Montverde Academy’s Alumni and Development Office has been reaching out to recent MVA alumni to learn more about their current lives and life aspirations since graduating from Montverde Academy.  Hans William Alexander Hanley, a native of Syracuse, New York, currently living in Windermere, Florida, was the Valedictorian Montverde Academy Class of 2014.   Hans has begun his second year at Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey) enrolled in their Engineering program. At Montverde Academy, Hans was a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) SAC (Study Area Concentration) Diploma program student, and active in many MVA organizations and clubs – including his membership with the Montverde Academy Academic Team for several years.  Hans was also a 2014 Semifinalists in the 59th annual National Merit Scholarship Program.  The following set of questions are from an interview conducted with Hans last month:

      1.       What do you wish you would have known “your first day” of college/university?

I really wish I had known the importance of planning. In high school, my school days were already planned out for me and did not require any serious amount of forethought; but in college, I really needed to prioritize my schedule and make time for activities that I really wanted to do. You really can’t be a part of every single organization and club that you want to. You actually have to seriously determine what the most important things to you are.

      2.       How did the Academy’s curriculum prepare you for college/university life?

Montverde Academy really taught me how to be a student. Montverde gave me the ability to really discipline myself and apply myself to my studies.  The information that I learned at Montverde was less important than the skills that they taught me.  I really must thank three teachers in particular that sharpened my critical thinking skills: Mr. Parets, Mr. Urquhart, and Mrs. Moore.  Having the ability to take a problem or an article and analyze it was invaluable in my first year of college.

      3.       What else do you feel you need to learn as you continue your academic life and prepare for your work career?

Something I found that that is of essential value is being able to market myself and my ideas.  Everyone at Princeton is amazingly adept in a wide variety of skills and academic disciplines. However, being able to communicate and present your ideas is what separates those who are successful from those that are not. Presenting myself in a way that is not only full of depth but is also concise and effective is one the most important skills that I still need to develop.

      4.       What are some of the toughest problems you have had to deal with as a college student?

I really had to learn how to balance my extracurricular activities with my schoolwork. In Princeton, there is always some event going on or some famous person visiting, whether it is Google career fair or a President Jimmy Carter book signing.  Combine that with all the different student groups and it becomes difficult to take advantage of all the different opportunities available.

      5.       What influenced your decision to attend your college/university school of choice?

I really had a wide range of colleges that I could have chosen, but deciding factor was how I felt on the campus.  Princeton really felt not only the most comfortable to me, but also gave me a feeling of belonging that I did not experience at any of the other colleges that I visited.  It had not only excellent academics but also a wonderful community and a beautiful campus.  When I initially came to Princeton the first time in my junior year of high school, I felt Princeton was a school that I could call home.

      6.       How much interaction do you still have with other students you graduated with from MVA?

I still have a good amount of interaction with my friends from Montverde.  Although when I am at college it is more difficult to stay in contact with most of them, I have been able, especially during breaks, to enjoy their company.

      7.       In your own experiences, what are some attributes of individuals/students who are most successful?

Nearly all the students who are the most successful are the ones who take academic risks, take classes that are outside of their usual scope, and take advantage of the plethora of different viewpoints of their professors and fellow students.  By learning things from people with other viewpoints and ideas, they are able to further themselves both inside and outside the classroom.  By taking classes that are usually considered outside of their depth or scope, they manage to apply often creative solutions to problems in their primary classes. This open-mindedness I believe is key to academic success.

      8.        Most colleges/universities possess strong leadership, diversity, and outstanding curriculums. What makes your school unique?

Princeton is truly unique among other schools because of its focus on undergraduates.  Because Princeton does not have a very large graduate school, most of its resources are allocated to the undergraduate students.  Because of this, I often have had the opportunity to get to know my professors and to also have funding for almost any project or interest that I have.

       9.       How strong is alumni support at your college/university?

The alumni at my college are absolutely amazing!  Every semester, students have the opportunity to attend “Princeternships”  – which are basically short term internships over academic breaks that allow students to shadow Princeton alumni.  It really is a great way to get a feel for any field in which you are interested.  Princeton alumni seem to always be visiting the campus and giving advice to undergrads.  Every school year ends in Princeton Reunions that get together Princeton alumni from all of the world and stretching all the way back to the 1930s!  Princeton alumni are everywhere and they always are willing to give any undergraduates a helping hand.

      10.      If you had to do all over again, what would you do differently as a student at MVA?

I definitely would have tried to explore more of my interests outside of my immediate academic environment. Princeton has truly exposed me to many different experiences stretching from robotics to Christian fellowship and to political activism.  My first year has taught me the need to not only get involved in activities localized to my own immediate circle but to also involve myself in my community.  There is so much more I wish I had been exposed to in high school.