Amy Cunningham
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Fourteen Gardner Edgerton High School alumni from the class of 2010 gathered to talk to the school’s current seniors about what they will face when they walk out the high school doors and onto college campuses and  embark on their futures in higher education.

A panel of Gardner Edgerton High School graduates spoke to current GEHS seniors about life after high school Wednesday. The 2010 graduates were home from college on winter break. The panelists are pictured here. Back: Amanda Rulo, Johnson County Community College; Corbit Bayliff, Oklahoma State University; Natalie Morerod, Wichita State University; Preston Pyle, Arizona State University; Logan Pippitt, JCCC; and Trevor Breitenbach, Norwich (Vermont) University. Front: Nicole Smith, University of Kansas; Ashleigh McDaniel, Rockhurst; Teresa Drovetta, Kansas State University; Shelby Gunther, Emporia State University; Erica Rains, Creighton University; Haley Brooks, KSU; and Sarah McCarthy, KU. Staff photo by Amy Cunningham

For the sixth year, GEHS English teacher Greg Welch invited his former pupils in the area on winter break to form a panel and talk about the ins and outs of college, and connect with high schoolers in a way that a parent or teacher may not be able to.

Welch started off the discussion with one question regarding the role their high school played in preparation for their college careers. Many of the alums took turns answering both what the school could have done better – including not teaching to tests, and assigning tougher course loads; to what the students could have done themselves to better prepare. One member of the panel lamented her decision to opt out of finals, an option she has not yet seen at her university.

“In high school they teach you towards the test,” said Shelby Gunter, an Emporia State University freshman, “but in college it is up to you to learn the information.”

Added Logan Pippitt, an architecture student at Johnson County Community College, “In college they’re teaching you toward a career… You have to know what you’re doing and you have to be able to do it well.”

From that point little moderation was needed as the panel spring boarded onto an array of topics that interested the college bound seniors. From dorm life to self-discipline, from choosing a major to learning to shop for groceries on your own, no topic was left untouched. Panelists even cautioned incoming students to clean up their social networking pages like Facebook, saying those can have a negative impact on the way they are perceived among their peers, or, more importantly, among their professors.

Preston Pyle, a freshman at Arizona State University recommended that students get out of their comfort zones and network, both with other students and with their professors. He advised that students make an effort to utilize instructor’s office hours, the time those instructors make themselves available to students. Pyle said that these two bits of advice can help students achieve success during a difficult transitional period.

“In high school you have a built-in support system with your family and your friends. In college it becomes critical that you get to know people and you use your street smarts to sift through the bull to reformulate your support system… Building that is really fun,” he said.

Most of the university students agreed on Gunter’s sage advice.

“The most important thing you can get out of this today is go to class,” she said. The others on the panel all nodded in agreement. “That is the most important thing you can do.”