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What's Next? BMHS Seniors Share Their Post-Grad Plans

What's Next? BMHS Seniors Share Their Post-Grad Plans
NPS Communications

High school seniors have a lot of decisions to make before they graduate. Will they find their way to a college campus, take up a trade, begin their working career or train to become a part of the U.S. military?

High school seniors have a lot of decisions to make before they graduate. Will they find their way to a college campus, take up a trade, begin their working career or train to become a part of the U.S. military?
How will they choose to shape their future with this next step? How big of a role does financial aid play in a student’s decision? What do they want to do in life and where do they want to do it?
The seniors at Norwalk Public Schools’ four high schools considered all those questions and more in making their post-secondary decision and shared what they learned along the way.
We spoke with seven seniors at Brien McMahon High School who shared their experience of deciding what to do after high school, what best prepared them to take the next step in their educational journey, and who helped them along the way. What influenced your choice in your post-secondary decision?
College visits played an important role in the final decisions made by Brien McMahon’s Sebi Schmitz, Samantha Przybisiki and Hailey Marte. “I found it really hard to differentiate my schools based on their website. So I kind of went on the campus vibe and how I saw myself fitting around campus,” said Schmitz, who will be studying environmental science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the fall. “I did a bunch of visits, I did virtual visits and everything. So I think the visits really helped.”
Przybisiki started her search using The Fiske Guide to Colleges and narrowed her initial list to 30 schools, weeding out the schools that were too small, too big, or schools that at a glance didn’t line up with her priorities. She also learned a lot from the colleges that came to visit local college fairs. Talking to school representatives, she got “a vibe” about the school as well as a better understanding of their faculty and class sizes. “Those actual college visits changed my entire perception of the school, like when I went into Brandeis (University),” said Przybiski who made multiple visits to the school where she’ll double major in political science and Judaic studies. “I went back for another visit with an interview panel of current students and meeting students that were already on campus. I was like, ‘This is where I want to be. They're perfect. These are my people.’”
Marte visited University of New Haven multiple times, meeting with students and faculty as well as members of the women’s rugby team which recruited her to come to the school. The nearby location of the school also played an important role in her decision for the family-oriented student. “It was always in my head, I don't want to be too far. I don't want to feel homesick or away from my family, you know, I just need it to be close,” said Marte, who is majoring in psychology on a pre-med track.

What was the most difficult part of the decision-making process?

Like many graduating seniors, the need for financial assistance played a major role in choosing their next step. “I think everyone looked into that,” said Kabir Kalia, who is attending Northeastern in the fall to study biology on a pre-med track. “You had to balance out whether you're going to medical school after, law school after or you're just doing your four years of undergrad because you didn't want to go into too much debt.”
Navigating the financial aid process was the primary focus for Brisa Tejeda-Diaz, who is the first in her family to attend college. She ended up choosing Princeton University, because she knew Ivy League colleges provide good financial aid options. Tejeda-Diaz will be studying chemical engineering next year.
“One of the hardest things for me was actually understanding the system at first, because I never really had college in my mind until, like, junior year,” Tejeda-Diaz said. “Another thing was that I was scared of the whole process and actually going to college at some point because, I wouldn't say that I'm a family-oriented person, but I was just so used to having my family around me and my sisters. I had a little mental breakdown at some point about leaving.”

What was the easiest part of the post-secondary decision process?

The easiest part of the process for Darcy Pena Pineda was choosing her major. Growing up in Honduras with very limited healthcare resources, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. She first considered becoming a doctor, but her time spent in the McMahon Healthcare Academy put her on the road to becoming a nurse.
“I'm really grateful that Brien McMahon has offered the medical pathway in school that honestly, made the process of just picking nursing much easier,” said Pineda, who will be attending Southern Connecticut State University.
Przybisiki and Kalia found writing their supplemental essays the easiest part of the application process. The essays gave them the opportunity to show their true personality and let their story shine through the test scores and grade point averages.
“I can't say they weren't arduous at certain points, but I think what people fail to realize is the point of the supplemental essays isn't just to impress the college, but it's also to talk about what you love and what you're passionate about,” Przybisiki said. Kalia added, “I'm not the strongest writer, I'm a STEM person, and I think that that was an easier part for me because I can talk about myself.

Who was a person at Brien McMahon that really helped you in your decision making process?

Teachers, counselors, coaches and administrators all helped guide the seniors to their post-graduation destinations.
“I think it was a collection of teachers that really supported me throughout the whole process,” said Nadjasmine Rene, who will be attending Brown University to study public health on a pre-med track. “I felt that my teachers really believed in me, and they really showed that they would support me and they think I can succeed and get into the schools that I wanted to.”
Marte specifically gave credit to College & Career Counselor Ari Meadows, who helped her throughout the entire process. Meadows taught her how to search for schools, scholarships and general inquiries. “Any little question I had, I would go to her,” Marte said. When Marte found out she was going to the University of New Haven, Meadows was the first one she told.
Tejeda-Diaz also told her school counselor Dawn Leeds first that she got accepted to Princeton. “I didn't really understand the process overall, and she was just really supportive throughout it all… I took her opinions and comments to heart a lot. She was just really excited for me throughout the whole process,” Tejeda-Diaz said.
Seniors at Brien McMahon High School will celebrate their graduation on Friday, June 16 at 6 p.m. alongside their peers from the Center for Global Studies.