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Alumni Revisit

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MIKE BRESLIN

FHS Class of ’16
University of Notre Dame

How has Fairfax high school prepared you for college?
Fairfax prepared me incredibly well for college. At Notre Dame, people come from high schools all over the country that range in quality. During the first few months of freshman year, a lot of my friends were overwhelmed with the amount of homework they had to complete, the mass of reading they had to do, as well as the intensity with which they needed to study. Since I had been used to the large workload that came with taking a lot of AP classes and balancing that with sports and journalism, I felt like I had a leg up on some of my peers with how to handle college academics.

Do you think high school has taught you important life skills?
I think high school, particularly Fairfax High School with its incredibly diverse student population racially, culturally, and economically, taught me how to work with people with different viewpoints and upbringings than my own. Coming from a high school like Fairfax taught me the importance of tolerance and how to make sure everyone feels valued and included. I also think high school taught me how to manage my time well since I had a lot less free time than I do now simply because I was in school all day.

How do you think teachers balance academic (“teaching to the test”) and social teachings (maybe more like EI)?
I think high school teachers generally focus a lot more on teaching to the test than they do teaching social intelligence, and it is a sign of a great teacher when they can do both very well. I don’t think this has anything to do with the negative quality of teachers by any means; I think this is more a product of the system in which they operate. Teachers, particularly in AP classes because of the early AP exams, are constrained by the amount of time they have to fit a required amount of material into lessons so they do not have time to include social lessons in their class time.

What advice would you give to someone about to enter the college application process?
Put your best foot forward and put everything out there for them to see. You’ve done everything you can for the last 3.5 years to build a resume good enough for whichever college you want to go to, so make sure they see that and don’t stress too much about the little stuff. The hard work is done.

Do you have any general advice for high schoolers?
No one will remember how cool you were in high school. Work your tail off, pursue your interests, and reap the benefits. Have fun too, but don’t sacrifice your goals and what you truly like to do at the expense of perceived social capital that will expire as soon as you cross the stage at graduation.

 

ARIANA MONROE

FHS Class of ’17
Coastal Carolina University

How has Fairfax high school prepared you for college?
Fairfax has prepared me for college by really stressing how important study habits are.

Do you think high school has taught you important life skills?
Personally I don’t think high school taught me life skills. I think high was designed to get you to college, and only focused on getting you graduated.

How do you think teachers balance academic (“teaching to the test”) and social teachings (maybe more like EI)?
I think my high school teachers focused on memorizing for the test which isn’t really learning. In college you actually have to understand the material.

What advice would you give to someone about to enter the college application process?
Advice I would give for the application process would be to apply to at least one dream school, one reach school and one safety school so you have a variety of choices.

What myth about college do you think is false?
A myth about college is “you won’t get home sick even if you really want to be far from home.” Even if you want to be as far away as possible you will still get homesick.

 

BILGE BATSUKH

FHS Class of ’18
University of Virginia

How has Fairfax high school prepared you for college?
Fairfax, for the first few years, didn’t really prepare me for college. The classes in which teachers set broader operating ranges, such as AP Physics and Lang, have so far served me the best. Most of the honors and introductory curricula, save for math classes, proved pretty useless for me. The learning skills they claimed to build are irrelevant, mostly since teachers tend to insist on not only what to learn, but how to learn it. In college you’re not going to get that sort of handholding, and that’s something said often enough that it’s taken for granted.

Do you think high school has taught you important life skills?
High school, indirectly, has taught me important life skills. Certainly, Fairfax’s administration has given me a greater level of distrust in authority that I feel has been essential to navigating confusing parts of life, both in and out of academic spheres. In terms of what the school has tried to teach me for life skills, I’ve probably done better just picking them up and improvising.

What advice would you give to someone about to enter the college application process?
Write your heart out, and draft as many essays as you think might be ever necessary, then get someone who you think is clever enough to judge you properly to read through and critique you. It’s actually kind of fun, once you realize you’re not going to be able to change much except your writing by the time you apply. Loosen up, have fun with the essays (if you’re not, maybe the school isn’t for you, or you’re not looking at the prompt right).

Do you have any general advice for high schoolers?
Find a club or two that you really like, and do those for as long as possible. Grades are secondary to life experiences. Doing things you’re good at, voluntarily, and for long periods of time help you learn things about yourself and the world in which we live. Much better than standard 8-3 education will, anyways. My life drastically improved after I started doing more in junior year, even as classes supposedly escalated in difficulty.

 

EVA PETERSON

FHS Class of ’17
University of Virginia

How has Fairfax high school prepared you for college?
I do not think Fairfax High School prepared me for college. My parents prepared me for college, other programs I did prepared me for college… the things that prepared me the most were things that I had access to due to my own privileged background, (educated parents with multiple degrees) which I fully acknowledge.

Do you think high school has taught you important life skills?
In fact, I felt like Fairfax’s attitude towards its students back when I attended (2013-2017) was incredibly limiting and at times belittling. I felt like my autonomy and personhood were not respected at times. I can point to specific instances if need be where I interacted with administrators and left feeling angry and upset due to them addressing me as if I were a small child, as opposed to a maturing person trying her best to pursue a quality education. The teachers who I thought best cultivated respectful learning environments have all since left for greener pastures.

How do you know what you want to major in college?
The only classes at Fairfax that even came close to getting me ready was AP Lang and AP Lit. *Keep in mind this is solely due to my being an English Major.* Those teachers graded toughly and really challenged me to think and write critically and extrapolate meaning where I thought there wasn’t any. This skill is something that never goes away in the English Major. The books for those courses also come up again and again and I am glad I can discuss and reference them. I chose my major based on the recommendation of one of my first year professors. All first years at UVA must take an English class and I excelled at that so my professor strongly recommended I major.

Looking back at your high school years, what class was your favorite?
9th grade English with Eric Kinne. He was born to teach. Until then I had never had an interesting English class. He reintroduced classic literature and poems in a way that was fresh and interesting. He treated his students with respect. We adored him and were so sad to see him go, but hey, teachers are grossly underpaid and he had a family to support. A real shame.

 

CASSIDY TA

FHS Class of ’18
Virginia Commonwealth University

How has Fairfax high school prepared you for college?
Fairfax offers a great variety of both elective classes, clubs, and organization that give you an idea of community, which is very important in college, and so I believe that joining clubs and organizations back in high school has opened up more interests and has given me an idea of what I’d like to do extracurricular wise in college.

Do you think high school has taught you important life skills?
Yes, I believe that high school has taught me important life skills. Although it took a while, I learned to successfully manage my time in high school. As a result, it has made my last year in highschool and my first year in college a whole lot easier. I now have time to do everything I’d like, from studying to eating out with friends to going to organization events, time management has allowed me to do so much more.

How do you know what you want to major in college?
Personally, I had no idea what I wanted to major in college until maybe a few weeks before my college applications were due. However, I feel like doing some research and taking in account of your interests is an important step to knowing what you’d like to major in. Currently I am a Business: Information Systems major. I chose this because of my personal interest and skills with computer and code and so that is how I chose my major. I know many other people that knew really early what they wanted to do and also know people that still don’t know what major they want to do, and so as a general tip, college is a place for you to experiment and see what you truly fit into, so take your time and see what you genuinely will be happy doing and learning for the next few years!

 

CYNTHIA CIAO

FHS Class of ’18
University of Virginia

How has Fairfax high school prepared you for college?
It helped prepare me by helping me with time-management skills and it helped me cultivate efficient study habits.

Do you think high school has taught you important life skills?
Yes, high school taught me that the world doesn’t revolve around me. It taught me to look beyond myself and consider things as a whole rather than only how everything affects me.

How do you think teachers balance academic (“teaching to the test”) and social teachings (maybe more like EI)?
I think that there isn’t much of a balance between the two, simply consider the limited amount of time that there is to teach academics. However, teachers are always available for social teachings if students have questions about something in their lives.

What advice would you give to someone about to enter the college application process?
Don’t stress too much about the extra curricular and standardized test scores. Those are important, but it’s also really important to show your personality through your essays by writing about something that you’re passionate about.

 

NICOLE KENNEDY

FHS Class of ’18
Virginia Tech

How has Fairfax high school prepared you for college?
My AP’s were actually exactly like my college classes now. Some are easier than others, some have a ton of work, and even some content is the exact same. I am so glad I took AP classes so that I don’t have to waste my time taking a lot of general education courses in college.

Do you think high school has taught you important life skills?
DECA has made it really easy for me to make stuff up on the go! That’s pretty helpful, especially when I’m trying to apply for internships.

How do you think teachers balance academic (“teaching to the test”) and social teachings (maybe more like EI)?
Some teachers not only want you to do well in their class but in life in general. They show that through the advice they give you and their availability when giving extra help. When you stay after and spend a lot of time with a teacher you really get to know them and form a connection with them. This is something that you miss out on in college because there are so many students! Take advantage of this! I miss when teachers knew my name.

What myth about college do you think is false?
One myth that people kept insisting would happen to me is that if you room with your best friend it will make you have a falling out. I’m rooming with my best friend and it has worked out amazingly! It’s actually so much easier than rooming with an acquaintance because I feel comfortable with spending so much time with her and living in such close quarters. I knew that it would work out for us since we’ve been friends for so long but I didn’t like that people believed it was a bad idea- and they wanted me to know they thought it was a bad idea.

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The Online News Magazine of Fairfax High School
Alumni Revisit