Flying the nest

Making the leap from high school to college

Alumna Emily Levy (‘15) prepares for her next four years in college at PITT’s orientation day.

photo courtesy of Michael Levy

Alumna Emily Levy (‘15) prepares for her next four years in college at PITT’s orientation day.

Shira Godin, Reporter

On her first day of college at the University of Pittsburgh, CESJDS alumna Emily Levy (‘15) looked around at the many people and opportunities she had yet to experience, and felt a surge of anxiety course through her. Coming from a smaller high school, she felt intimidated going from knowing everyone in her grade to not knowing anyone at all.

Leaving home for college can be an apprehensive and stress-filled process. According to Interim High School Principal and Dean of Students Roz Landy, the change is often plagued with arguing in the household. Landy explained how the anxiety that comes with going away does not only apply to the students, but also the parents.

Emily’s mother, Stefanie Levy, started preparing for her daughter’s transition to college while Emily was in high school. Stefanie and her husband encouraged their daughter’s independence so that she would feel more comfortable with the separation.

“A parent’s responsibility is to help your children grow into their own,” Stefanie said. “Going off to college is just another step in [Emily] becoming the person that she is going to be.”

Emily agrees with Stefanie that the separation from her family has helped her grow into herself. Throughout the first few months of college, Emily made many new friends, took classes she enjoyed and learned to live on her own.  

As the seniors too get ready to live on their own, the college guidance department is doing everything they can to make the process easier. Director of College Guidance Susan Rexford said that while the central focus of the college guidance program is to assist students with college applications, the emotional aspect of this transition is still something that the school addresses.

“I think some of it is with helping the students discover what’s the right fit for them … Helping them to know where they will be comfortable,” Rexford said.

To provide support for the emotional aspect of leaving home, JDS offers workshops for the seniors and their parents. This separation workshop is run by Landy, and explores the emotions surrounding students graduating high school.

“Much of the anxiety of going to college comes from not knowing what to expect and not  talking about your fears,” Landy said.

The separation workshop allows students and parents to have a conversation about the students entering a new chapter of their life. After a short introduction, the students and parents are split up into two groups and are asked questions about leaving home. They are then brought back together to discuss their answers, and end the session by writing messages for each other on a slip of paper.

“It is important to recognize that somebody is leaving, and that this is going to be a time of transition and there may well be tension,” Landy said.

Senior Elie Katz is unfazed by the prospect of heading to college. Having had siblings leave the house before, her family understands what it will be like when she leaves for college.

In school, however, Katz was affected by the oddity of her grade getting ready for college. Ever since the countdown to graduation started, she felt a sudden change in how she saw her grade. Katz noticed that the people she had known ever since kindergarten were starting to become adults.

“It’s that this one group of people who have been here their entire lives, are just like going to pack up and go away,” Katz said.

For many months, the unknown has been clouding the majority of the Class of 2016’s minds. Fears of homesickness and not making any friends in college are just a couple common worries that students approaching college can experience.

Having gone through the same transition that many members of the Class of 2016 will soon find themselves facing, Emily understands that going to college can feel daunting. If Emily could tell her past self one thing, it would be to “not freak out” and to “be herself.”

“As long as you put yourself out there and don’t hide in your room [and] keep your door open to talk to people, everything will be fine,” Emily said.