Roxbury Grads Return to Impart College Wisdom

Roxbury grads participate in panel discussion on college life in Anthony McMichael’s Ethics class Credits: Roxbury Public Schools
Roxbury grads return to Anthony McMichael’s class to speak to students (L to R): Haley Cook, Emma McDonald, Dominque Tye, Anna Cook, and Anthony McMichael Credits: Roxbury Public Schools

ROXBURY, NJ - While home on winter break, four recent Roxbury high School graduates returned to their old stomping grounds to impart some valuable wisdom on a handful of high school seniors and juniors in Anthony McMichael’s Ethical Studies class.

Twins Anna and Haley Cook, Emma McDonald and Dominique Tye re-acclimated quickly upon their return to Roxbury High School. They touched base with former teammates, peers and teachers before coming to answer questions in McMichael’s class.

The returning college freshmen are enrolled in 4-year universities along the East Coast. Three are on a defined career path while one is still undecided.

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Anna and Haley Cook went south and are at the University of Central Florida studying nursing and accounting respectively. McDonald is a bio pre-med major at the University of South Carolina and Tye is undecided at Stockton University.

McMichael offered them the opportunity to discuss their transition from high school to college life, covering numerous topics.

“I brought the college students in to discuss the transition," he said. "The college students spoke about the academic, social, and emotional adjustments to life beyond high school and they reflected on how RHS prepared them for their next phase in life..

The young adults spent 50 minutes answering questions about their experiences.


by McMichael and students, including Victoria Losey and Alexandria Bartlett, about their experiences, activities, as well as their preparation for being away from home.

“Many high school students are curious about the realities of college and it was extremely beneficial for the college students to speak with them and demystify many, many common questions about the college life," McMichaels said. "Haley, Anna, Dominique, and Emma were able to bring such different perspectives about college life based on their different experiences.”

One of the factors in the decision-making process was the proximity to home and friends. “I wanted to go where I didn’t know anyone, somewhere different away from here, as I knew I wouldn’t have any money to go anywhere after graduation with medical school," said McDonald. "Luckily, I have friends in North and South Carolina so I have other options for places to visit.”

Anna Cook looked into TCNJ, UDel, and UCF, and choose a place based on the weather and the cost. Her sister had different plans in mind. “I wanted to live my own life, not back at Roxbury High School," said Haley Cook. "I didn’t want to go to school with Anna. I was ready to start my own life.” In the end, Haley and Anna chose to attend the same school.

“The grade above us said don’t room with friends from high school when you go to college, but you know it’s nice to know someone from high school and was glad to have Anna," said Haley Cook. "We made the choice to go to this school without visiting, it was risky but we ended up in the right place with good things. College can be 50/50, you love it or hate it.”

Tye, on the other hand, knew right away she wanted to continue her running career and stick with a small college. “I wanted to be close to home," she said. "I’m a homebody. I go home a few times each month. It’s nice to see familiar faces.”

Haley Cook added to that, commenting, “Yeah, you get homesick but being so far from home, you can’t just go home. For us, we wanted to make it and prove them wrong in the decision we made. Besides, at college you aren’t missing anything because all your friends aren’t back home either. It’s like taking the next step from Eisenhower Middle School to the high school. Yeah, you miss it but don’t want to go back because there’s no one left to miss.”

Student Alex Bartlett asked if it was difficult staying in touch with friends from high school. McDonald answered, saying, “Not with FaceTime and technology. I was calling my friends a lot during the first week. It’s not hard to stay in touch with the technology.”

The ladies spoke of their educational experiences and how it differed from high school. Some have classes that are lectures with 400 other students while some of their major classes are smaller with 30 or so students. With larger classes, they said, students need to take advantage of their professor’s office hours and in some cases get tutors or join private study groups.

“High school teachers baby you a bit. In college, they treat you like a mom, like a real person," said Tye. "But professors do allow us to text them and reach out during office hours.”

Haley Cook agreed, saying, “In high school, if you get a bad grade teachers try to help you do well. In college, it’s your fault you do bad.”

The testing style also differs in college. A student might only have two or three exams and a final the entire semester. In many classes, participation is key.

“A big portion of your grade is participation," said Tye. "You have to go. Your parents aren’t there to tell you to go.”

Added McDonald: “You have to attend class because tests aren’t always from the notes or slides from class. In high school, all of the text for the tests were on the slides. I had a professor whose slide would be just a picture of a brain and then he would spend the next 45 minutes talking about that slide. If I wasn’t in class to take those notes about what he said that wouldn’t help on the test.”

Time management was a big piece for all four.

McDonald said part of the problem is that there is so much work but also a lot of downtime. “That doesn’t help with procrastination,” she said.

McMichael asked the panel if block scheduling helped prepare them at all for college.  Haley said it did, as her schedule "had classes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, similar to RHS.”

McMichael followed that up with, “If you could redo your senior year, what would you do differently?”

“I’d try harder in classes and not slack off as much," McDonald said. "The last year, the teachers saw that and went along with it. That doesn’t happen in college.”

Haley Cook added, “I took AP classes in high school but decided not to take the tests. I regret that. It would have given me more leeway.”

Tye, however, said high school prepared her quite well for her first year classes.

This panel also touched on sports and activities at their schools. Tye said she knew she wanted to run, so her college had a program to fit her needs. McDonald noted there are many club teams and intra-murals programs and she said the club teams are more intense than the intra-murals, explaining, “There’s no actual commitment with the intra-murals, you can come and go as you please.”

She also said she’s in a sorority that focuses on community service and she is also involved in a journalism program for fun.

Haley Cook said she tried to do club volleyball but it was difficult. “The club didn’t fit into my class schedule," she explained. "It’s also different. I know the sport but not the people. I loved high school volleyball. In the end, it was too stressful with the times, so I didn’t do it.”

McMichael shared how important it is at college to find your people. “There are so many groups and clubs," he said. "There’s something for everyone at college.”

The social aspect is an important part of the college experience, as many don’t know anyone when the first start. All four shared that  their classmates and roommates were all in the same position transitioning from high school to college.

Haley Cook said new collegians have to be willing to introduce themselves.

“You make friends through friends so it’s sometimes hard,” said McDonald.

Part of this process includes the roommate situation. While some are fortunate enough to choose their roommates, not everyone has that option. Tye lives in an apartment with five other people and warned, “Know who you’re living with because you can’t kick them out.”

“I’m always cleaning up after them and throwing out their garbage,” added McDonald.

Anna Cook advised the students, “Don’t go out every night, that way on the weekends you have something to look forward to.”


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