Hey everybody! My name is Emily McGrail ’24, and I am a business major attending The Clarkson School (TCS) this year. I have not graduated high school yet, but I am so blessed to be able to experience an opportunity as amazing as this early-college program.
When I first began to consider beginning college a year early, the majority of the people I talked to thought I was crazy. The idea of me pushing myself to work a little harder and go a little faster didn’t quite make sense to them. But here are a few reasons it might make sense for you.
Sometimes, high school can begin to get extremely boring, especially if you come from a small school like me. There were only 35 or so students in my entire grade, and this limited me a great amount in terms of the activities available for me to build a resume with. It would take hours of asking people and emailing organizations just to get a decent amount of community service, and even then, it was only random projects that would ultimately fail to display to colleges a sense of devotion to a cause.
On the other hand, here at the Clarkson school, there is an entire Circle K club devoted to serving the community, as well as a thrift store nearby that welcomes student volunteers!
While it may not be everyone’s piece of pie to challenge their minds and strive for excellence, it has oftentimes been mine. I always felt like my high school classes, AP or not, simply were not difficult and did not encourage the type of intellectual stimulation that I desired.
When you choose to join The Clarkson School, not only do you get to take all the same classes as first-year students, but you have the chance to build a community with other students who truly want to learn. The result is an amazing experience in which you can, if you choose, break down the barriers in your mind that are holding you back from reaching your full potential.
Community Away From Home
As I mentioned before, the community you are adopted into when joining TCS is really amazing. Not only are there “family” dinners every month, but there are field trips every semester that offer a little break and a chance to enjoy your fellow peers! The sense of belonging you can gain if you simply show up at events is wonderful, and even the most introverted students are able to find a club that suits them.
With over one hundred unique organizations on campus, the opportunities are widespread and diverse, giving any student plenty of options to choose from.
Competitive Advantage on College Applications
One aspect of this program that was a main reason I started college early was the distinguishing factor it allowed me to include in college applications. As I am applying to various selective universities across the country, it has been such a comfort to know that I am truly showing my full capabilities by including my participation in this program.
Clarkson School students have gone on to countless Ivy League schools. The way this program reveals to admissions officers that you are not only capable, but mature enough to be so advanced in your studies means a lot when they are sifting through dozens of applications a day.
As a Clarkson School student, you are basically a fully fledged first-year college student. This means you control what you eat, when you work, who you hang out with and, ultimately, what you get out of the year. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could truly control my day-to-day life, and creating my own schedule for the second semester was very liberating.
Being given an outline and basic class requirements and then being told to go “shopping” for classes was so much fun. I found the classes I chose so much more interesting simply because I was allowed to pick and schedule them myself.
A Fresh Start
All of us have made at least one bad decision in high school that we regret. Whether it be social, physical or mental, there is usually at least one moment that we want to erase. While working through that moment with one of the counselors on campus could be extraordinarily rewarding, when you step onto Clarkson for the first time, you have the opportunity to start over.
No one will know that you were terrible at giving speeches or struggled in gym class in past years. All they will know is who you are now. TCS gives students a chance to continue their story without all the memories of past mistakes. Rather than being an opportunity to create a new self, this program is an opportunity to find your authentic self and just be you.
From Brenda Kozsan, the associate head of TCS, to Annie Helfgott, the associate director for student & alumni relations, the people and resources that help us through our first year at college are so wonderful. Whether you have questions about academics or just need to know where to find some friends, someone will reach out to you and show you how to get to where you want to be. There are so many older students and teachers who want nothing more than to guide you through this next year, and all you have to do is ask.
I happen to be a part of the Honors program as well, and one of the older members who is working as a teacher’s aide for my class is even willing to proofread my assignments for me!
Mid-Point Between Full Dependence and Independence
One of the unique qualities of TSC housing is the inclusion of a curfew and quiet hours. These limitations are very loose but provide students with an outline for daily activities that is extremely beneficial when the temptation to make less-than-optimal choices arises.
The helpful addition of midway reports for grades throughout the semester is also extremely helpful, as there are numerous opportunities to get back on track if you happen to hit a rough patch.
On the other side of these limitations is the reality that you will be an independent student, fully responsible for your own education and lifestyle. In my case, this has been the perfect sweet spot between high school and college!
On top of all of the really great educational and social reasons TCS may be the right fit for you lies the amazing environment that surrounds the Village of Potsdam. From lakes, to waterfalls, to nearby Canada, the number of places to take in the beauty of the natural world is endless. One of my favorite spots is Ives Park, which is barely a 10 minute walk from campus. There are so many trails and wild areas, even on Clarkson’s campus, meaning you will never have to stop taking in the wonder of nature to do homework. You can simply do the two together!
As you can probably tell, there are countless reasons The Clarkson School may be the perfect choice for you. If you are like I was and are simply struggling to make up your mind about how you want to spend your next year, I want you to ask yourself, “Why not?” For real, if you do not know what to do, ask yourself what you would be missing by leaving and remind yourself about how much you would be missing out on if you did not leave. You can even rate the items you list. When making a decision for my own senior year, it helped me to truly understand the full spectrum of possibilities and decide what path was truly going to benefit me the most.
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out to TCS and ask. We would love to help you. Have a wonderful day, and enjoy this next year, whatever it may hold!