6 Benefits of Attending a Catholic High School

6 Benefits of Attending a Catholic High School

Why I'm Thankful Every Day For My High School Experience
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I attended Catholic schools from pre-school to 12th grade. When it came time to decide on a college, I decided to follow a new path and opt for a large, public university. I love my life at Pitt and have no doubt that I made the right decision, but I often take note of how much my years at Catholic school meant to me. The skills and experiences I accumulated, particularly in high school, were mostly a product of the Catholic school environment. Here is a list of some of the benefits of a Catholic high school, from the perspective of an alumnus who is grateful they got to attend one.

1. Small Classes

"Small class sizes" is like the unofficial slogan of Catholic education everywhere, and I hate to start with something that has almost become a cliche. But the fact is, having a small class made a world of difference at the high school level. For four years, there was no such thing as not knowing anyone in a class. You were bound to spot a friend or two (or 10) no matter what subject you were in. The group chat of your best friends doubled as the group chat for homework help. Sometimes, classes would be so small that hand-raising went out the window; instead, the teacher and students could just have a casual conversation about the new material. Did it make classes more fun? Obviously. Did it enhance what I learned? Undoubtedly.

2. Uniforms

"Uniforms? Are you serious? Those were the absolute worst." Hear me out, generic skeptical reader of this article. Although lacking the freedom of self-expression through attire is usually high on people's "cons" list, I argue that it made life a heck of a lot easier. Rolling out of bed and throwing on the same clothes as the day before (or at least an identical copy) was the height of efficiency and convenience. The toughest decision of the morning routine was choosing between the white polo shirt or the colored polo shirt. Nobody cared what you were wearing because they were wearing it, too. Plus, it turned dress-down days into a form of currency between the students and faculty. "Oh, you want us to donate to the school? *Untucks shirt* That's gonna cost you...."

3. Writing Skills

This one is more anecdotal, but it's been my experience that those who come out of Catholic school know how to write - sometimes in cursive! Many Catholic high schools, mine included, are designed to prepare their students for college life. One thing that defines college academics is writing oh-so-many papers. By the time my friends and I graduated high school, we had been trained in the art of research paper ad nauseum. MLA format was like a second language that could only be read in Times New Roman, 12 pt font, double-spaced. It was painstaking at the time, but one year into university life, I can say that the ability to write a quality paper - with haste - is vital.

4. Talking About Faith

This is one of the most contested, if not controversial aspects of Catholic schools. I'll go on record as saying that I'm proud to have attended a school where prayer and open discussion about religion were encouraged. The most irritating misconception about Catholic schools is that somehow kids are "brainwashed" into thinking a certain way. This if just plain false. Obviously, most of the students at a Catholic school are going to be practicing Catholics. But at mine, there were also members of other Christian denominations, agnostics, atheists, and so on. People of all backgrounds were welcome, and in religion classes, all opinions were heard. At the end of the day, everybody had the freedom to talk about their faith in God, as well as their questions and doubts. Those who felt drawn to Catholicism had the ability to intertwine their religion and their education into one cohesive experience, something that isn't possible in public schools.

5. Community & Service

The community of a Catholic school is unlike any other I've experienced, and it wasn't just because of the small student population. Most of us had similar values, had the same teachers, went to the same classes, played the same sports, were in the same clubs, and so on. We were in it together - and likewise, we were there to help one another. One of the pillars of Catholic education is the value of service. Every student had to log hours helping enrich their community somehow, from helping at the local Catholic elementary schools to working as a group at food banks. Working in groups, the volunteer hours helped build a sense of pride in our school and in our faith, and the work was definitely worthwhile.

6. It Was Just Fun

For four years, I got to spend every day with people I plan on staying friends with for life. I watched them succeed in their sports and extracurriculars just as they supported me in mine. For four years, we all experienced the dress down days, the fundraisers that got us out of class, the schoolwide inside jokes, and the dances where we left room for the Holy Spirit for about 10 sin-free minutes. We became established in a community that prepped us for the next stages of life, all while creating lasting memories. For these reasons, I am constantly grateful that I attended my Catholic high school, and I hope that my fellow Catholic school grads feel the same way.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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To All Incoming Freshmen, When You Get To College, Please Don't Be THAT Freshman

I am pretty sure we all know who I'm talking about.

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As we are all counting down the days to return to campus, students are looking forward to meeting new people and reuniting with old friends. And then, there is the freshman.

We have all been there. The eagerness and excitement have been slowly building up through months of summer vacation, all waiting for this moment. I understand the anxiousness, enthusiasm, and insecurities. The opportunity to meet new people and explore a new area is very intriguing. But let's be real, you are here to make memories and get an education. So here are a few pieces of advice from a former college freshman.

1. Don't be that freshman who follows their significant other to college

This is the boy or girl who simply can not think for themselves. The 17-year-old puts their own personal goals and interests aside to sacrifice for a six-month high school relationship. This will more than likely end at an end of semester transfer after the relationship has been tested for a month or two in college life. So if you want to really enjoy your freshman year, make your own decisions and do what is best for you.

2. Don't be that freshman who lets their parents pick their major

"You are not going to school just to waste my money."

This is a statement you might have heard from your parents. As true as it might seem, this is definitely not a good way to start your college years. If you are not majoring in something you can see yourself doing, you are wasting your time. You can major in biology, go to medical school, and make the best grades. But if deep down you don't want to be a doctor, you will NOT end up being a good doctor. When it comes to picking your major, you really have to follow your heart.

3. Don't be that freshman who gets overwhelmed with the first taste of freedom

Yes. It is all very exciting. You don't have a curfew, you don't have rules, you don't have anyone constantly nagging you, but let's not get carried away. Don't be the freshman who gets a tattoo on the first night of living on your own. Don't be the freshman who tries to drink every liquor behind the bar. Don't be the freshman who gets caught up being someone that they aren't. My best advice would be to take things slow.

4. Don't be that freshman who starts school isolated in a relationship

I'm not telling you not to date anyone during your freshman year. I am saying to not cut yourself off from the rest of the world while you date someone. Your first year on campus is such an amazing opportunity to meet people, but people are constantly eager to start dating someone and then only spend time with that person.

Be the freshman who can manage time between friends and relationships.

5. Don't be that freshman who can't handle things on their own

It is your first year on your own. Yes, you still need help from your parents. But at this point, they should not be ordering your textbooks or buying your parking pass. If you need something for a club or for class, YOU should handle it. If you're having roommate problems, YOU should handle it, not your parents. This is the real world and college is a great time for you to start building up to be the person you want to be in the future, but you can't successfully do that if your parents still deal with every minor inconvenience for you.

6. Don't be that freshman who only talks to their high school friends

I know your high school was probably amazing, and you probably had the coolest people go there. However, I believe that college is a great time to be on your own and experience new things. Meeting new people and going to new places will allow you to grow into a more mature person. There is a way to balance meeting new friends and maintaining friendships with childhood friends, and I am sure you will find that balance.

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Confessions Of An Out Of State College Student

There is nothing wrong with calling your mom every day.

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"I can't wait to get out of this state."

These were the words of an over-excited high school senior who swore she'd go far away for college and never look back. After having already received my acceptance letters to college, I began to create some pros and cons lists about each school. The first one off my list was the only in-state school to which I applied. After a while, I had it narrowed down to whether I wanted to be 11 hours away from home or 17. Fast forward to a year later when I realized being a lonely out-of-state Buckeye 11 hours away may have been the best decision I've ever made but also has some disadvantages.

1. I missed my parents.

At first, it may seem like getting away from your parents will be the best thing in the entire world. No rules, no helicoptering, and independence seemed like a breath of fresh air at first. However, there was a reality check when I realized that I was still a teenager and needed my parents. I missed coming home after school and having them ask about my day. I missed having my mom right there to hug me when times got tough and my dad talking to me about the Red Sox. I regretted taking for granted having them close and as a result, I called them every single day.

2. There are no places to get good cheese fries in Columbus.

This is self-explanatory. Do better, Columbus.

3. My hometown really isn't that boring.

As much as I complained while in high school about there being nothing to do, I missed what little there was to do while in college. Living on an island loses its charm after a while but once I was gone, I dreamed about being on the beach again. Of course, now that I'm home for summer it seems boring again. I just learned to appreciate it while I have it.

4. I got upset that I couldn't see my regular doctor and dentist.

As crazy as it seems, a real gush of homesickness took over me when people on my floor were going home on the weekends for doctor and dentist appointments. I would do anything to hear my dentist question my flossing abilities again, but the 11-hour car ride just wasn't a possibility. This also goes hand in hand with missing my parents. Making appointments for yourself is not a fun aspect of adulting. Not to mention, making an appointment at the student health center is an absolute pain in the ass.

5. I hate that all of the friends I made are in-staters.

As my Instagram feed flooded with photos of my college friends reuniting in Ohio, major FOMO hit. It's easy for everyone else to make a last minute weekend road trip to friends in different parts of the state...except me. If I was going back to Ohio, I would need a significant heads up and copious amounts of coffee to get me through the long drive. There is a silver lining, however. Reuniting with people from college really is that much more special when you haven't seen them in months.

6. THEY ARE CALLED SNEAKERS.

It makes my ears bleed to hear people refer to sneakers as "tennis shoes," and soda as "pop." Where the heck are these people shopping that label the sneaker section with "Tennis Shoes?" I'm sorry, but no, you're wrong.

7. Therapy dogs are nowhere near as cute as my dog.

Finals season rolls around, and the one thing I was looking forward to was the emotional support dogs. Instead of calming my nerves for upcoming exams, they made me miss my Frito-smelling, bed-hogging, underwear-chewing pooch. It also doesn't help that my dog has an irrational fear of being on Facetime and refused to look at the camera every time I would attempt to talk to him.

8. No, I don't know what you're talking about.

It seems that everyone in Ohio knows about every little town, restaurant and road in the entire state. Don't give me a "poor you" face when you find out I've never had Skyline Chili or Graeter's Ice Cream. I don't even know where Columbus is located in the state let alone any of the suburbs located outside of Cleveland.

9. I don't have a southern accent.

I grew up in Pennsylvania. Just because I'm from South Carolina and occasionally use the word "Y'all" does not mean I have a southern accent.

10. I have no idea how to get an absentee ballot.

College is a popular time for people to figure out their beliefs individually from their parents. With new experiences and people, it came naturally to develop political ideas and start taking stances on certain controversial topics. When the time comes to exercise my suffrage that many people fought for me to have, I have absolutely no idea how to vote out-of-state. Whoops.

11. Yes, the weather sucks.

As I look down at my four pairs of socks tucked into my long underwear, I reminisce on the days of sunshine and gross humidity. When you live down south, your blood certainly thins, and cold weather is nearly unbearable. I had to buy a winter coat before college because I didn't own one. That should've been a red flag right there.

12. Going to school out-of-state is the best decision I've ever made.

With every complaint, there are a million more lovely things about going to college far away. I have made so many lifelong friends from all over the country that I wouldn't have if I stayed close to my routes. As much as I miss my parents, my dentist, the local restaurants and of course my dog, I could not ask for a better college experience. Being surrounded by Tigers, Cougars, and Gamecocks at home may be overwhelming sometimes, but I could not be more proud to be a Buckeye.

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