By Jessica Caterson
In the days leading up to her first day of high school, Morgan Prior was just like every other rising freshman: kinda nervous, intimidated, and strangely excited. After attending cross country captain practices over the summer, she had spoken at length with upperclassmen about their freshman horror stories and experiences, most of which didn’t help with her nerves. Despite this, Morgan was grateful for the camaraderie of having teammates as she began high school.
“I was intimidated by going to school with people who are four years older than I was,” Morgan said, “but having cross country made a lot of those fears disappear. It gave me familiar faces in a new place which was really nice.”
Cross country was one of Morgan’s main focuses as a freshman. Contrary to popular belief, Morgan didn’t begin really thinking about her academic future until sophomore year. “As a freshman, I was more relaxed academically,” she reflected. “I wasn’t very future focused, or one of those kids that knew they had to go to a certain school or anything like that.” A self-proclaimed “repressed nerd,” freshman Morgan found it challenging to make close friends. “You know, in middle school, close friendships were limited by the team structure, but then, at the high school, it became more of a free for all in respects to who you had classes with. Because you meet people from different grades and even people in your own grade that you may not have known before, it becomes so much easier to find the people who you really click with,” she reflected. Laughing, she added, “I’m definitely not repressed anymore. Now I’m like a full nerd.”
Clubs also played a big part in helping Morgan break out of her shell. By surrounding herself with like-minded people, Morgan found it easier to be herself and meet new people.
“Over the four years, I got more comfortable with both introducing myself to new people and having conversations in order to network,” she said. Specifically, Mrs. Page’s clubs and classes provided Morgan with opportunities to practice these skills. “I found myself taking classes and participating in activities so that I could learn from [Mrs. Page]. She had such a big impact on me.” Morgan credits Mrs. Page with sparking her passions for finance, economics, and business, all of which would act as a guiding force in her college decision process.
Morgan’s goals for college vastly changed as she made her way through high school. As a freshman, Morgan remained largely unbothered by the future, choosing instead to live in the present. And, looking back, Morgan doesn’t think this was a bad thing. “When I was a freshman, I did things because I was interested in them,” she said. “But, as I got older, I thought I had to only do things that were in line with my future goals. Before I set those, I was a little bit more free with what I did. Sometimes I think being so focused on the future wrecks the present moment.”
Once Morgan reached sophomore year, she started really focusing on her academics, leaving her present-centered mentality behind. At the time, her goal was an Ivy League school, and she knew she would have to work really hard to get there. However, this goal was short-lived. As she was researching schools, Morgan began to realize that a school’s name doesn’t correspond to whether or not it was the right fit for her. “By the time I was applying, I realized that I wanted to go to a place where I would be a really good fit, no matter where that falls on the prestige scale,” she said.
Towards the end of junior year, Morgan knew that she wanted to study economics or finance. Her interests led her to a diverse list of schools, including places such as the University of Chicago, Washington University in St. Louis, a smattering of schools in Boston, and URI. “I followed what I wanted and liked rather than what was expected of me,” she said. “I think that really allowed for me to find the school that was my personal best fit.” In the fall of her senior year, Morgan applied early to as many schools as she could, wanting to hear back from them as soon as possible. Even though she was deferred from her first choice, the University of Chicago, she was accepted into almost all of the other schools she applied to, so she never felt much disappointment. After she received her regular decision wave of acceptance letters, Morgan felt pretty confident that she would be attending Washington University in St. Louis.
However, in March, Morgan received news that URI had granted her a full scholarship based on her outstanding resume and academic performance. While she was extremely grateful for the opportunity, it made her college decision process more challenging. “I never thought I would go to school so close to home, and I never really saw myself at URI,” she said. But, after evaluating the pros and cons of her options, her choice became clear.
“I had schools that would cost me a ton of money, or I could have this awesome scholarship where I would graduate debt free. Especially given the times, when no one knows what our fall is going to look like, I went with the debt-free option,” she explained. Morgan’s decision was also influenced by the extensive opportunities the scholarship presented her with. As a recipient of the Alfred J. Verrecchia scholarship, Morgan will be able to meet with Verrecchia, the CEO of Hasbro and a former EG resident, every year and have access to an immense network of industry professionals. Additionally, Morgan will have the opportunity to study abroad fully paid and have an alumni business mentor.
At URI, Morgan plans to double major in finance or economics and computer science. She loves the skills learned in both majors and thinks they both help in learning and applying knowledge in the other subject. “I like computer science, I like coding, and I think that’s something I want to learn more about, but I’m not sure if that’s solely the career for me,” she explained. “I think it’s a good supplement to an economics or finance degree because there’s definitely overlap in the types of math that you’d do and types of problems that you’re solving.” Morgan hopes that her degree can help her land a job in the field of risk analysis or analytical finance. She also sees herself going to graduate school, but she is unsure of when. “It’s hard to say what the economy and job market will look like in the next four years, especially because of the pandemic,” she said. “Depending on what’s happening, I may end up going [to graduate school] right after college or working for a while and then going. It just really depends.”
Despite the hardships of the pandemic, Morgan didn’t let circumstance take away from her senior year. If anything, she believes that the situation has only brought her closer to her classmates and her community. “I think it made me appreciate the EG community more,” she said. “Everyone has worked so hard for us seniors to have the best graduation possible, and I think it’s really cool to see everyone rallying behind us and showing their support.” Morgan has taken the last few months as a learning experience. For her, it was the perfect opportunity to practice flexibility and agility in the present with her goals. While Morgan will most certainly miss the warmth and familiarity of EGHS, she’s excited to meet new people and experience new things.
Best of luck to you, Morgan! You will be dearly missed!
Jessica Caterson is a member of the EGHS Class of 2021 and editor of The Spectrum.
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Congratulations Morgan. Much happiness and success in all your future endeavors. Mrs Volpe