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Hampton Bays Eighth-Graders Learn About College Life

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There’s more to learning than reading things in books. Sometimes real-life experience can be the best teacher, which is why Hampton Bays Middle School Counselor Laurie O’Halloran has invited college students to talk about life at university to eighth-grade students for the past five years on College Awareness Day.

On Jan. 3, seven current college students visited the school to answer some basic questions about campus life.

This year’s students — some of whom are Hampton Bays graduates while others are the children of staff members — were Tara Boeshore from Marist College, Jonathan Flores from Suffolk County Community College, Tyler Mehrman from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Alex Pandolfo from Colgate University, Tom Pandolfo from Olin College, Kristen Polan from SUNY Oneonta and Michael Polan from Quinnipiac University

“It’s about first exposing them to the beginning aspects of college,” Ms. O’Halloran explained.

The questions the eighth-graders asked were basic, but the answers given to them by the college students offered insight and perspective on the college experience that the kids might not necessarily learn from textbooks.

One student asked, “How did you decide which college to go to?” Mr. Flores, who graduated from Hamptons Bays three years ago, said that his decision was based on finances. He could accept a partial scholarship of $17,000 to St. John’s University, which would leave him with a $17,000 bill to pay, or he could attend classes at Suffolk for a mere $3,000 a year.

In another classroom Mateo Ariza asked Mr. Mehrman, the son of a staffer, what it was about MIT that persuaded him to choose that college over his other picks. “What I really liked was this feeling of this place,” Mr. Mehrman responded. “Plus, it’s MIT, which is hard to turn down.”

Addressing another class, Mr. Polan, who attends business school at Quinnipiac, said that scholarship money, class size and being not too far from home all factored in to his final decision.

His sister, Ms. Polan, who plays lacrosse for Oneonta, talked about living arrangements with Ms. Boeshore, who said she did research on her new roommate on Facebook. Ms. Boeshore said that her school had her fill out a questionnaire to determine a good roommate fit, asking about such personal qualities as her study and sleeping habits as well as her housekeeping — if she was neat or messy. “I completely lied about that,” Ms. Polan laughed.

College Awareness Day is a huge success, according to Hampton Bays Middle School Principal Dennis Schug. “We can talk about college and career readiness all we want but in reality, bringing it to the kids from real live college students is a great way to learn,” he said. “Fast forward a few years and these kids will be in college. It’s exciting to see that it’s never too early to learn.”