A Glimpse into the Not Too Distant Future

grads return

Each year, Overlake’s Upper Schoolers get a chance to hear some words of wisdom from their peers- recent Overlake grads. Grads Return is a tradition at Overlake and crafted from staff in both the College Counseling and Alumni offices.  

“The best part of Grads Return is seeing how much our College-age alums enjoy sharing their experience with our Upper School students,” says Christian Fulghum (’77), Director of Alumni Engagement & Major Gift Officer. “They are genuinely eager to help out by relating their real-life experience. It is part of the ‘virtuous circle’ of the positive impact our alums can have on the community.”

The sessions this year were broken up by grade, so the alums could focus the topics of discussion to relevant issues impacting each grade. A total of 27 alums joined in to be part of several virtual panels, in which current Overlake students had the opportunity to ask questions.

Freshmen and Sophomores heard from recent grads who gave them advise on how to make the most out of their high school experience.

Sam Kehoe, (’19) encouraged students to find what they enjoy but to also work hard. “Overlake’s work ethic will form you into a person who takes on challenges,” he said.

Other grads suggested that students try anything they are interested in but also not to worry if they don’t have capacity for everything they may be interested in. Teya Hisel, (’18) said, “don’t worry about doing 30 million different things. It’s ok to be passionate about everything but it’s also ok not to do everything. Leave some passions to explore later on.”

Alums also recalled the ways they spent their high school summers. Some spent their summers studying for standardized tests so they wouldn’t have to study for them during the year, while others were camp counselors at Overlake’s summer camp and others worked retail jobs. Renee Austin, (’19) is currently an RA at her college and noted how the skills she used as a camp counselor have translated to her work as an RA at college.

Whether it be an internship or a retail job, students were encouraged to get out into the world and get some real life experience. Hisel said, “Working retail was an experience I’ll never forget. It teaches you a lot of life lessons and people skills.”

For the junior class, students heard words of wisdom around the college application process. Karthik Vetrivel (’21), a Freshmen at Stanford offered this view - “I would suggest you start your app process early to give you time to hone your personal statement that you will be proud of.”

Anya Sharma (’21), a Freshmen at Pitzer added, “maybe each weekend, set aside some time for an hour or two to work on various aspects of your college app.”

The panel of alums talked about what to look for in particular colleges and finding what will best fit with your interests. They talked about looking at things beyond a college’s academic program, such as the weather, climate, and culture of the city that the school resides when making a decision.   

When the discussion turned to balancing academics, co-curriculars, and college applications during their senior year, Maddie Hitchcock (’18), a Senior at Vanderbilt offered this advice- “Invest in stuff that you are passionate about. Colleges actually like to see what you are interested in and want to see your investment in those interests.”

The Senior class was broken up into three different sessions depending on the student’s interests and heard tactical advice on how to make the most of their college experience. From STEM focused careers to entrepreneurial careers, or humanities- based topics, the Class of 2022 got some sage advice. For instance, current seniors asked the panel of STEM-based college Overlakers what percentage of their time they have outside of classes to explore other ideas. They also talked about ways that internships and research projects can help move students post college into either an industry-focused career, or further academia.

Anjani Ludu, (’15) encouraged seniors to take advantage of every opportunity and resource available to them as students. “Everyone wants to help a student. That's something I had adults tell me my entire life. Quite literally, take advantage of that title everywhere you go.” Whether it be for an internship, job shadow, or any other kind of learning opportunity, she was pleasantly surprised at how eager people were to help students learn.

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