JON MANDROS, Virginia Tech University
JM: To an extent, there is nothing anyone can say or do that will prepare you for the many experiences and responsibilities that encompass college. Personally, I found the AP curriculum at Lebo prepared me the most. Classes like AP US History and AP Lit & Comp put a lot of responsibility on the student to complete large quantities of work on his/her own time. It was classes like those that taught me (the hard way) good time management skills, which are essential in college.
JT: What was the hardest part of the transition from high school to college?
JM: Dealing with the new-found independence. Guidance counselors aren’t kidding when they say it goes from 80 percent of your work being in class and 20 percent out of class to the other way around. It’s very easy to get caught up in the freshman experience and burn through all your time and spending money. The structured life of high school falls away, and, unfortunately, we aren’t all born with perfect self-discipline.
JT: Is college less or more challenging than high school?
JM: Honestly, I think college is less challenging. Unlike high school where you spent eight hours in school and then several more hours on work at home, you have a lot more freedom to do your work the way you want and in your own time. While that is a big responsibility that can overwhelm people, it does give you a lot more breathing room.
JT: How do you balance academics, extracurriculars and a social life?
JM: I guess the way I managed was by integrating the social life into the academics and extracurriculars. Also, once you really start to get overwhelmed by work, it’s important to force yourself to have an hour or two here and there to watch a movie with friends or something simple like that.
JT: What surprised you most about college?
JM: How small a campus of 30,000 can actually feel. Virginia Tech is a huge school, and many people are intimidated by that. But once I met other people in the same major as me and got involved in a couple extracurriculars, I couldn’t cross campus without running into someone I knew.
JT: What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you?
JM: I was actually given this piece of advice, but did not really take it to heart: Don’t blink. There is a lot going on your freshman year, and it is very easy to get caught up in all of it to the point where you look up and realize that the whole year has gone by in the blink of an eye. As often as you can, take a step back and just appreciate everything going on around you and how unique the college experience really is. You only get one chance at it; make it count.
JT: What was the most memorable part of your freshman year?
JM: Halloween. My building had a decoration contest. Everyone on my hall got together and decorated the entire floor with a ton of Halloween stuff. We even scattered the floor with containers of dry ice. Then we all got into costume and came up with several elaborate routines to mess with the judges. We won.
JT: If you could give one piece of advice to a senior graduating from Mt. Lebanon, what would it be?
JM: Learn to manage your time. No matter how quickly you breezed through high school or how good you are at cramming at the last minute, that just doesn’t fly in college. Unlike high school, the classes you take cost you thousands of dollars. The grades are real, non-negotiable, and will absolutely affect your future plans. Don’t put it off ’cause you think you can do it later or cause there is something fun to do. It’s important to enjoy yourself and have the “freshman experience,” but don’t lose sight of why you’re there.