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A Letter From The Great Beyond

If you want to go to college, being prepared in high school should be your mission, should you choose to accept it
Graduation Day, 2023

Dear Underclassmen,

I’m Brandon Uncapher, currently writing to you from the library at the University of South Carolina-Sumter. In June 2023, I graduated from high school. I understand that many of you are seniors in high school, brimming with excitement about graduating and embarking on a new chapter beyond the confines of Derry Area High School. Whether you’re a senior or at any other stage in high school, I believe you can all benefit from some valuable insights to prepare for college, should you choose that path.

  1. Scholarships – Go for It!

You’ve probably heard your teachers and advisors stress the importance of scholarships repeatedly, and that’s because it’s absolutely true. In my senior year, I didn’t receive any local, state, or federal scholarships. As a result, I found myself working 30 hours a week at McDonald’s to cover my living expenses and taking out substantial federal loans for school. My school’s tuition isn’t even that high, at around $8,000 per year. Many of you aspire to attend schools that cost 20, 30, 40, or even over 50 thousand dollars annually. These schools expect tuition payments right from the start, and you need a clear plan to pay for it. I recommend dedicating some time each week to look for scholarships that apply to you, provided they aren’t overly time-consuming.

  1. Free Time – There’s Plenty More

Believe it or not, you’ll have far more free time in college than you did in high school, even if you’re taking a heavy course load. Some of you may be involved in sports, and even if you continue playing sports in college, you’ll still have more time for assignments because college days are shorter. Additionally, you can design your schedule to suit your preferences. Hate early morning classes? Opt for more afternoon classes and sleep in until 1 PM. Love 8 AM classes? There are options for that as well. You have the freedom to choose, and this newfound independence is coupled with a strong incentive to succeed due to the substantial funding required for your education and the potential earning power of your degree.

  1. Colleges – Smaller Can Be Better

When I was considering colleges, I initially brushed aside schools like IUP, UPJ, Pitt-Greensburg, St. Vincent, and WCCC, thinking they weren’t “big schools.” I wanted to go to a Division I school because I thought I was that smart. It turns out I wasn’t. USC-Sumter is akin to UPJ or Pitt-Greensburg, as it is a subsidiary school. And that’s perfectly fine. Next year, I’ll be attending USC’s main campus, armed with an associate’s degree and more money in my pocket than I would have had if I had started at the main campus. Keep in mind that college is extremely expensive, so choose a school within your budget. If you aspire to attend a larger institution, start with two years at a smaller school (preferably a subsidiary with an identical curriculum that will fully transfer) before transferring to your desired school. There is absolutely no shame in attending a smaller school, even if you go there to earn your degree. At the end of the day, getting a degree matters far more than where you earn it.

  1. Dual Enrollment and AP – Pursue Them, but Be Mindful

Dual enrollment credits are fantastic and have a high likelihood of transferring to almost any college. I had all my dual enrollment credits reviewed by the staff at USC Columbia, a top-tier school, and they were able to convert all my credits into actual class hours, saving me from having to retake those classes in college. Some credits may not transfer for various reasons, but in most cases, it’s a wise investment. Even better are AP classes, but proceed with caution. AP Statistics remains the hardest course I’ve ever taken, significantly tougher than the college classes I’m currently enrolled in. However, I scored a 4 on the AP test, exempting me from College Stats 109 (thanks to Mrs. Kemmerer for the excellent teaching). I took three AP classes in my senior year, and it was a challenging experience. My free time was virtually non-existent, and I missed out on many enjoyable senior activities. Keep in mind that I wasn’t involved in year-round sports like some of you. Take AP and dual enrollment classes but be aware of the workload and don’t overload yourself with AP classes just for the sake of it. I have no regrets about my choices because they put me a year ahead, but for most people, take only as many as you can comfortably handle.

  1. Current Classes – They Foreshadow the Future

Currently, I’m an economics major. In my first semester, I had two different economics classes (micro and macroeconomics) and a business-related calculus class. Thanks to the fantastic Mrs. Self and Tik-Tok sensation Mrs. Shawley, the classes aren’t as daunting because they often reinforce concepts I had already encountered. Even if you’re not taking dual enrollment for a specific class, your high school courses can provide you with valuable insights that you can apply when you get to college. It might not be as clear-cut as my example, but in general, your math, science, and English classes will equip you with valuable knowledge to use in college, giving you a head start.

  1. Tech School/Workforce – A Worthy Path

If you’ve made it this far and have no interest in attending college, that’s perfectly fine. College isn’t the right fit for everyone, and there are plenty of jobs that are better suited for tech school or entering the workforce, without the need for 2, 4, or 6 years of schooling for a degree that may not serve you. If the idea of tech school or work interests you, then go for it. If you’re uncertain, consider giving a semester at a small school a try after graduation. See if you enjoy it, and if you do, continue your education. If not, you’ll have spent a modest amount of money to confirm that higher education isn’t the best path for you.

The transition from high school to college offers a sea of differences, and in many ways, it’s a good thing. College can be easier and less stressful than high school, but the stakes are higher. I’m grateful for my time in high school because it helped me discover what I want and don’t want in life. In high school, you have many paths to choose from, so select the ones that lead to the best outcomes for you. As you venture into the great beyond, you’ll find a better life and a better version of yourself.

Best wishes,

Brandon Uncapher

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About the Contributor
Brandon Uncapher
Brandon Uncapher, Staff Writer
Brandon is a Junior Staff writer. He is a newcomer to the school, and his passions are sports, music, and writing, and his hobbies are hunting and hiking. Sports journalism is his dream and this is his way of getting started on it.

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