LBHS alumni return for College Unplugged 2023


Abigail Roedersheimer

An image of the panelists. From left to right; Alex Rounaghi (Dartmouth Class of 2020), Yasmeen Tarazi (USC Class of 2021), Ali Samanifard (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Class of 2021), Makena Augenstein (Chapman Class of 2022), Matthew Blunk (Cal State Fullerton Class of 2023), Avalon Brice (Scripps College Class of 2024) and Claire Wittkop (Ursinus College Class of 2024).

Abigail Roedersheimer, News Editor

For the last half of 2nd period and through Tutorial in the Artists Theatre on Jan. 11, juniors and seniors were invited to ask a panel of seven LBHS alumni about their diverse college experiences and life advice. 

The College and Career Center has annually hosted this event since 2016, but this year was slightly different. Given the high school’s later return from winter break this year, most current college students were already back in class. Consequently, many invited participants had already graduated and entered the workforce, which provided students with unique insight into what life could look like after college. Also to note, three of this year’s panel started their college careers at community colleges.

College and Career Specialist Mrs. Lynn Gregory broke the ice by asking the panelists what their advice for juniors and seniors would be. 

Their answers were similar. 

“Everything’s gonna be okay,” said Ali Samanifard (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Class of 2021).

Following Samanifard, other students elaborated in their fashion. 

“You end up where you’re meant to be. Even though you’re extremely stressed now, it all pays off in the end,” said Avalon Brice (Scripps College Class of 2024).

When a current student inquired about selecting their schools, Yasmeen Tarazi (IVC, University of Southern California Class of 2021) spoke up first. 

“One of the most important aspects of choosing a college is based on your major,” said Tarazi. “If you know what you want to do, use it as a guideline in choosing your college.”

An essential aspect for two of the panelists was enrollment. 

“Consider your class size,” said Claire Wittkop (Saddleback, Ursinus College Class of 2024).

Many of the panelists reminded the audience of the importance of being proactive during your first semester of college. 

“I was able to build connections with professors and have lunch with them in the dining hall,” said Brice about her small class sizes.

Additionally, Samanifard pointed out cost, an essential consideration for many students. 

Another question worth highlighting pertained to how the participants got involved on campus, where many panelists emphasized “clubs.”

“In the beginning, say yes to a bunch, and then narrow it down from what you don’t like,” said Makena Augenstein (Chapman University Class of 2022).

Wittkop and Michael Blunk (IVC, Cal State Fullerton Class of 2023) underlined more emotional aspects. 

“Everyone is in the same shoes as you,” said Blunk. “One of the most important things is being vulnerable with each other. Get yourself out there. It’s up to you to have the experience you want.” 

“Don’t be afraid of being lonely at first,” added Wittkop.

As for college visits, Alex Rounaghi (Dartmouth College Class of 2020) advised visiting colleges and universities after admission but mentioned one benefit of going before applying. 

“For some of the essays they ask you, ‘Why do you want to go here?’ If you visit, you can say, ‘I’ve visited, and for x, y and z reasons, I think I would be the perfect fit for this campus,’” said Rounaghi.

When asked, most panelists advised students to apply to as many schools as possible.

“It’s always easier to have more options than less options,” said Augenstein.

The next question focused on their reactions to rejection.

“If you don’t get into your dream school, remember that your entire self worth isn’t just based on your academic value. Is it the end of the world? It’s definitely not. There are roundabout ways to get into that school,” said Samanifard.

“Don’t let where your friends get in make you sad about where you get in,” Brice elaborated.

In addition, community colleges were highlighted as a viable option.

“Don’t force yourself to make a decision. If you don’t know what you want to do, go to community college,” said Samanifard.

“IVC gave me clarity,” added Blunk.

Mrs. Gregory takes pride in seeing LBUSD as a place that builds and maintains community and personal connections.

“It is always an honor to have our Laguna Beach High School alumni coming back. It affirms that all of the things our teachers have been teaching them and the maturity they have developed throughout the years comes full circle,” said Gregory.