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Listening to the Experts

Listening to the Experts
Sarah Honan

Over the past several weeks our students have had the tremendous privilege of hearing from “experts” in their respective fields. In January, these “experts” were our own W+H alumni, who came back to campus to share more about their experiences transitioning to college as well as some advice for future generations. In February, we hosted five seasoned professionals – including a W+H parent, W+H alumna and a few friends of W+H – who shared more about their respective pathways from college to career as well as the skills they gained along the way that have helped them in their chosen field. Their collective stories were not only relatable, but inspiring to many of our students contemplating this next chapter of life in college. Here are some of those words of wisdom we’d like to highlight:

On the importance of reflection during the college process…

“Something kind of beautiful about the college admissions process is that you really have to get to know yourself; you have to take that time to figure out who you are. This is the time of life that you figure out what you like and who you want to surround yourself with. Taking the time to be introspective will not only help you write your essays, but also choose which school is the best fit for you.” – Naischa Puri (W+H ‘23, University of Notre Dame)

“It’s really important to build a [college] list that’s going to please you – not other people. Getting to know the schools and visiting was really important for me. All the schools on my list were great and were going to put me in a good position for what I wanted to do, so it really came down to where I felt most comfortable.” – Sydney Racine (W+H ‘22, University of Pennsylvania)

“One thing I learned through this process is that you really just have to be yourself. The people who are reading applications, they can see through it if you’re just making stuff up. Be truthful, be your authentic self. At the end of the day these schools want to know who you are and what you want – not what you think they want.” – Gurinder Singh (W+H ‘22, Williams College)

On the importance of maintaining perspective and balance…

“Know that this is not a life or death situation. When you apply and as you’re getting your results back, know that things happen for a reason. Maybe a deferral or rejection from this school might lead you to take an acceptance from another school that ends up being your dream school. Not everything ends just because you get one rejection.” – Grace Lu (W+H ‘22, The College of William & Mary)

“College is so different from high school. Don’t take this time for granted. I spent a lot of time [senior year] stressed out, worried and sacrificed a lot of time with friends. Granted you have to get your applications done, but try to live in the moment too.” – Shiv Tickoo (W+H ‘22, Princeton University) 

“I realized that the skillset I have from the creative part of my brain and the engineering part of my brain combine together to make a powerful force that has made me a stronger person. Don’t underestimate the importance of the things you are doing outside of your schoolwork. Obviously, good grades are important and working hard to get into college, but it’s not the only thing. The life experience of knowing what works for you is equally important in your career and education.” – Moushmi Culver P ’26 & ‘29 (VP, Head of Manufacturing Strategy, Business Development, and Alliances for the Merck Manufacturing Division)

On the importance of trusting yourself and leaning on your community…

“I realized that my career is a fluid thing. I need to find the thing that makes me happy because if I’m not happy I’m not going to be great at it. Much of my professional journey has been spent figuring out what I really like to do and, now that I know, applying all the knowledge and skills I have gained along the way. There’s a lot of different ways to get to the goals you have for yourself and those goals are going to change throughout life. I wish I had known that in high school.” – Kashif Chand (Chief of the New Jersey Division of Law’s Data Privacy & Cybersecurity Section)

“When you go to college you’re going to meet people from all walks of life. Take time to soak those experiences in and hear those stories. Tell your story. By creating those connections with your classmates in college and continuing your connections here from high school, it will help you continue to drive what you’re looking for in your career and your life.” – Michelle Liu ‘08 (Recruiter, Good Shepherd Services)

“I really figured out what I wanted to major in in high school. I knew I wanted to major in political science. I think having really great teachers and counselors here helped me. They read my essays, they knew me, they knew my heart. Wardlaw+Hartridge will always be that community, even if you go off to all different colleges in all different parts of the country.” – Nicole Sandrik-Arzadi (W+H ‘22, Barnard College)

We know that the process of choosing a major, a college and a career are all fraught with uncertainty and anxiety for our young people. Through these two panel events and the words of our thoughtful guest speakers, we hope that our students can begin to see that the pathway from college to career is rarely a straight line and there are myriad ways to find success. The most important things are always understanding yourself, maintaining a healthy perspective, and trusting in yourself and the ones who love you when faced with challenges. These are the social-emotional skills we strive to develop in our students throughout Upper School and through our College Counseling program here at W+H.