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Advice to Underclassmen

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Dear freshmen,

Let the start of your freshman year be the start of a new and improved you. High school can be daunting if you don’t adapt to the workload and the style of your teachers. No teacher in the upper school is the same, which is why being proactive and using the many resources this school offers is of he utmost importance. Plan now before problems arrive. If work begins to pile up and stress accumulates, ask for help! You can always meet with your teachers. Meeting with your teacher is a skill that you must have if you plan to succeed. When going to a teacher, preparing to meet is just as important as meeting. This means that your conversation should be guided around what questions and struggles you have, rather than just simply saying “I need help” or “I don’t understand.” To do this, go with specific questions and individual problems to maximize efficiency and show your teachers that you want to improve, rather than are forced to ask for help. Another vital resource is your classmates, preferably upperclassmen. Like I said, no teacher is the same, so asking older students for advice about a certain class or teacher gives a whole new perspective. Teachers are obviously great resources to ask about study habits, but if you are uncomfortable with speaking with teachers, you can always ask students who went through the class and know the best ways to prepare based on their own successes and failures?

Beyond specific study habits and tactics, however, there are many general ones. Here in the Upper School it is rare for teachers to give study guides preparing you for each assessment, which may differ from past school experiences. This calls for the need of a notebook with well-written and organized notes. As Mr. Aliazzi put it, “a notebook is like a map of unfamiliar terrain; lacking an adequate map, you can get lost quickly.” Taking good notes is a skill that requires practice, but here are some tips to speed up the process. First, it is important that your notebook is organized. Labeling the overall unit, the specific topic, and the date are three key ways to save time and allow for better understanding when reviewing notes for an upcoming assessment. Next, a notebook is not about transcribing but about thinking. Meaning you’re not a court reporter, so don’t waste your energy reciting every word the teacher says. Instead write summarized points that support the overarching topic or questions for the given unit. Finally, don’t take notes to take notes, instead make sure you understand the relationship between the things that  the teacher is explaining. This means asking questions when you are confused, and more importantly reading and reviewing these notes outside of class to ensure understanding. Another skill that both allows for better preparation and minimal stress is time management. Postponing homework until you get home is unintelligent. The best students take advantage of their time in school by finding a beneficial study space and camping out there during all free periods. As fun as monkey island can be, save yourself early on in the year and venture to a quiet space like the library in all free periods and as many opposite lunches and extensions you deem necessary.

These are just a few of the many important skills needed to succeed in the upper school. To review, the best ways to get a jump on your freshmen year are being proactive, seeking advice from teachers and upperclassmen, taking good notes, and proper time management. To further your understanding feel free to stop me (or any other upperclassmen) in the halls for any help you may need!

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Advice to Underclassmen