School is almost done. The 2018-2019 school year is quickly coming to an end as students are finishing up final tests and projects. The big Magnolia tree finally blossomed, representing another beautiful Blairstown spring after a cold, damp winter.
The seniors are anxiously anticipating their graduation, and are getting ready to say goodbye to Blair Academy and their friends. As sad as it is to say farewell to the Class of 2019, the Blair community will get to meet the incoming freshmen as the Class of 2023 in September.
A little under half of the graduating seniors were asked to give some advice to the new freshmen, so their transition to Blair can be a little smoother than the seniors’ might have been.
Here’s what the Class of 2019 had to say:
Matt Bottone ’19:
I think the most important thing for a freshman to do is to not back down from any goal that they have coming into school. They have four years with amazing resources and teachers who are looking to help them out. Whether it be losing weight, taking some advanced classes, or a project that they might feel is too hard to accomplish, they should just go for it. They’ll be happy they started when it’s over and they are reaping the rewards!
Jesse Schable ’19, Gretchen Mayer ’19, and Jess Van Valkenburg ’19:
- Make a bucket list for your senior year and start early.
- For day students: stay as late as you can even if you don’t want to.
- Open up your circle even if it makes you uncomfortable. Even if it’s just one person…in one of your classes, try to form some sort of friendship with them.
- Reach out to your teachers and take advantage of their extra help sessions, ALWAYS.
- Mrs. Hadden = “Superwoman.”
- Conforti = an amazing person to have in your corner. From the start, she’s there to help you. Also: when she says you can show up at her house uninvited, DO IT! You won’t regret it.
Linda Tong ’19:
- Try to pick clubs that you truly enjoy. If at any point you are doing a club because “it looks good for college apps,” or because “it’s good for my resumé,” reconsider. Clubs should be fun: colleges want to know that you are…well-rounded human being, not just a studying/activities machine.
- Limit the number of clubs you’re in (read: QUIT the clubs you are not enjoying or even the clubs you are enjoying but do not have time for).
- Try not to stress too much about leadership positions–if you are a dedicated member, it will show.
The seniors were also given the option to answer a few prompts that I gave. These were their responses:
What classes would you recommend?
- A quote from one of my role models, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld: “Choose classes that interest you. That way studying doesn’t feel like slave labor.” Think less about checking boxes off a list, and just pick what you enjoy.
- Don’t be afraid to explore subjects you have not tried before!
- Strike a good balance between classes with challenging course loads and easier classes that require less work. It’s hard to do well in 6 classes that require a lot of effort on a busy Blair schedule without doing damage to your physical and mental health–you will need to be strategic when you pick your classes and prioritize the subjects you care about.
- For anyone interested in music at all, take AP Music Theory. I didn’t know anything about actual music until I took this class, and I seriously can’t get enough of it. Mr. Manni and Mrs. Pagotto are the greatest power duo EVER. I would also say to take any class with Mr. Brandwood; he is amazing and will make your senior year 100x better.
Jess Van Valkenburg:
- In terms of class recommendations, I would 10/10 recommend Razz’s Pre Calc Honors AB Class. It will definitely suck at times, and you may consider dropping at least once a semester, but you will leave with more knowledge than…in any other math class at Blair. Razz may seem scary, but he’s one of the best people at Blair. Not only will he teach you all you need to know about Blair, but he will teach you many valuable life lessons. I love him so so much!!
- Also, if you get the chance, take AP Psychology with Mrs. Mantegna. Psychology is probably the most interesting subject I’ve pursued at Blair, and Mrs. Mantegna is my mom away from my actual mom. She’s a wonderful teacher, mentor, spin teacher, and friend. D block has been my favorite block of my senior year schedule since day 1, and that’s all thanks to her!!!
How do you connect with your prefects?
- Reach out to your prefects (especially as an underclassman) and talk to them! They give really good advice and enjoy being there for you. I still keep in touch with my Locke and Ivy prefects.
- Bro, reach out to your prefects. They most likely would love to become friends with you! We might not always have all the right answers but we’re so down to lend an ear if you need it.
- Having a good relationship and utilizing your prefects is a way to ensure you have a good first year at Blair. They are there for you and have as big of a friend crush on you as you have on them.
What can help you socialize?
- Don’t be afraid to straddle between multiple friend groups! You don’t need to confine yourself to one group.
- Find your people–I love hanging out with my friends and nerding out over anime, Shakespeare, and math with them. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, so find what works for you.
- Be confident in your own skin!
- Put yourself out there!!!!!!
How can you get out of your comfort zone?
- Strive to be generous, authentic, and vulnerable. I first realized this last year when I gave a TEDx Talk about a very personal topic (neurodiversity). The support I received from my friends and teachers inspired me to give a Chapel about struggling with perfectionism in front of 500 people. It felt so worth it when others approached me afterward to tell me they struggled with the same issues and felt inspired by it.
- Sign up for a sport you have never played before. I was horrible at JV soccer, but the friends I made during that soccer season are still my friends to this day.
- Go to the Skeptics lectures you do not think you would be interested in, [you may surprise yourself].
- Sign up for the history department trips to Intelligence Squared debates or attend a Roundtable. I came into Blair with zero knowledge of (and interest in) politics, but now I try to stay civically engaged by following the latest issues.
- Understand that high school is temporary and no matter how badly you f*ck up here it’s not gonna matter in a few years so you might as well live your best life.
What do you do if you feel homesick?
- If you ever are feeling homesick, journaling has always really helped me. Or talk to a friend you trust.
- Eat food from home!
Who’s a great faculty member to talk with?
- Blair teachers love talking to students, so don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with them. Some of my favorite memories at Blair include talking with Mr. Brandwood about Victorian literature or gushing about Josh Groban with Ms. Litvin.
- Mr. Manni is the greatest and most supportive person ever.
- Get Mrs. Stival on your side: she will fight for you and help you mature like no other.
- The Student Life Office and administrators are your friends!!! Their job is to make you happy and support you: let them.
Coming to a brand new school can be scary and intimidating, especially if it is your first time living away from home. However, the Blair Academy community really tries to make everyone feel welcome and supported. We all care and want everyone to thrive here, so I wish the whole Class of 2023 the best of luck for their next 4 years here at Blair. I hope this advice was helpful.
(Copyright Emma Abbott 2019)