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SHHS Alumni Get Real About Their College Experiences

The essays are written, the applications submitted, and decisions rolling in. Now SHHS seniors are wondering - what happens next year?  Heading off to college can be daunting, but Horseman seniors got a primer on what college is really like from none other than those who recently walked the same halls at SHHS. Earlier this week, a panel of seven recent SHHS grads shared a wide-range of information, touching on everything from food and roommates, to grades and majors.

SHHS 2022 graduates Ryan Lyppens, Virginia Bencosme, Temper Pane, Grady Holmes and Matthew Ryan, were joined by 2019 SHHS graduates Emily Ullaguari and Noelia Pillacela for the 10th annual Alumni Dialogues assembly.  

Seniors in the audience were thrilled to be getting the inside college scoop from students who once were their classmates. Lily Lopez and Aidan McGuigan, both unsure of whether the fall of 2023 will bring cosmetology school or college respectively, agreed that they were ready for the next phase of their lives. 

Sleepy Hollow Counseling Department Chair David Ziegler, whose department organized the event commented that the alumni panel is an impressive group, with diverse, rich experience and attending magnificent schools. “Having these recent graduates share their experiences with our seniors as they begin their decision process and answer questions our seniors want to ask is an immeasurable tool as the students begin the next phase of the college process," he said.

Mr. Ziegler kicked off the Dialogues with the two most important questions everyone wanted answered - how’s the food and what is it like to have a roommate? “The food is definitely not as great as at home, that’s for sure,” said Maryland Freshman Matthew Ryan. Grady Holmes concurred, advising his former schoolmates to “appreciate your mother’s cooking while you can.”  

Living with a roommate and in a congregate setting has taught some lessons, too, such as navigating one who is always in the room and appreciating those roommates with whom you  click. 

Cornell freshman Ryan Lyppens reassured students, saying “You can always switch your room in the second semester if it’s not working out.”  But Temper Pane is thrilled that she has a kind and understanding roommate at SUNY Plattsburgh and advised the rising college students to “not take your roommate for granted!” 

The former grads also shared ‘insider information’ such as how to place out of core classes by using AP credits, dual enrollment and SUPA classes, which may allow them to take classes that are more interesting or challenging.  

Grades and free time were other hot topics on which the rising college freshman keenly focused. When it comes to managing school work, alumni agreed that the key is finding a balance and to find ways to self-motivate.  They also noted the importance of setting time aside to recharge. 

In regard to the familiar ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra, alumni recommended getting much of the work completed during the week so weekends can be spent having fun. But Ryan Lyppens advised seniors to do extra work if need be. “Put blinders on, work hard and just worry about yourself,” he said. 

Regarding grades, all were happy to now only be in competition with themselves. “Your grades are your own,” stated UVA freshman Grady Holmes.  While they don’t have to share their grades with parents unless they have a proxy account,  most agreed with Johns Hopkins freshman Virginia Bencosme that “it's nice to (share my grades and) celebrate successes with my parents, but also share difficulties and get support when I need it.”  As college seniors on the go, SUNY Binghamton students Ullaguari and Pillacela have realized that prioritizing is the key come senior year. “Paying attention and knowing my grades has enabled me to put in the work a bit more when I need to to bring grades up,” said Ullagauri.

The Binghamton students, both of whom transferred there from Westchester County Community College, offered sage advice to those unsure about their next steps. These students took similar paths, but for different reasons. "My grades coming out of high school weren’t great,” said Pillacela “so I went to WCC first to get my grades up, and it really made a difference at Binghamton.” 

Ullaguari decided to attend WCC to save some money during her freshman year, but then Covid forced her to spend two additional years at home. “I am super excited because now I'm going to graduate basically debt-free because I went to WCC first,” she said. “There is so much pressure to choose a four-year school right away, but two years later doesn't matter at all.

“There is a girl who went to SHHS and went from WCC to Harvard,'' she continued. ”Just do the best you can, and if you work hard and believe in yourself, you can take yourself anywhere”