The “Portrait of an Alum” blog series gives a glimpse of life after graduation, with a particular emphasis on our students’ readiness for the transition to college and how their affections and outlook have been shaped through their experiences, teachers and Christian community at Veritas. For this profile, Director of Communications Sara Kennedy interviewed 2016 graduate Seth Daly, a Junior at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. This is a summary of their conversation.
“Annoying, wily, unfocused – that was me in middle school.”
Today, Seth Daly is a junior in the Engineering School at one of the most competitive programs in the country, Georgia Tech. How does a squirrely 7th grader transform into a driven, disciplined, thoughtful university scholar? Seth would argue it takes being surrounded by those who know and love you – parents, teachers, and friends who help you build good habits and consistently hold you to high standard.
Seth’s interest in Georgia Tech’s top 5 nationally ranked program began his junior year at Veritas, and laser-focused his attention on the classes he would need to take to compete for a coveted admission’s spot against students applying from STEM specialty schools. Working closely with Upper School Principal Robyn Burlew and Science Department Chair Dr. Michael Dicken, Seth added independent study courses to his senior year schedule, including Calculus II, and Linear Algebra. With close friends, he spearheaded the revival of VeriTech, Veritas’ Robotics Team, and pushed the boundaries of expectation by capturing lightning in a bottle for his senior year art project.
Like many Veritas graduates who matriculate into challenging technical programs at the university level, Seth found that his classical education – perhaps counter-intuitively at first glance – prepared him well. Required general education courses at GT were made much easier by the practice of extensive reading and regular writing in high school. While many of his tech-trained classmates experience a sense of paralysis when papers are assigned, Seth is able to get right to work – and to help others get unstuck. Perhaps even more importantly for the future, he writes and reflects with the perspective of an engineer who desires to engage the philosophical implications of the technology he studies.
He also credits his experience at Veritas for giving him the tools of scholarship: how to prep for a test, how to retain important concepts beyond an assessment, how to prioritize time, how to steadily work on a big project, how to interpret a professor’s questions, how to understand what’s expected – and why all of this matters. But even with these tools in hand, his first two years at Georgia Tech were overwhelming at times.
Arriving on Georgia Tech’s 30,000 student campus in August of 2016, Seth knew no one. After years in the company of a tight-knit group of classmates and teachers at Veritas, he had to re-learn how to make friends, while also navigating a huge campus and new city, dorm life, and difficult assignments in classrooms of anonymity.
A combination of wisdom, strategy, and habit drove Seth to find a church and a college ministry as soon as he unpacked. A lifetime of church attendance with his mom had proven its value. Unlike a college para-church ministry, the Church is a place of dedicated worship, a place to receive the sacraments, a place to be in Christian community with children, families, and the elderly. In concert with the local church, campus ministries like InterVarsity, CRU, Campus Outreach, and Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) offer weekly Bible studies, events geared toward the needs and interests of college students, and a way to shrink a huge campus population to a manageable number. Seth knew he needed to find friends who would be good for him, whose “healthy peer pressure” would push him to make wise choices.
Building in time for rest and investment in these friendships is a wise choice that has become an increasingly important priority. Pick up games of soccer or ping-pong, assisting other students in the Invention Studio and competing with the RoboJackets (Georgia Tech’s robotics program) – complement and bring energy to demanding coursework. Weekly Bible study and Sunday worship have become firm anchors, family expectations formed in middle and high school that have matured into strong personal conviction.
Seth continues to reflect on his transition from Veritas to Georgia Tech. What role do the habits – good or bad – from high school play? Is it really possible to re-invent yourself when you transition from middle school to high school? When you go to college? How much do the choices your parents made on your behalf shape how you will navigate the wide-open freedom of university life? What should you anchor yourself to – church, Greek life, academic success, sports, friends? When you are far away from the expectations of a Christian school and family, will your personal faith stand when tested?
And perhaps most critical for our context at Veritas, what can students do now to prepare?
First, don’t wish away your time in middle and high school. In Seth’s words, the value of teachers who know and deeply care about you “can’t be overstated.” Read the books you are assigned, pursue deep conversations over lunch, love your friends well, try new sports and clubs – you can get so much more out of your Veritas experience than you might think. Seth admits it took him a long time to care, but when he began to believe that being known, stretched, and challenged was for his long-term good, he found these relationships “unimaginably helpful.”
Second, build good habits now. Become a better student – in the fullest sense of that word – every year. See time as a gift – create space to mature academically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and relationally.
Choose friends who sharpen you, and be that friend to others. Commit to your faith – know what you believe, spend time in the Word, and be prepared to find a church family and college ministry as soon as you get to campus.
We are deeply grateful for our alumni and their stories of God’s faithfulness as they transition to college. In closing, we join with the apostle Paul in praying for Seth – and all our graduates:
We thank our God in all our remembrance of you, always in every prayer for you making our prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And we are sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for us to feel this way about you all, because we hold you in our heart, for you are all partakers with us of grace … and it is our prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11