Academics + Admission, Campus + Student Life, Living on Campus, Living-Learning Communities, Potsdam Community, The Clarkson School, Undergraduate Programs

Cracking the Code: What to Expect When Attending The Clarkson School

My name is Sarah Jane. I attended The Clarkson School (TCS) in 2020 and have since continued my studies here at Clarkson University. I have a double major in Psychology and Mathematical Economics with a minor in project management. As I’m in my last semester at Clarkson and approach graduation, I’ve been reflecting back on my college experience. 

Attending college, especially a year (or two) early, is daunting. Here are some of the things I wish I knew coming into The Clarkson School. 

How similar is The Clarkson School to high school?

Most often, students coming to TCS are missing their last year of high school. Maybe you’re worried about missing out on key high school moments. In a lot of ways, TCS can be very similar to your typical high school experience, although on a college campus. The Clarkson School has their own form of student government. These students work to plan and host events and day trips. As part of the student government, there is also a Yearbook club, which is pretty self-explanatory. At the end of the school year, The Clarkson School has its own commencement, similar to that of a high school graduation. While TCS doesn’t have a specific formal event or prom, many clubs and sports teams host a formal each semester. Despite not formally attending high school, TCS students do not miss out on the opportunity to participate in these cherished events.

What do you do outside of classes on campus?

Sarah Jan sitting on a short stone wall next to a big green grassy and tree covered lawn.

In my time at Clarkson, I have been involved in Clarkson’s Crew Team, the Clarkson Association for Psychology Students, and Psi Chi, a psychology honors society. Clarkson has over 200 clubs and organizations on campus. Each fall there is an Activities Fair that provides you with the opportunity to learn more about various organizations and join clubs or intramurals. These clubs range from the Sustainability Club, Clarkson University Outing Club, Club Volleyball, and everything in between. If you don’t find something you’re interested in, you’re always welcome to create your own. In addition, Clarkson University’s Student Association (CUSA) hosts events throughout the year. 

Separate from extracurricular activities, many students at Clarkson are involved in undergraduate research. I personally work as a research assistant in two labs within the psychology department. I started in the Hearing and Attention Lab my freshman year and have been a research assistant ever since then. I later added another position in the Motivation and Emotion Lab where I am now writing my thesis. Through this, I’ve had the opportunity to learn both qualitative and quantitative research methods, worked with participants, conducted electroencephalogram (EEG) research, and presented research at a conference. 

What do you do outside of classes off campus?

I spent more time than I should have during my freshman year in downtown Potsdam. At the time I didn’t have a car, so my friends and I would walk downtown. It’s possible to still have a life without a car, but it’s definitely helpful in the winter. We would wander downtown to get ice cream at Scoops and walk through Ives Park. On the weekends, we went to the Farmers Market at Ives Park and watched movies at Roxy Theatre. I take yoga classes at a studio in Massena. I recently took a pottery class at The Third Wheel downtown, where I learned to throw, trim, and glaze my pieces. I have explored Cornwall, Ontario, it’s only about 50 minutes from campus. My friends and I often get brunch or boba tea, see movies, and just explore the city. Although Potsdam may be a small town, we are so close to Ottawa and Montreal and there are hundreds of amazing hiking trails nearby. 

What are classes like?

Unfortunately, there isn’t really a good answer to this question, it varies so much for everyone. However, the majority of the freshmen class ends up taking very similar classes. So, the professors are used to working with students just out of high school and are happy to make reasonable adjustments as needed. Every professor holds weekly office hours and many have teacher’s assistants (TAs) who hold office hours as well. Students can stop by and ask questions about homework, class content, and exams. The Student Success Center holds tutoring hours and can help you navigate learning to effectively study for exams. In addition, TCS has specific tutors every weeknight for two-three hours in Price Hall. These tutoring hours are available only to current TCS students and are run by past TCS students. It’s certainly different from what you’re used to in high school but with a little time you adjust. 

What classes do you typically take?

Sarah Jane standing in her The Clarkson School graduation gear with her parents next to the Golden Knight statue

During the Fall semester of your freshman year, every student at Clarkson takes a PE100 – First Year Seminar class and a writing-focused class, UNIV190. For Clarkson School students, PE100  is taken with other TCS students. It focuses on the development of personal and professional development, good study habits, and workshops focused on easing the transition from high school to an early college program. UNIV190 is taught by a variety of professors each with a different topic that concentrates in the professor’s respective field of interest. It is a writing and literature class that helps to build your communication skills up for future classes. Typically, TCS students will also take a political science and an economics course during the fall as well to fulfill high school requirements, if needed. These classes are great because you’ll often have other TCS students with you but you’re fully matriculated with the traditional freshmen. 

What’s it like living with a roommate?

I had a great experience living with my freshman roommate, we even went on to live together for a couple more years. There are two options for finding roommates. You can either choose to be randomly assigned, or you can select a roommate if you meet someone you connect with before school starts. I chose to be randomly assigned. If you choose this path, you’ll fill out a survey with information like when you wake up and go to bed, are you introverted or extroverted, and are you clean or messy. The goal is to try to match you with your ideal roommate. It’s very weird living with a roommate at first but you get used to it with time. At the beginning of the year, your Housing Advisor (HA) will go through a roommate contract with you. It’s just another thing that helps ease your transition into college. 

What are the dorms like?

the entrance of the Clarkson School with the words Price Hall on the top board

While attending The Clarkson School students live in Price Hall, which is made up of four separate dormitories. TCS students live in either Newell or Ormsby House. Each dorm can house two students. Thankfully, there are no floor bathrooms! Each dorm has its own bathroom that is only shared by you and your roommate. To make it even better, the bathrooms are cleaned weekly by the amazing custodial staff. It’s one less thing to worry about, making your transition to college just a little bit easier. Each floor has a lounge where you can hang out with friends and is a great place to do homework. 

And there you have it – a sneak peek into life as a Clarkson School student. Whether you’re still working on the application process or are about to start in TCS, you should embrace the chaos, savor the moments, and enjoy the ride! 

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