freshman 8: phillip kelner


Elizabeth Harris icon wtext Dan Richardson icon wtext Emilia Ricciuti icon wtext Phillip Kelner icon wtext
Christa Federico icon wtext Philip Clippinger icon wtext Lily Chen icon wtext Jon Manros icon wtext


Rochester Institute of Technology
Electrical Engineering

Phillip-KelnerJT: How did Lebo prepare you for college?

PK: I can’t say it prepared me socially at all. It was kind of slow making new friends at first, but as I did in high school, eventually I found a small group of friends that I could really depend on, and that’s all I need. Academically, Mt. Lebanon definitely gave me a leg up. My writing class was a cakewalk, because Mt. Lebanon’s English education is pretty top-notch. My writing professor commented on my first paper saying that he loved it and looked forward to my future work as well. In addition, I’m well positioned to graduate college a year early, purely because of all the AP courses I took advantage of at Mt. Lebanon. I’m going to be saving a pretty penny if I manage that.

JT: How do you balance academics, extracurriculars and a social life?

PK: I don’t. I had always heard from older students I kept in touch with, as well as my older brother, who is also a Mt. Lebanon alumnus, that in college, you have three options: Work, Sleep, Socialize. You can only pick two of those. For me, I ended up choosing work and social life. That’s mostly because the extra-curricular I chose (Formula Racing) is so much hard work, but doing it means being part of a team, so while I’m working, I’m also socializing.

JT: What surprised you most about college?

online exclusive logoPK: It was startling how easy it was to make friends with people not of your own age. In high school, I found it difficult making friends with upper or lower classmen. While that may be just because I didn’t participate in many extracurriculars in high school, in college I didn’t even need that to meet people not of my year-level. Sharing courses with upper-classmen introduced me to plenty of new people. Many of them were older, and I was suddenly able to ask people for help in my other courses as well, because a lot of them had gone through the course already.

JT: What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you?

PK: Don’t hunt for new friends. Let the new friends naturally come to you. Do what you want to do in college: Join a club, play a sport, etc. You’ll hit it off with someone there, simply because you’re sharing an interest. From there, it’s smooth sailing.

JT: What’s something you wish you had done your freshman year?

PK: I wish I started taking advantage of the gym sooner. Only half of the “Freshman 15” caught up with me, but that’s seven pounds too many for me.

JT: Are you glad you left Pittsburgh?

PK: At first, no. I liked the idea of staying in Pittsburgh and being around when all my friends came back to town. We wouldn’t need matching breaks just to see each other. But on the other hand, it was nice seeing a new part of country, and interacting with so many people from different places and cultures from my own. Though, I miss being able to drop a “yinz” or “’n’at” into conversation without getting a weird look.

JT: What was the most memorable part of your freshman year?

PK: Being a part of the Formula Racing team, it’s probably the all-nighter I pulled just for the team. As tough and time-consuming as my classes were, it was the team that finally made me pull a true all-nighter. And I don’t regret it a moment. The bonding that I had with the team that night brought me closer to them than any normal late night would have.

JT: If you could give one piece of advice to a senior graduating from Mt. Lebanon, what would it be?

PK: At risk of sounding like a broken record, never hesitate to seek out help when you need it. I made the mistake of not taking advantage of office hours that professors held, and it almost cost me the good grades that I had always prided myself on in high school.