing additional helpful advice and answering questions.

Many thanks to Anna Grace Yuska ’19, Bryce Berry ’19, Zion Thomas ’19 and Michael Gira ’19 for spending time with the Class of 2020 and sharing your valuable words of wisdom.