My name is Alexis Johnson and I am in the Clarkson School, making me a “Schoolie,” (this is a traditional nickname for a student in the Clarkson School) but if I stayed in high school, I would have graduated in 2021.
I am from a small town about three hours from Clarkson – Holland Patent, New York. Growing up in a small town was so difficult for me. I felt like I never fit in with my classmates and my school work was a breeze.
My classmates, for the most part, were undecided on their future and didn’t have too much care as to what they were going to do after high school. Granted there was a special group of around 20 of my classmates that could relate to me in these feelings, and had gone through dual enrollment and AP classes from the beginning just as I did.
However, I didn’t relate to the vast majority of my class, and I was always very goal oriented and focused on the life that I wanted to build for myself. I started taking dual credit classes my freshman year of high school, setting myself up for a fast path of success.
Most students in high school begin to feel stressed and get hit by a workload their junior year, but I didn’t feel that same stress because I was an established successful student and had been working hard for years before this.
As my junior year began, I found myself in the same old situation as every year, feeling like I was wasting my time spending six hours in a classroom, five days a week. I felt very restricted in my hometown, always feeling like there was something missing from my life that I needed to take the next step. Coming from a family of six, I am the oldest of four, I was always very independent growing up. As a middle schooler and early high schooler I hated when people tried to interfere with the way I was doing things.
Shortly after my junior year started, I got a letter in the mail from Clarkson explaining an early college program that would allow me to go to college next year while also fulfilling my high school diploma. Sounds confusing, I know. So here is a simple explanation of the Clarkson School: students can go to Clarkson, rather than returning to high school for the senior year, and begin taking college courses.
Now, you might be wondering how one can still receive their high school diploma, so your counselor at your high school will work closely with you and the academic advisors at The Clarkson School to figure out what courses you still need to take for your diploma requirements.
Since most students are advanced academically and exceptional learners, there shouldn’t be many courses that you still need. For example, I only needed to take two classes at Clarkson in my first semester to satisfy my high school diploma requirements.
I was extremely interested in this opportunity upon learning some more about it, so I signed up for the open house. So my father and I got in the car one Saturday morning and drove the three hours to the little town of Potsdam. We went through the tour with a TCS student and sat through the information session.
When I was on campus I felt a sense of opportunity and comfort almost immediately. I went home and discussed options with my parents and opted to begin my application. The application took me about a month, and I was accepted into the program in mid January. I couldn’t wait to be on campus!
After my acceptance, I became so excited to be submerged into college life, that I found excuses to make the three hour drive up to Clarkson. My family and I would drive up and attend hockey games and explore town. But a huge wrench was thrown into my plans with the global outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020.
Of course, I was upset that I wouldn’t get my prom or last track season with my friends, but I was way more worried about if I could go up to school in August. I checked my email daily along with the Clarkson University website, praying that I would get this opportunity. Thankfully, Clarkson put out its commitment to reopen in the fall and I was at ease.
I used my last fleeting months to spend time with my friends and family as much as I could. Then finally August rolled around, and I had two weeks left. I had been so excited for months and now I was feeling scared, anxious, and not ready to leave home. I kept these feelings in, because I knew they would change the second I got onto campus, which they did.
I moved in on August 16, and due to COVID guidelines and restrictions my parents weren’t allowed to enter my building, so it was pretty lonely. Classes began a week later and I tried my best to meet people and get the best experience I could. Given the unforeseen circumstances of a global pandemic, TCS staff was left to navigate our year through virtual experiences only. Although not the same, it was nice to be connected to people somehow.
The Clarkson School offers a great opportunity for high school students looking for more in life. Being submerged into a college setting is not an easy task, and doing so a year early can bring some nerves, but the staff that TCS provides creates an easy environment to transition into.
Being in this program boosted my confidence greatly, reminding me that I am capable of reaching my goals. I felt like I always had a shoulder to lean on when I needed it, I had mentors, our HA’s, my roommate, advisors, and so many more capable people willing to drop everything to help me. I especially found my peer mentor helpful, she was always open to send an email and let me vent, offer advice and remind me that I deserved to be there.
I finally feel like I am in control of my life and have found the piece that I have explained as “always missing.” I am exposed to many resources to help me advance, the successful career center, clubs, tutors, and just a loving environment on campus.
Although my Schoolie year was not a normal one, I wouldn’t change my decision to attend for the world. Anyone considering the program feel free to reach out and chat: firstname.lastname@example.org !