Imagine being able to go back in time to a period in your life when you could have used some good advice. Perhaps it was a moment where you were enduring a challenging development in your personal life, or you needed to make a difficult professional decision that would have repercussions for many years down the line. How much would it have helped to get advice from someone who had just experienced that same situation, and had the results of their choices fresh in their minds?
Undoubtedly, such an advantage would be beneficial, even if it was merely a comfort to know that somebody else in the world had experienced your dilemma, persevered through it and emerged out the other side okay.
This is why the so-called reverse college program at Cranston East High School is such a uniquely wonderful program – it provides young adults with that incredibly helpful advantage during what is almost certainly the most pivotal crossroads moment of their lives to that point.
For more than 20 years, Cranston East welcomed back students who are just six months removed from their final days as high school seniors in order to talk to current high school students – many of whom are about to embark on the journey that lies beyond high school graduation just six months forward from this point – about what they can expect and to offer their opinions and advice.
Sure, guidance counselors and school psychologists do a tremendous job of providing a healthy outlet for kids to express concerns, get help with scholarship opportunities and simply be there as a constant support column. However, as anybody who remembers being a kid will understand – there’s a big difference between a high school senior being told something by an adult 15 years or more their senior, and someone who was in their same shoes less than a year ago.
The experience gives new college students the opportunity to pass along words of caution, like how to avoid falling into academic slumps, or how to avoid choosing a roommate who will be more detrimental than helpful to your experience. It also provides them the chance to pump the high schoolers up about the exciting aspects of school – the freedom, the diversity, the fun.
There is no one type of student the school seeks to bring back to East. They come from all over New England, and in the past have returned from universities that sprinkle all around the nation. With each different college experience is another chance for a different lesson, a different warning or a different word of encouragement.
Especially in today’s high-pressure society, where everything seems to be magnified under a telescopic lens of social media and a heightened expectation to immediately succeed amidst a rapidly changing economic landscape, the ability for students currently going through college to impart wisdom about how future college students can stay mentally healthy becomes even more important.
The advice to take time to relax, even if that seems to go against the perceived stereotype of grinding hard through lectures, exams, parties and very little sleep, is advice that should be well received and heeded.
Other important advice included joining clubs, sports or other activities to stay involved and meet new people. Another student talked about taking a moment to appreciate and thank your family, as you won’t realize how much you miss them until you don’t see them anymore.
The program is straightforward, costs no money and can potentially make a world of difference for any student who may need a word of advice, but be unsure of how to ask, or who to ask it from. It is a program that can be imitated throughout the state and throughout the country, and we would encourage other schools in other school districts to do just that.