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Preparing for college can be overwhelming and stressful for many high school seniors. But a program at Donna High School is helping students with the transition by giving them an opportunity to hear first- hand from recent DHS graduates who are now first-year university students.

“A Day in the Life of a College Student” has been in place for the last 21 years at Donna High School. Administrators invite college freshmen who graduated from DHS the previous year to come talk to seniors interested in pursuing higher education. This year, a group of seven from the Class of 2017 participated in the program. They represented The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

UT Austin student Marco Hernandez was on the panel. “I believe it’s super important that these seniors listen to what we have to say because just last year we were in their shoes,” Hernandez said. “As seniors you have a lot of pressure because there is so much going on. At the same time, you’re thinking about what college to apply to, financial aid and what degree plan to pursue. We want to make sure that we give them the best advice so that they are successful and prepared once they get to the next level.”

Hernandez said that as a high school senior, he remembered taking in all the information that he heard from college freshmen last year. “I was writing all these notes,” Hernandez recalled. “I had two pages full of notes which I showed to my mom. I said, ‘look this is what I have to do to apply for financial aid and scholarships’. I was on the ball because that’s how you have to be when you apply to college. It’s very crucial.”

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He asked a lot of questions too. “They were very straightforward,” Hernandez said. “They also encouraged me to meet with the counselor regularly which I did. I also had a lot of help from faculty members who eased a lot of my concerns. The Day in the Life of a College Student also gave me that extra motivation, that extra push to be organized.”

Hernandez also warned DHS seniors to be prepared for anything that may change at the last minute. It happened to him. “I had already scheduled my classes at UTRGV and had gone to Orientation when I received a letter from UT Austin offering me a substantial scholarship. It was two weeks before school was to start. It was crazy but it all worked out. Now, I’m at UT Austin and I love it because you’re working with the best of the best.”

DHS senior Brenda Santana made it a point to pay close attention to Hernandez and the rest of the panel. “I appreciate everything they told us because I’ll be going to college next year,” Santana said. “They were giving us tips about the importance of applying for financial aid as soon as possible. That will help us decide what major we should pursue and what college would be better for our situation and our family.”

Santana said the panel was very helpful. “Some students like myself are still undeclared and we don’t know what we want but hearing all these opportunities and different programs will help us decide what we want to do and what college we want to go to. Yes, it’s going to be hard but in the end college is going to be worth it.”

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