Letters From CO ’21

Alice Shu, University of Southern California

Alice Shu, USC:If I could do the whole high school experience all over, I’d probably go to the ASG events more often. They really do a good job at events, and I would want to show up to more of those events because they can be fun. Looking back, I feel like ASG does deserve more credit. Also, if you’re not in a club, join a club. Or get into athletics, or class council. There’s always something to do at Irvington. I definitely miss that. Here, the scale is so much larger, and I don’t really have a sense of how I compare to my peers, which can be good and bad. The closeness can motivate you; Irvington was competitive, but that pressure to succeed can help you. Another school may not afford the same opportunity. I genuinely don’t get the sense or need to be very try-hardy at college, just because in college not everyone tries as hard as everyone else. 

For seniors, I think the whole online experience was very bittersweet. Being online definitely helped with college apps, because online school was very easy. The classes were tiring, but easy, and that afforded more time for college apps and QUEST. So I feel like senior year wasn’t as challenging, because if you go to a competitive school, that break with online school can mess up your routine and motivation can kind of screw you over. It can be kind of hard to get back on track. I’m lucky to have been surrounded by people who were hardworking and motivated, definitely people you can talk to about contemporary topics. I definitely kept up with online school and tried to be productive. I don’t think I’ve had that gap cause I did the best I could to maintain myself. 

I think I went into high school pretty confidently, except I used to compare myself to others. And I would compare myself to other people all the time. And I would think, like, I’m not going to get into college, I’m not going to get money. It’s about telling yourself it’ll all be okay, as long as you work or put in the effort for what you want, you can get it. If you have the opportunities, use them. I also think a growth mindset is very important at Irvington. A couple of Bs aren’t going to ruin your stats. Success is mostly hard work and just a little bit of luck. If you aren’t going to go to the station, don’t expect the train to come. 

Alice Shu, CO ’21, is currently attending the University of Southern California

Prahalad Chari, Rice University

Irvington is very much a microcosm. Like, it’s a very comfortable environment if you’ve grown up there. The asian culture is very diverse, and you miss out on a lot of the intricacies of that once you leave for college. Something else I miss is that it had a very good maker space. I wish I’d done that a lot more because I only started when I was a junior, and Ms. Berbawy did a great job of providing a lot of STEM resources. Even if you’re not that interested in those subjects, it’s a really good place to develop and learn more about those interests. But I do wish I did activities that were not directly related to my major. I was very STEM focused, because I wanted to expand on my interests related to the major. It’s only been a few weeks into college, and there are so many non-STEM things I’m interested in.

In a way, online school was a relief, because I had the opportunity to do the second semester of my junior year and my senior year entirely online and those are usually the most stressful. I had more time to dedicate to college apps because a bunch of classes got canceled. But I missed a lot of events, and I missed a couple of robotics tournaments. Seniors in general missed a lot of hallmark events, and that was very unfortunate. This whole pandemic in general definitely shows you your limits, or how much you can do or be. I think people underestimate themselves a lot; I know my friends and I did. Being in quarantine was difficult, and maintaining that standard you set while simultaneously being able to adapt to that change is impressive. Looking back, it’s surprising that I managed to go through the years as I did. 

To incoming freshmen and underclassmen and IHS students in general, I would say, don’t do what everybody else is doing . Literally everyone joins DECA and debate in freshman year, and it took me 3 years to realize I didn’t even like it. You should do things because you want to or if you genuinely think it holds value for you in the future. I would have enjoyed my high school experience a lot more if I had not done some things that did not really matter. I could never write a passion essay on something I did just because everyone else did it too. 

Prahalad Chari, CO ’21, is currently attending Rice University

Enya Mistry, Yale University

Academically, these past one and a half years of online school really helped. I had more time to focus on college apps and spend time with family. Mentally it did not help me as much, because being isolated was definitely a detriment. There was also a significant learning gap, which I’m seeing in college; it’s not that anyone is struggling, but there are times when we have to fill in things that we were meant to learn last year. On the other hand, that time alone gave me the time to self reflect and learn about what I could write for my college essays. It was both a blessing and a curse. Without the pandemic, I wouldn’t have had the self reflection for college but I feel like my mental health would have definitely been better. 

I would definitely say that in quarantine, I filtered out things that don’t matter as much and focused more on bigger goals and aspirations in life rather than smaller things, transactional interactions. I thought I was extremely extroverted before quarantine, but coming out of the pandemic, I realized I was an extrovert only with the people that I vibe with. I think academically, I learned my learning style, and learning online is not it. I realized that I learn best in person, having discussions, seeing my peers. I learned the pace of my learning varies and I think everyone has different capacities for learning. I think that learning your learning style is definitely very helpful. During the pandemic, you have a lot of freetime, so I took that time to give myself things to do to fill that up, and I’m seeing the positive effects of that habit of learning to delegate my time now, in college.

I started off high school with this rebellious idea of not working towards just college which, looking back, I feel like was sort of stupid. But this mindset also helped me, because I wasn’t just focused on my grades all the time. I didn’t have a 4.0 and I didn’t try to get one. I focused more on outside research and volleyball, things like that. I think that genuinely helped me with college apps more than getting a perfect 4.0. This is something that I believe other Irvington students should definitely focus on now. It’s about finding what you’re inclined towards and reflecting on that, trying to see how to best work towards that. It’s not all about becoming an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer. gLook for something you’re genuinely passionate about and start building on that. 

Enya Mistry, CO ’21, is currently attending Yale University