On the first day of class this semester, my professor asks everyone to stand up and introduce themselves: name, hometown, and year in school. I give an awkward response: “My name is Keegan Lammers, I’m from… here, and I’m a senior… in high school.” Heads turn, eyebrows raise, my professor chuckles, but that’s the end of it. After that, I’m the same as my peers. My perspective, however, is much different.
According to my high school transcript, I attend Ohio Wesleyan as a College Credit Plus student, meaning that I receive both high school and college credit for the classes that I take at OWU. When I am asked, however, I simply say that I do attend OWU–I’m just not all-in on the college experience yet. I chose to get involved in College Credit Plus at the end of my junior year so that I could take more challenging classes than those offered at my high school. I haven’t looked back since, and I now attend three schools every day and maintain a busy but fulfilling schedule of academic classes and extracurricular activities. This year has been enlightening, as I have been a part-time high school senior, part-time college freshman, and I have had a much different perspective than anyone who belongs to either of those groups.
The differences start with my daily routine, the most unusual thing about my “college” life. I wake up at 6 a.m., with the grim thought that my OWU peers will enjoy a couple more hours of sleep, and head to school #1: Hayes High School.
First, I drop in on my favorite former English teacher just because I can–I’ve been told I’ll miss those things–and then head to the first of my two high school classes, Symphony Orchestra. Here, I serve as co-concertmistress of the 75-person orchestra, which means that I sit at the front of group and, aside from playing violin, have a variety of additional responsibilities: tuning the group, making sure everyone has their music, sorting out issues with the seating chart, and any other task my director, Ms. Lemke, gives me that day. My next class is the Hayes Players Chamber Orchestra, a 25-person group where I play the viola and serve as principal violist. At the end of the period, everyone else packs up their instruments and moves on to their next class, laughing and whispering about the latest high school drama along the way. But me? I grab my car keys and head to school #2: Dempsey Middle School.
Because my high school classes end at 9 a.m. and my OWU classes don’t begin until 1, I have a chunk of time in the middle of the day where I volunteer student-teach with the middle school orchestra program. Nothing makes me happier than walking into the orchestra room, instruments in tow, to be greeted by squeals of “Miss Keegan!” I love teaching what I know to the middle schoolers and bonding with them, too. The best part of what I do is teach alongside my own incredible teachers, Ms. Lemke and Ms. Wimbiscus. The time I spend teaching provides a different kind of learning, a more hands-on approach, that gives me a great deal of insight into a career I may call my own one day.
And now, after my morning of music, my favorite part of the day begins. I grab my keys and head to school #3: Ohio Wesleyan.
I pull up to the curb and throw my car in park, eager to immerse myself in the college lifestyle. I grab my backpack and begin the trek from my super-secret parking place towards campus (I could have bought a parking pass, but having grown up in Delaware, I already know the best places to park for free around OWU). For a moment, I blend right in with the crowd that gathers at the JAYwalk intersection with Sandusky Street to walk to Merrick. I almost forget that I am just a few minutes from home. College feels like a reality. It’s a little strange, though, when I overhear people talking about their roommates or their dorm life, something I have no concept of–I still get to go home at the end of the day.
My classes aren’t anything like high school counselors told me they’d be. I’ve done a lot of myth-busting this semester, and I’ve found that, contrary to popular high school student belief, professors aren’t heartless, they really do enjoy talking to students, and they are there to help people learn! The biggest difference is that, in college, the student is truly in the driver’s seat, and unlike high school, there isn’t anyone in the passenger’s seat with an emergency brake. It has been totally up to me to decide when to pop in and see my professor if I find myself struggling, whereas in high school, no student is allowed to flounder. Someone always swoops in to save them.
As a former straight “A” high school student, that’s been the biggest challenge for me–to occasionally find myself struggling. The exams were different (I didn’t think anyone actually used Blue Books), I didn’t always prepare in the ways that I should have, and I found notes like “I am disappointed, Keegan,” on my work more than once. Through this, I realized that the independence college grants, including the independence to fail, is what reveals a student’s motivations. I didn’t need the “A,” but I wanted the knowledge, so I would visit my professors during their office hours. I would spend the extra time in the library late at night, studying history or English or music theory, while my high school friends went out. I did it all by myself and all for myself. In my little bit of experience, I’ve found that is what college is all about.
Because I’m not all-in on the college experience, I still get to pursue other activities before I head home each day, which is perfect for me because there are some things that I’m not quite ready to leave behind yet. I have a job, ride horses competitively, teach viola lessons, and play in the pit orchestra for the Hayes musical, so I keep plenty busy after class.
I usually don’t get home until 8 or 9, I always arrive to a home cooked meal, which is something I think my OWU peers miss. I then spend three or four hours on homework and practicing my instruments before heading to bed, so I don’t get very much sleep, and in fact, there have been quite a few all-nighters. The combination of the college stay-up and the high school wake-up has been one of the few downfalls of the experience. One day, a professor even asked me if I was okay, adding, “I was worried you were really sick or something because you look like you haven’t slept in weeks.” The only other real downfall is that it can get a little lonely, being caught in-between worlds like this. I miss out on pep rallies at my high school, and I miss out on social life at OWU because I don’t live there. But it’s given me the opportunity to become a better observer, and I have been able to cherish each world for the lessons it has to teach.
I can’t say that my first semester of college has been anything like I expected it to be. It most certainly wasn’t easy, but I walked away with so much more than I ever imagined I would. I learned a great deal about history, English, and music theory, and earned some credits along the way. The biggest lesson I have taken away from this semester is that a college education, and every aspect of my life, can be exactly what I want it to be. I will get out what I put in. I will take away from every class, whether it is one I teach or one I take, exactly what I want to.
And I will do it. I will be successful, because I want to, not because anyone is forcing me to do so. I think that is what the OWU experience is all about–being insatiable in pursuit of what one defines as success, and learning everything possible along the way.
I will graduate from high school in May. Ohio Wesleyan isn’t my final destination, but I have been afforded so much more than a “freshman experience” in my short time as a Bishop. I’ll leave a lot of things behind when I finally drive away from Delaware and dive into college life: my horses, my friends, my favorite teachers, and my family. There is one thing I’ll hold onto, though, as I begin the unwritten next chapter of my life. I will cherish my OWU experience, in all of its atypical glory, with all of its untraditional lessons, and I will always be insatiable in the pursuit of happiness, success, and learning.
Keegan Lammers is a 17-years-old who’d describe herself as being ambitious, thoughtful, and a little too good at procrastinating. She enjoys riding her horses, writing, reading, traveling, learning, teaching, and playing viola. She hopes to be an orchestra teacher someday.