NFA Alumni Speak with Science Honor Society
Over fifty students from Newburgh Free Academy’s Science Honor Society gathered to listen to four alumni who returned to tell their story and give advice - just a year or two later from when they sat in those same seats.
Coordinated by the Science Honor Society Executive Board and teachers Ms. Veronica Dunham and Ms. Jessica Benson, students were able to ask questions to these alumni that ranged from application questions to roommate issues to general advice.
Adelson Aguasvivas, Newburgh Free Academy, Main Campus, Class of 2017 now attends Harvard and is a double major in Computer Science and Economics.
Dhaval Patel, Newburgh Free Academy, Main Campus, Class of 2017 now attends Cornell and is a double major in Economics and Statistics
Brianna Schafer, Newburgh Free Academy, Main Campus, Class of 2016 now attends the University of Rhode Island Pharmacy program and is part of their 0-6 program, which means she will complete a two-year undergraduate program to earn her bachelor’s degree and continue to a four-year Pharmacy program.
Sahana Shiggaon, Newburgh Free Academy, Main Campus, Class of 2017 now attends the University of Missouri-Kansas City and is enrolled in a combined undergrad and medical school program.
How has NFA impacted your college experience?
Adelson Aguasvivas mentioned diversity. “Many people grow up with the same group of people, so when they meet new people it might be difficult. At Harvard, there are all types of people. People from across the country and across the world. I already had that background of meeting and knowing people who are different than I am because I had friends who were from all over the place here at NFA, so I have been able to adapt and become friends with new people more easily than others.”
Brianna Schafer mentioned the academic rigor and opportunity at NFA helped ease her transition to college. “I was able to take so many AP credits at NFA that I was able to transition into college much more easily. Especially since my undergrad program is only two years – that has been huge. My first semester, I was able to take 13 credits and ease into college, opposed to friends who had to take 18 credits.
“I go to a really big school – sometimes my lectures have over 400 people in it. A lot of people feel overwhelmed, but the largeness of NFA helped me more easily adapt because I was already used to being around a lot of people throughout the day.” Sahana Shiggaon
How was the transition from NFA to college?
“In college, you spend less time in class and have way more free time. At first, I had no idea what to do with free time, so that was an adjustment.” Dhaval Patel
Adelson Aguasvivas agreed, “You have a ton of free time, but as long as you’re determined and focused, you’ll figure it out. You really can’t leave things to the last minute in college though because it’s a lot harder. Something else that was hard for me was being away from my family. I wasn’t born here, I can from DR, so I have adapted to a new place and new friends before, but I didn’t have my family for this transition to a new place, so that has been hard. You can do it, but it’s hard at first.”
Sahana Shiggaon echoed missing family. “I go to school really far away in the mid-west. Now it’s so easy to FaceTime for a few minutes every day if you want. It’s hard, but it’s not something you can’t get over.”
Brianna Schafer noted the difference in teachers vs. professors. “Professors aren’t on top of you to show up to class or do homework - especially if you go to a big school. Being disciplined to study on your own or approaching them (not the other way around) if you feel like you’re struggling. They’re always more than willing to help you out, but you have to initiate that conversation, which is different from high school.”
What was the college admission process like?
Sahana Shiggaon encouraged students to get started early. “Don’t leave essays to the last minute. Coming up with ideas and editing them takes time. Start early, so you can take your time, and make sure it’s your best work.”
“Be yourself for your essays. Speak from your heart, so they’re accepting you for who you really are.” Dhaval Patel
“You want to take the most of where you end up, so don’t get your heart too set on a #1 school. You’re going to have fun wherever you go, so don’t be so hard on yourself to be perfect.” Brianna Schafer
Would you recommend the program or major you’re in to members of Science Honors Society or any student in general?
“I’m in a single-track program and direct programs are intense and specific. Unless you’re confident and 100% sure you want to be that major and know what that major will lead to, then you shouldn’t attend. If you’re unsure, you should take a more traditional route, which might get you to the same end result, but will give you a chance to change your mind too.” Sahana Shiggaon
Brianna Schafer, “Yes, if this is what you want to do. You should also look into the possibilities of a career that each major can lead to. Originally, I thought I’d be working in a CVS behind a counter for the rest of my life, but now I know there a lot more possibilities to do with my major. Right now, I’m learning about Pediatric Oncology and working with a doctor for treatment plans. I’m learning that there are a lot more career options with my major than I originally thought.”
Adelson Aguasvivas, “My major is really fun, which I wasn’t expecting. For example, during one class, we sat for whole hour playing Mario Kart, but I still learned a lot. I would recommend being very involved and staying involved in everything especially if you like numbers and creativity. Often times, if you find something you like, you can end up taking a lot of electives and not even realize how close you are to double majoring too. STEM can also be really hard, make sure you really like it. I always wanted to be a computer scientist. I would always sneak into his brother’s room and steal his books when I was younger.”
Why did you choose to major in STEM?
Sahana Shiggaon, “I think my major in the medical field offers self-satisfaction, but also a stable job. There’s always going to be a need for healthcare.”
“The world is more advanced with science, so it’s in demand.” Dhaval Patel
“I like chemistry, but I don’t do blood all that well, so I decided pharmacy was the better fit for rme. You need medical professionals in a lot of different ways and everywhere you are.” Brianna Schafer
“Technology is an everyday part of our lives and I want to contribute to that and change it as it evolves. I have an internship coming up at Google, which I have because I made sure to talk to everyone and anyone who would listen. One connection I made ended up leading me to this. Go to the Career Services office and get involved - you never know who you’re going to meet along that way that can give you a really good opportunity.” Adelson Aguasvivas
How much time look into colleges every week?
“It depends on what grade you’re in. The earlier you start, the better, but don’t get stressed. I know it seems like a big thing - and it is, but try not to freak yourself out. Start early, so you have more choices.” Adelson Aguasvivas
Brianna Schafer, “I started touring spring of junior year, primarily because I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. I wanted to take time to figure out the programs and the feel of different campuses.”
Dhaval Patel, “It’s important to know what the programs are at the colleges you visit, but also pay attention to the environment and culture of the campuses.”
“Take failure and turn it into motivation. Become a better version of myself. You’re going to failure - it’s going to happen, but it depends on your outlook on the situation. If you have a positive outlook, it will likely turn out better for you.” Adelson Aguasvivas
“I had to learn to stop comparing my college grades to my high school grades. Doing well in college is different because they’re using a different scale and everyone has different strengths where they’ll do well in and some they’ll just do okay in. It also really helped the way my program is set up. Students can only enter as a freshman and they’re guaranteed in to the Pharmaceutical program if they keep a certain GPA so, we’re really helping each other out because we’re not competing for a select number of seats in the next program.” Brianna Schafer
Dhaval Patel, “Don’t freak out too much when faced with failure. Learn from your mistakes and try to better the next time.”
Sahana Shiggaon, “Be easy on yourself. You’re going through so many changes, you can’t expect yourself to be perfect. It’s not fair to hold yourself to unreasonable expectations. Also, take time to enjoy the people you grow up with. You’ll see them less frequently when you go away to school.” Adelson Aguasvivas
What is your advice on applying for scholarships?
“Don’t leave essays for last minute and realize you’re not going to win all of them, so don’t be upset. Really be yourself, so you stand out.” Adelson Aguasvivas
Brianna Schafer, “Apply for as many as you can. You never know which one you might get. I used a lot of my scholarship money for books and that really adds up. Applying to scholarships really adds up too, so apply to as many as you can, even if you don’t think it’s for a lot of money – it does add up and it’s good to get that help.”
Newburgh Free Academy, Science Honor Society Executive Board includes: