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Talent Search student Alex Dufresne rethinks his future
Alex Dufresne, a senior at Twinfield Union High School in Marshfield, admits that his high-school academic experience has been a bit of a roller coaster.
“My grades have been really good one year, then really bad the next, then pretty good the next year,” says Alex, who also had some up-and-down thoughts about whether he really wanted to go to college.
“There was this moment in time, during my sophomore and junior years, where I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I wondered, should I even go to college? At the time, I wasn’t really enjoying school, and I thought to myself, why would I want to do this for another four years?”
It’s a thought that Alex’s VSAC outreach counselor, Lindsay Carpenter, believes a lot of students can relate to.
“At our last pre-pandemic meeting, Alex really wasn’t engaged with academics or Talent Search,” Carpenter recalls, referring to VSAC’s Talent Search program, which offers support in the way of college counseling, school visits, career planning, and financial aid.
“He felt very unsure with what he wanted to do and also didn’t seem interested in talking about it. But since the pandemic hit, Alex has done a complete 180 with his academics. We met in the fall of his senior year, and he had a completely different attitude and approach.”
He started doubling up on math classes so that he could not only catch up and “fix his past mistakes,” as Alex says, but also improve his transcript in time for a later college application deadline. (Part of the criteria for choosing the schools he applied to was whether they would still accept applications in March, which gave Alex time to get his GPA up.)
As far as what changed, Alex says, “I guess just some self-reflection. I realized that if I didn’t go to college, I would most likely regret it and that it would open up a lot of opportunities for me if I came out of my early 20s with a degree. I thought a lot about what I wanted to do in life, and if I needed to go to college, and in the end I realized — I’m pretty sure I need to go,” Alex laughs.
While he chuckles about it now, there was no laughing in that moment. “I had that sudden worry of, oh man, did I really mess up? I was worried that I wouldn’t get accepted anywhere or receive any financial help.”
But with the help of VSAC’s Talent Search program, he pulled it off. Alex, who wants to stay in New England for college, applied to UNH, SUNY-Albany, the University of Southern ME, and the University of Hartford, among others. When we interviewed him at the end of March, he had already heard back from several schools, and he had been accepted everywhere he had applied.
“That’s been a big weight off my shoulders, for sure. I let out a huge sigh of relief.”
VSAC helped him with the entire application process, as well as completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — the FAFSA — which Alex doesn’t think he and his parents could have figured out on their own. Alex’s dad, who works as a dispatcher for Bellavance Trucking in Barre, went to community college in Massachusetts, and his mom, who works for the high school, didn’t go to college, so the family’s collective experience with the college process was limited.
“VSAC was super helpful. And for that moment when I didn’t think I wanted to go to college, they were still very supportive,” Alex recalls. “They said, we can help you out with finding other options. They’ve just been really helpful on whatever I’ve wanted to do.”
But Alex is very glad he decided in the end to pursue his education beyond high school.
“Without going to college, it limits your opportunities — especially if you aren’t certain what you want to do. And I’m definitely not certain,” says Alex, who enjoys playing piano and basketball. While he’s thought about computer science, he hopes that the college experience will help him explore some other possible career paths.
Looking ahead to college, Alex is most excited about a change of scenery. He’s lived in Marshfield his whole life, and his travels have only taken him to Canada and to neighboring states a handful of times.
And looking back for a moment, he offers this advice to incoming high school freshmen. “Do your work, even if you think you don’t want to go to college. You might change your mind. Then the option will be open to you. If you just slack off and your transcript isn’t looking the best, you could regret it in the future,” Alex says.
“You’re going to be in high school for four years anyway, so you might as well just get the work done.”
Need help with pursuing your career goals and education needs? VSAC is here to help you. Serving our community is at the heart of all we do. During this ever-changing time, we remain available and committed to help you navigate all your career and education needs.
For information on college and career planning and help with financial aid, go to www.vsac.org/FAFSAfirst and check out our online workshops and events. For an update of how we can help during the COVID-19 crisis, click here. You can also give us a call at 800-642-3177, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and online at firstname.lastname@example.org.