Meet Christina Lachman, a freshman at Ithaca College (Class of 2020) and a graduate of Schenectady High School (Class of 2016).
How have your dreams for yourself changed since you started high school?
I initially wanted to be a pediatrician when I was in high school. Coming to college, I realized that I don’t like science enough to pursue a career in medicine, and I don’t want to be in school for more than eight years before I can truly begin work. So now I’m in a pre-professional program for people interested in the healthcare professions. I’m exploring different fields related to health care management or public health. These fields are still related to health, but I can use some of my strengths in math and working with people. I want to be in charge! It’s more of what I think I want to do. I plan to get a masters’ in Healthcare Administration.
Describe how you felt when you got your college acceptance letter.
I was really excited. I was at Sponsor-A-Scholar (homework session). Got a text from my mom that there was a letter in the mail. She sent me a photo of the letter--I got in! It was awesome to be with Mr. Barcomb and all of my Sponsor-A-Scholar friends when I got the news.
How does Sponsor-A-Scholar help you now?
I still rely on my mentor, Julie. We talk and text often. She helped to inform my choices about college. We talked a lot throughout my time in high school. She took me to visit Skidmore College, which is where she went to school. Julie’s support is really important to me and without Sponsor-A-Scholar I wouldn’t have her in my life.
The stipend is really helpful. Thanks to the stipend, I don’t have to work too much, so I can focus on my schoolwork.
Beyond that, I actually still use my graphing calculator from high school--it’s coming in handy right now in my statistics class.
Sponsor-A-Scholar is a second family that I can depend on. I know I can count on the other students in the program, my mentor, and Mr. Barcomb, my guidance counselor.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome so far?
Recovering from failing a test--my first semester I got a 53 in a Psychology test. I was really upset. Then, I talked to my advisor, I visited academic advising--and I met with the professor during office hours.
I had been using the same study habits as in high school, which was part of my problem. I learned to try different study habits (before the first test). In college, I definitely need to put more effort in studying than I did in high school. I’d also say that in many classes I try to read ahead so I am more prepared. Now, depending on the subject, I use notecards, diagrams or rewrite my class notes. I often meet with professors before the exams, I attend any study sessions and take practice tests. I also ask about the format of the test. The second psychology test that semester, I earned an 85.
What accomplishment are you proudest of?
Being the first person in my family to go to college. No one else in my family earned a high school diploma. While my first semester was challenging, my grades are improving, which makes me happy.
What’s it like being a first generation college student?
Sometimes it’s hard to explain things to my family. They don’t understand how much work goes into my classes and assignments. I don’t have as much time for them as I used to. My younger sister is a freshman in high school and I know she looks to me for advice. I try to be there for her as much as I can. I don’t want to let anyone down.
Throughout the college search process, my mom tried to help me but couldn’t really provide much help because she had gone went to college. I know she totally supports me, but I had to depend on people outside my family, like my mentor, for advice about college.
I actually joined a club for first generation students on campus. Now, I am the club’s campaign manager. Some of my college friends have many generations of people in their families who have gone to college, and it’s hard to relate to them in some ways. The first gen club is a real help.
How did having a mentor (either in Sponsor-A-Scholar or elsewhere) help you in high school and beyond?
Having a mentor prepared me to reach out to colleges (in high school). She was there to help me prepare for college phone interviews with admissions. She read my college essay. She taught me to always ask questions to show interest.
My mentor helped me to prepare to be able to ask for help in college too. Which has been really great.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Starting grad school for Healthcare Management. I haven’t started looking just yet, but I’m not going to wait until senior year to start!
If you could say one thing to your sponsor, what would it be?
Thank you isn’t even enough. Because of this person sponsoring me--they’re giving me something that my family couldn’t offer. Sponsor-A-Scholar helped me with financial support, my mentor and the ongoing help.
Sponsors show all of us that there are people who care. You keep the world going around.
Name one thing that you’ve gotten from Sponsor-A-Scholar that you simply couldn’t get anywhere else
Community support and financial support. I’ve never seen another program that gives so much to students--people who the sponsors don’t even know. Our sponsors made a choice to help us. And we’re succeeding together.
Students get advice, money and the benefit of community. It’s amazing!
What advice would you give to the Scholars who are heading to college for the first time?
Use your mentors as a resource. They want to--and can-- help you with all sorts of things from filling out financial aid forms to preparing for interviews.
Learn how to manage your time and plan out your work and your deadlines. For me, this was huge.
Know yourself--are you a morning person? While my advisor helped me to make my schedule-- which was great--I wish I knew more about looking at past course schedules. My first semester I took some early morning classes, because I thought I had to. It turns out the the class was offered the following semester later in the day. I could have had more sleep!
Don’t visit your advisor unprepared. Always have something to talk about. Look at course catalogs for possible classes that could fit.
Don’t get an unlimited meal plan--you’ll get sick of the food (everybody does), and for the most part, it’s a waste of money.
College opens you up to so many career opportunities that I never knew about. Before college, I knew about the big ones: doctor, lawyer, teacher. But now, I know that I could work in public health or healthcare management.
Look at job statistics before you commit to a major and a career path. Make sure that there will be a job for you when you graduate.
Thank you Christina! We can't wait to see what you'll accomplish next!