Freshman transitions from online study to traditional college life

· 4 min read

Freshman transitions from online study to traditional college life

Stark is first known UNHS grad to attend UNL as Nebraska Top Scholar
UNL freshman Philip Stark during a visit to Europe in May. (Courtesy photo)

UNL freshman Philip Stark is no stranger to academic achievement — he got straight A’s through high school, aced the SAT and earned the title of Nebraska Top Scholar.

Lots of things about college are new to Stark, though, considering UNL is the first brick-and-mortar school he’s attended.

Stark, a pre-health student, graduated from the University of Nebraska High School — an online, independent-study high school that is offered through University of Nebraska Online Worldwide. He is one of the first known graduates of the independent study high school, according to UNHS officials, to receive the top Regents Scholarship to UNL.

As a Regents Scholar, he receives full tuition reimbursement, as well as an additional $1,500 yearly stipend.

“Philip is one of the brightest, most thinking and open-minded students I have encountered in 36 years of teaching and counseling,” said Debby Bartz, an academic adviser for UNHS. “I feel fortunate to have visited with and assisted Philip with college admission preparations that allowed me to see his full extent of talents and thoughtful consideration of his own learning experiences.”

School has always been important to Stark, who was home-schooled by his mother, Kristin, until taking online high school classes to earn a diploma. Classes were flexible, he said, so he could work at his own pace. But in terms of academics, he said he was well prepared for college courses.

UNHS, which was established in 1929, offers a rigorous, college-prep curriculum. Through its online format, courses are available around the clock.

“Throughout their course work with UNHS, students learn how to become responsible for their own education and take initiative with their studies, both of which are significant attributes for success in college,” Bartz said.

Stark developed study skills and an independent work ethic — skills he was able to bring to UNL. Now he is on campus in a freshman class of more than 4,000 students. But so far, the transition has gone well, he said.

“On the first day, I was definitely nervous, but at least I had already visited campus a few times, so not everything was totally foreign to me,” Stark said.

Stark said his first day of college was easy; most of it consisted of going over his syllabi, but he did have to rush a bit with his 24-pound backpack to make it to each class on time.

“I wasn’t sure if I needed to bring all of my textbooks, so to be on the safe side I of course lugged basically everything I had,” he said. “That made for a sore back at the end of the day.”

The Lincoln resident has decided to live off-campus in his family’s home this year.

“(Living on campus) would have made the transition a lot more difficult, since I am very close with my family,” he said. “Being able to see them at the end of the day always makes me happy.”

Besides academics, Stark is also adjusting to having very little free time. His home-school environment allowed him to participate in many extracurricular activities such as golf, tennis, basketball and soccer.

He has also journeyed around the world with his family and has been to 13 countries including France, Spain and Croatia.

“I used to be able to go on vacation for a week and just work ahead, but now I can’t do that,” he said.

With a schedule filled with chemistry, calculus and German, Stark spends a lot of his time studying but still tries to find time for his hobbies.

Other than playing sports, he has also found unique ways to express his creativity, including cooking. Because his family loves to cook, Stark was introduced to it as a young age and he now enjoys coming up with his own recipes.

He also likes to build large structures with Legos and helps with an online message board for the company, he said.

“It’s just a fun, creative thing I do,” Stark said.

It’s all about school for now, but Stark said he hopes to find time for his hobbies during holiday breaks and looks forward to the possibility of participating in intramurals later in the school year.

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