Post Secondary Spotlights: Week 2

Julianna Russ

     With the first week of AP testing coming to an end, the Highlands High School 2021 Commencement Ceremony is only three weeks away. Soon, senior students will leave the nest for the very last time, each embarking on their own unique journeys into adulthood.

     This week, three different seniors detail their decision-making process as it pertains to their post-secondary plans, offering advice to younger students along the way.

     Senior Abigail Clinkenbeard will attend the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in the fall to pursue a degree in interior design.

     Clinkenbeard mentioned that her parents were integral in helping her get started with the college exploration process, taking her to college tours early on so she could get an idea of what she was looking for. Eventually, she was able to narrow down her options.

     “I had the decision between Indiana University, SCAD, I looked at Auburn University, and then I also looked at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, but I knew that I wanted to go into the arts. I’ve always been into interior design.”

     SCAD, located in Savannah, GA, boasts of a unique college experience that stimulates growth and collaboration among young creatives. Clinkenbeard says that the opportunity to grow in this way is what she is most looking forward to.

      “I just know it’s not going to be the normal college experience. We’ll be able to go to fashion shows, I’ll be by the beach, and then there are just so many opportunities that you can pursue. I can do stuff with set management design if I wanted to, or just help out people in other creative fields.”

     Another senior, Liam Kinnaird, will also be heading south in the fall. He will be attending the University of Alabama and studying Aerospace Engineering.

     Kinnaird noted that the University of Alabama’s location struck a chord with him.

     “Alabama is where NASA is, and they have a great space program, so I would love to be part of that. I will also pursue some of my other interests, like Spanish.”

     He also explained that while his college outcome is not what he might have expected at the beginning of his process, he is thrilled about what’s to come.

     “I was looking at schools, and I noticed that Alabama gives great scholarships to students in this area. Initially, I was a little skeptical, but when I looked at the school, I realized it is a lot better than some of the schools in this area. I was impressed and I love it down there.”

     Not all students believe that college is the right fit for them. Senior Grace Ferrarelli is taking a gap year to further pursue her passion for art and take some time to figure out what she wants out of life.

     Ferrarelli explained, “I decided to take a gap year because I didn’t want to force myself to do something I’m not ready for. I just don’t see myself in college as of right now. I know that taking a gap year can help you figure out, hey, maybe I want to do this instead.”

     Since the pandemic created so much uncertainty within academia and the job market, significantly more high school seniors have decided to take a gap year rather than attend college. With burnout from virtual learning also taking a toll, this option is increasing in popularity.

     For Ferrarelli, she hopes that a gap year will allow her the space to hone her artistic talent and relieve the pressure of the post-secondary process.

     “I’m really excited to continue with my art since I’ve been super passionate about it and getting more serious about it too. I just like seeing myself change and grow, and I think taking this year off and finding myself will really help me a lot to figure out what I want to do in the future.”

     As these students leave the nest, they also have much to look forward to. 

     Kinnaird is excited to experience a walkable campus.

     “I’m probably most excited for the campus because it’s very big and walkable. There were barely any automobiles when I visited, and I really like the design of campuses that are built for walkable communities.”

     Clinkenbeard also had some advice for younger students, no matter what type of career they plan to pursue.

     “Follow whatever you want to do, and make sure you do enough research about whatever you want to do. That way you’ll be more educated about the field you want to end up in.”