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Seniors Reflect on Their High School Experiences and Share Wisdom with Sophomores
Rachel Freeman, communications/website manager

Being open-minded is really key. It tends to feel like you have one path for success. But if you look for things that are really exciting for you even if they aren’t in your "master plan" for high school, I think that things can really surprise you and there’s a lot you’ll learn. — Chloe K. ’20

In this unsettled time, it can be hard to maintain connections that would otherwise happen naturally in person. Upper School students have been working hard to help each other maintain these connections and create new ones. The Kindness Club has started a weekly email, “Our Weekly Fluff,” which includes a share-out of submitted “Wonderful Happenings” as well as an opportunity for students to share appreciations for one another. 

Sophomore grade-level representative Andrew C. recognized the need to create connections between his sophomore peers and the senior class. He worked with senior grade-level representative Nico L. to make this happen just before spring break through a Zoom question-and-answer panel.  

“I had heard a lot from other sophomores about anxiety about college and academic life in general, and especially during these uncertain times,” Andrew said. “I thought it would be helpful to be able to discuss these topics with seniors who had just completed the college application process and are also struggling with the same remote learning challenges as we are.” 

Ahead of the event, sophomores submitted questions they were interested in hearing about from the panelists: being upperclassmen and general high school information, what to do during the summer, life after high school, and the college admissions process. Seniors Camille G., Max G., Chloe K., Nico, Maddie P. volunteered their time to join the panel. 

“How does the workload change from sophomore year to junior and senior years?” Andrew asked to begin the conversation. 

Chloe replied, “I didn’t see a huge change in my workload. I think Nueva teachers are pretty good at knowing where you’re at and how much work you can take on. I think things got busier for me because as I found what extracurriculars I was most interested and what things I wanted to spend my time doing, I increased my involvement in them. So if I found clubs I was interested in, I tried to find more ways to contribute. A natural part of high school is finding what you really want to spend your time doing.”

Throughout the conversation, seniors shared personal experiences and advice for their Upper School peers. “The internship or summer opportunity [that you pursue] doesn’t have to exist before you do it,” Max said. “I reached out to a marine biologist because that’s what I’m interested in, and he created an opportunity for me. More often than not, when you email people who are interested in the same things you are, they’ll find something for you to do.

On exploring passions and interests, Camille shared, “Nueva is an interesting place because I don’t think anyone here is alone in their interests. Even if you think it’s a small community, people are willing to participate with you and people care if you are passionate about it.”

Other pieces of advice the seniors shared: 

  • On being in the present moment: “Enjoy yourself and where you’re at in the moment. Try not to stress too much about the future and other things going on because everyone at Nueva is so amazing and everything ends up working out.” — Chloe
  • On figuring out what courses to take: “If you go up to your teachers and ask them what class they think you could take next if you’re interested in your current class, it’s very helpful.” — Maddie
  • On the importance of self-care: “Don’t get too caught up in schoolwork. Try to have fun and enjoy high school. I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to be the most impressive you can be all the time. But also prioritize self care a lot. Make sure that you’re good. If you do impressive things but are not in your best form, that’s less impressive than taking care of yourself.” — Camille
  • On permission to relax: “Don’t overstretch yourself. Give yourself time to relax.” — Nico
  • On starting a club or other opportunity at Nueva: “Consult a teacher or mentor who can give you advice and help you get things off the ground.” — Maddie
  • On finding the right college: “Don’t get yourself locked into any one particular school. It’s not about what school has the most brand recognition or the most clout. The most important question to ask yourself is ‘Will I be comfortable here?’” — Camille

Michaela Danek, 10th-grade dean, praised the panelists for their contributions. 

“In spite of this being a particularly challenging time for seniors who might be grieving the ways that their senior year expectations are not coming to reality, the students in the panel were really thoughtful in responding to student questions,” she said.

Andrew added, “I think we've all had older classmates or even college counseling tell us before to not stress over college, especially so early in high school, but I thought it was uniquely comforting to hear the seniors reinforce this message, as they had just gone through this process. I also feel much more optimistic about remote learning, as well as being able to have a fulfilling high school experience and find a college that fits me.”

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