by: CONNECTION PHOTO: DREW DAKESSIAN - University of Redlands student Zev Stampfer relates his college experience.If a teenager isn’t planning to work or travel after graduating from high school, chances are his or her sights have been set on attending college. But how does one go about getting into college, and what is it like once you get there? Wilson High School alumni currently pursuing university studies shared their experience with current students and parents at the school’s annual college panel

The event, which took place the night of Jan. 9 in the Wilson library, was first thought up by Kathy Garrett, a Wilson counselor who retired last year but still takes an active role in Wilson’s counseling affairs through volunteer work.

“I knew most of the private schools offered a college panel and I thought Wilson students deserved a similar opportunity. It is helpful for students to hear from their peers. Depending on their relationships with adults, some students trust peers’ experiences more than adult pressure. We offer experts in the fall at College Night and Financial Aid Night, so I think the College Panel balances out the perspective,” Garrett said via email Jan. 23. “Selfishly, I also love to hear how our students are thriving in this important life transition.”

The former students who came to speak this year were Zev Stampfer, University of Redlands; Morgan Beltz, Claremont McKenna College; Katie Park, Franklin College, Switzerland; Alexis Cadonau, Life Pacific College; Henry Li, Harvard University; Meagan O’Donovan, an alumna of Oregon State University; Lucy Schwimmer, American University; and Elise Smith, Smith College.

Counselor Julie Fleming, with whom Garrett organizes the college panel, said she was happy this year to have a state school student, O’Donovan, come and share her experiences. State schools are usually back in session every year by the time of the college panel.

“Not every kid or student goes to Harvard like Henri or Pomona or Macalaster so I was really excited that we had Megan here especially.”

Plus, she said, it was nice for students to get the benefit of O’Donovan’s experience, attending Portland Community College for two years before transferring to Oregon State.

“Two of the best things I did were waiting (to transfer to a four-year university), and applying for (scholarships through) OSAC,” the Oregon Student Assistance Commission.

Taking the initiative to get the most out of one’s college experience seemed to be a lesson learned by all panelists: “It’s really what you make of it,” said Li, who served as student columnist for The Southwest Community Connection during his senior year at Wilson.

Attendees were probably relieved to hear both Li and Smith declare that Wilson prepared them pretty well for college life.

And Park noted that college does not have to be a rigid time completely void of wandering.

“Not studying what you planned to is very common,” she said.

Questions asked over the course of the evening included, “How many of you contribute to your college money?”, “Are any of you comfortable sharing your GPA when you applied to college?” and “What advice do you have for students who weren’t motivated in high school but are interested in college?”

Fleming said that this is not the only opportunity Wilson offers for students to learn more about applying to and being successful in college; this year Wilson got a new, state-of-the-art College and Career Center, and counselors continue to be available to point students in the direction websites like collegeboard


However, “I think when current students ask their counselor, ‘What’s this like?’ of course we can give them an honest answer, but I think they really take to heart when it’s another student telling them,” Fleming said.

“Personal stories are really helpful, and it’s just another event parents really want.

“And I think the more information they can get, the better.”

Drew Dakessian can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 108.

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