Chelsea Impact on Recent College Graduate

On May 21st, I graduated from the University of Notre Dame. The ceremony, which included the conferring of undergraduate and graduate degrees on over 3,000 students in the 172nd commencement exercises, was very different from Chelsea’s 2013 commencement, in which I was one of twelve in the second graduating class. As someone who had been homeschooled most of her life and whose first and only experience at a school was attending Chelsea, I found Notre Dame to be, in many ways, an entirely new world. Going from a small, relatively young private school to a long-standing research university seemed like a hugely daunting, if also exciting, step.

Moving into my residence hall in August, 2013, I entered a new social and academic world, in which house competitions transformed into interhall sports and the broad, structured class requirements at Chelsea became a more self-determined set of classes. In particular, I found my studies expanding in both expected and unexpected ways. Although I now had much more freedom in scheduling my own classes, I began noticing the many ways in which my college studies built off of the experience and education with which Chelsea had provided me.

My first year at Notre Dame was mostly focused on fulfilling the core requirements, which spanned from math and science to literature and composition. I knew to expect greater challenges and more difficult classes, but I became very aware of how my Chelsea education was standing me in good stead every step of the way. Of course high school prepared me for college through my classes in many different disciplines, which gave me a basis of knowledge with which to approach my new, more challenging courses; but any high school worth its salt will provide this kind of preparation.

What I especially appreciated about my classes and teachers as Chelsea was the other principal way in which they helped me both during this first year and throughout college: their promotion of critical thinking and polished expression. Anyone can memorize equations or dates or literary themes, but I realized after I had graduated from Chelsea that the classes I took in high school went beyond this to a type of thought that transcends disciplines. Whether in English, math, foreign language, or any other class, our teachers constantly pushed us to examine and formulate ideas in an intellectually mature way.

Chelsea Class of 2013

The best example of the way in which I continued to draw on my Chelsea education throughout my time at Notre Dame would be the oral exams I had to take for certain classes within my major, the Program of Liberal Studies. PLS requires six “Great Books Seminars” that center around student-driven discussion of formative texts within the Western tradition, spanning from Homer to Hume to Thoreau. In these classes, one has to understand texts as literary, philosophical, scientific, artistic, and much more through constant engagement and close reading. At the end of every seminar, the final exam is administered as a discussion with two professors on any of the texts read over the course of the semester. These oral exams demanded depth of interpretation as well as the ability to make connections between themes, works, and disciplines. Having received an education in which I was encouraged to apply one overarching mode of thought to many different areas of study, I felt particularly well-prepared for both these classes and their oral exams.

As college graduation began to draw near, I started to think about the ways in which the critical thought that both my high school and college education have fostered will continue to play a part in my life. Four years ago, as I started my studies at Notre Dame, the answer would have been obvious; now, having finished formal education for the time being, it may not be quite as easy to see how this formation carries into my life after college. But I am left with this reassuring knowledge: the broad view of education that has stood me in such good stead over the past four years will continue to shape me, even if I do not yet see exactly how. This critical thought across disciplines will necessarily continue to impact all areas of my life – political and social engagement, spiritual growth, and personal intellectual pursuits. In this sense, I know that moving forward will not mean moving on; the most important part of my Chelsea education – a critically engaged intellectual disposition – will remain with me no matter what.

Post by: Anna Schäffer, Chelsea Class of 2013

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