Seniors celebrate post-high school plans

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Ethan Hwang and Sophia Krugler

Seniors gather during lunch Tuesday on the Quad, wearing college merchandise or clothes representing their future plans as they prepare to leave Palo Alto High School and embark on new journeys. Senior Rein Vaska said he enjoyed participating in honoring the class’ achievements and aspirations. “It’s really cool to see all these people that I’ve known for so long and where they’re going after high school,” Vaska said. Photo: Ethan Hwang

Decked out in merchandise comprising all shades of the rainbow, seniors flock to the Quad, jabbering away about future plans and snapping photos to post on Instagram with the caption: “#collegebound.” With most seniors having decided on their post-high school plans, Tuesday’s “Future Plans Day,” which takes place each year near National College Decision Day, marks the start of a new chapter beyond Palo Alto High School.

Senior Jonathan Sneh, who will attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for math and computer science, said the display of college merchandise and friends taking photos together represented a return to normalcy following nearly a year of online learning.

“I’m really excited about the future, but I’m also excited about the future for my friends and everyone else around me,” Sneh said. “So it’s nice to see where they’re going.”

The pandemic has presented newfound challenges for the seniors, preventing students from traveling to visit colleges or partaking in in-person activities and summer programs to hone their intellectual interests.

“The issue was I didn’t have that much experience with the colleges I was choosing between,” said senior Rein Vaska, who will attend Williams College in the fall. “I hadn’t been to them. So I ended up choosing the one that I did go to, because I just got to see it and got a good feeling from when I was there.”

Sneh said his plans to attend a theater camp at New York University were canceled due to the pandemic, which may have impacted his future plans.

“I might have applied to NYU and I might have applied for theater instead of computer science,” Sneh said. “There’s a billion different confounding variables that come into this equation.” 

Although students such as Vaska and Sneh had limited information when deciding where to attend college due to COVID-19, senior Natalia Maahs said the pandemic made her more confident in her decision to attend Colorado College.

“It [COVID-19] made me more excited about Colorado College because it’s on the block plan,” Maahs said. “I’ll be doing one class for three and a half weeks, so it’s easy to cohort kids and do a lot of hands-on stuff despite COVID-19.”

As the school year draws to a close, senior celebrations like this one offer the senior class a chance to unite before students prepare to venture beyond high school.

“I’m just excited to get a real change of pace,” Vaska said. “I’ve lived in Palo Alto my whole life. And it’s kind of cool to go to the East Coast and new weather and a whole new set of people.”