“Either you grew or I shrunk,” laughs Ruth Krochmalny, Woodinville High School’s college and career counselor. A huge smile spreads across her face as, one after another, Woodinville graduates step into the College and Career Center. They’ve come for the first-ever Falcons Flying Home.
Taking advantage of how colleges often go on Winter Break before Woodinville, Krochmalny organized the event to give current students the opportunity to hear about the college experience directly from their recently graduated classmates. “[There is] so much valuable information within our alumni,” she says.
Over 30 alumni volunteered their time and experience, representing colleges from across the country and many different majors including criminal justice, theatre arts, biochemical engineering, pre-med, kinesiology, and aerospace engineering.
For one University of Washington student, the decision to attend was easy, “I wish I had a program like this when I was in high school.”
“I had no idea what was out there,” said a Fairfield University student, “so I thought it was a good idea to come in let everyone know.”
Topics of discussion ranged from dorm life, studying abroad, freedom and setting expectations for the first week of college. A University of Washington student likened the first week to drinking from a fire hose. “There is a ton to do. You won’t know all of the things available… Enjoy new experiences.”
A Western Washington student added, “try things on like an outfit.”
But the newfound freedom comes with new responsibilities. “College is all up to you, no one will hold your hand,” warned a UCLA student. While the prospect may have felt daunting for some students in attendance, the panel offered reassurances and advice on how to become a self-advocate:
Utilize teaching assistants
Visit your library and look for tutoring opportunities
Get to know your classmates; you can support each other
Leave your dorm room open so you can meet your neighbors (unless you should be studying, of course)
When asked if there were any unexpected adjustments, there was one surprising answer that most alumni agreed upon: returning home. The room shared a big laugh when a Yale student shared her difficulties re-adjusting to house rules, specifically not letting her mother know when she’d be home after hanging out with friends. “You become used to not having to tell your parents where you’re going… You go off [to college] and you change so much. It takes adjusting to come back.”
Krochmalny laughed and defended parents, “...I don’t care if you’re 40, I’ll still ask you when you’re coming back.”
Maybe she can’t convince alumni to keep their parents informed of their whereabouts, but Krochmalny is hoping she can convince alumni to keep coming back to Woodinville. The first Falcons Flying Home gave graduates, current students and staff an invaluable opportunity to reconnect and learn from each other’s experiences.
After the success of her first event, Krochmalny has begun planning a second Falcons Flying Home for the end of the school year. She is also developing a similar event to connect high school seniors and juniors.