Transitioning from High School to College

At her parents’ urging, Catherine Peterson began looking at colleges in her sophomore year, beginning with a visit to Bates College during the family’s summer vacation in Maine. Catherine’s parents knew that Bates had a strong academic reputation – and a solid swim team, which was also important to Catherine. That was the start.

As her junior year unfolded, Catherine worked hard to optimize her test scores and study the landscape of colleges. There were Maryland schools that wanted her, but she wasn’t interested in those. She had an offer from the University of Vermont, but its swim program was Division One, and she had concerns about going with a Div I program. She had visited Tufts and loved it and even tried it for ED I, knowing it was a reach, but when that didn’t work, she turned her attention back to Bates.

She had always had a favorable impression of Bates, but now she wanted to be sure. She scheduled an overnight visit, stayed with freshman girls, visited a class, met with the swim team. The entire experience confirmed that Bates had exactly what she wanted in a college – one cohesive community. She knew Bates was the school for her.

Her Bates experience this fall began with a four-day orientation program. Bates allows students to choose from numerous different orientation activities: some service-oriented, some athletic, some focused on the outdoors. Catherine selected an option that involved two days of hiking and two days of canoeing with a small group of fellow freshmen. It was a great opportunity for a bonding experience, and that’s just what happened. The friendships she made that first weekend formed her first college support system and her first group of good friends at Bates.

After orientation, classes began. Catherine, who had not yet decided on a major but was interested in something in the political science and/or anthropology areas, had already chosen her courses over the summer: Chemistry (which would turn out to be her favorite class), Chem lab, and a beginning anthropology class. For her required first year seminar, she settled on Disney Demystified, a course that analyzes how movies over the last half-century reflect changing cultural conditions and values.

Asked if she felt her high school courses had prepared her for academic life at Bates, Catherine explained that at Roosevelt High School, she had not been able to take some of the advanced courses she had wanted to take, but that her disappointment had been offset by a special teacher. Troy Bradbury, who helped Catherine to dig deeper into her studies and broaden her intellectual perspectives, became a mentoring figure in her life. One of the things she liked about him was that he would never say, “You are wrong;” instead, he would respond with a new perspective that helped her see a better way to think about things. She credits the intellectual mentoring she received from Mr. Bradbury as a big reason she feels ready to take on college work.

Catherine is finding the workload at Bates to be significantly harder than what she knew in high school, and she has been spending on average about 3-4 hours a day on homework and studying. Because classes meet only three times a week, more study is required outside of class. One of the things she loves about Bates, however, is that there are a number of popular study places on campus where students can work either alone or in groups, making studying both helpful and social. She likes too that professors are easy to talk to and make themselves available through regular office hours.

Life at Bates is about to change for Catherine, however, as swim season is getting underway. Practices are held six days a week from November through the end of February. This is a heavy schedule on its own, but Catherine’s long history of competitive swimming has made her a good manager of her time. She feels confident that she will be able to balance both her swim team and academic demands. Even though her schedule is more packed than ever, having everything on campus reduces commute time to minutes and gives her the opportunity to work in quick naps in the afternoon.

Catherine is enjoying campus social life too. There are plenty of events, weekend excursions (often in the form of overnight hikes) and social activities through the swim team. She also is enjoying – and even raves about – the dining options on campus. Bates’ food is ranked as the best college food in New England. There is a pasta bar, a vegan bar, a grill, a wide variety of dishes (rarely repeated) and an on-campus café for casual dining.

Catherine has definitely settled into life at Bates and is glad she made the choice she did. She knows winter months are coming, but that’s no problem for a girl who likes snow and doesn’t mind the cold. It’s a good thing because, in the months ahead, she’ll brave both on a daily basis only to come inside and jump into a pool of cold water. To do that, you gotta love it – and Catherine does! She’s on track at Bates and seems to have it all figured out!