Graduation to bring change for seniors: are we prepared for life after Hamilton High?

For most of us seniors, this is our last year here in small-town Hamilton. Next year, we’ll go off to colleges far and wide to learn about medicine, engineering, life.

College is definitely a learning experience, throwing us into a world of new viewpoints, experiences, and beliefs.

Many people at Hamilton would admit that, living in such a small community, we can be sheltered. Hamilton graduates at various colleges agree that being at college has opened their eyes to a lot of new things.

“There are so many different ways to look at things, handle situations,” Rachelle Wilson, a freshman at Central said, “and so many people from different backgrounds. I felt like I just crawled out of a rock and was thrown into a room full of new different surroundings.”

Graduates feel differently about whether or not they were fully prepared for the outside world. Some feel that Hamilton equipped them well for the experiences they would have in college, while others feel that they could have done a better job.

“I believe Hamilton prepared me very well for college,” Alex Tenckinck said, “there is only so much high school can do.” Tenckinck is a freshman at Grand Valley.

Tyler Berghorst, a freshman at University of Michigan and one of last year’s valedictorians, felt differently.

“In general I feel as if Hamilton did not do a complete justice in preparing me for the world outside of West Michigan,” he said. He added that college allows “freedom from the mindset of Western Michigan that told you that only the general conservative way of thinking was ‘right’ and that all other mindsets are just stupid.”

Others were on the fence. Dakota Sale, a sophomore at Central, said, “Hamilton prepared me for the top layer of the outside world. Obviously, it could not prepare me for absolutely everything, but being two years out now, I feel that Hamilton could have offered more preparation for college.”

Whether or not Hamilton does a good job preparing a student seems to depend on the student itself. Rachel Polet was another of last year’s valedictorians, and is currently attending Calvin. She felt that a student’s readiness for college is not only based on their own viewpoint, but directly reflective of their high school experience.

“What you really have to do,” Rachel said, “is just put pressure on yourself.”
“The school does its job,” she said of Hamilton, “by offering plenty of opportunities to prepare yourself, you just have to take advantage of them.”

Whether or not you feel prepared for it, college is bound to bring new opportunities.
“You learn independence,” Michelle Alderink said, noting some advantages of college, “you’re on your own, you can make your own class schedule, you can eat whatever you want, you can go to bed when you feel like it.”

On the other hand, you also have more responsibility.

“You have to do your own laundry,” she added, “be responsible for yourself, have the motivation to actually go to class.”

These new experiences and responsibilities presented in college can cause people to change, or not to change.

Most of the college students I talked to said that they see lots of people changing. Interestingly, though, most also said that they themselves had not changed. Very few actually admitted to having changed since high school.

Is this just an illusion? Maybe we think we see everyone changing, but really, few people actually do.

“It is in most high school students’ minds that they are going to change dramatically once they go off to college,” Sale said, “but often that is not the case. The only change, which can be big for some students, is the maturity level and how they conduct themselves in certain situations.”

Prepared or unprepared, sheltered or unsheltered, changed or unchanged, college is bound to bring us all new experiences, put us in new situations, and force us to learn new life lessons.

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