How to Make the Most of Your Upper School Experience: Seniors Give Advice to Freshmen

Posted by Rebecca Moore - 17 December, 2012

Seniors give advice to freshmen.“Every day at Randolph,” says Brent Bell, Head of Upper School, “an adult suggests to a student that they take a risk or try something new. While I believe that our students hear what we, the adults, are saying, hearing this from us does not have the same impact as it does when they hear something similar from a peer.

"Today we celebrated one of the best events we host in the Upper School, the Freshman-Senior Panel Discussion. This session allows seniors, in the last leg of the Randolph journey, to share advice from their experience with the freshman just beginning their Upper School careers.”

The Freshman-Senior Panel was chaired by Ryan Liese, 9/10 Dean. Of this year’s eight panel members, half were lifers, two had come in Middle School and two in Upper School. The panelists were Student Government Association President James Park; Lillie Brown, now serving her fourth year as Class President; Honor Council President Elise Nelson; and classmates with a range of interests and experiences at Randolph, Troy McMichens, Brinn Loftin, Sanders Clayton, Will Laidig and Michael Gross.

Some advice was philosophical, some practical and, again, better delivered by a peer than a parent or an educational expert. When asked at the end of the discussion what final piece of advice they would give to the 9th graders, Michael said, “Get a lot of sleep.”

Mr. Liese: How?

Michael: Go to bed!

Mr. Liese started off by asking students what had meant the most to them about their experience. Answers included, “friendship and memories,” “getting to know everyone in the Upper School,” and “finding my Randolph family.”

What is your biggest regret?

Mr. Liese thinks one message that the seniors invariably deliver, urging the 9th graders to take advantage of opportunities available to them, is one that Upper School faculty especially want the freshmen to hear. And hopefully they did.

Will: Not taking advantage of everything that Randolph has to offer. For example, I really like basketball but I never played here and Randolph is a school where I could have played.

Brinn: Not being more involved. Even if you have a lot of commitments after school, there are things that you can get involved with during the day.

James: Not showing up enough at school athletic events.

"Why does showing up matter?" asked Mr. Liese.

Troy, a varsity football and basketball player, said “The crowds at football this year were awesome. We’d never had that much support before. It meant a lot to know that people were behind us and wanted us to succeed.”

What classes and activities have meant the most?

Will: Baseball, because of my teammates.

Elise: English and history. Take Capstone. Best class ever. We study everything. Science, music, history, art, English, all rolled into one. And, at the end, you get to concentrate on one thing that you really like.

James: Since Elise has mentioned academics, then I'll say fine arts: theater and choir.

Brinn: Take foreign language all four years. I didn’t take it this year and I am regretting it.

Sanders: Band has been my favorite class. It has kids from every grade and it’s like another Randolph family.

What advice do you have about the 9th grade Chicago trip and Interim?

Brinn: Do a career exploration.

James: Don’t limit yourself to what is available in Huntsville. You can go to another city. You can combine a trip with an internship. You can go with a friend. I’m going to New York this year. It’s a great way to learn what you’re interested in.

Will: I did a local Interim trip that included volunteering for three hours a day at the Boys and Girls Club. It was great getting to know the kids, helping them with homework, hanging out with them and learning about their lives.

Michael: If you’re listening to us talk about our regrets and thinking that you should avoid things, then that’s wrong. I didn’t really enjoy my career exploration, but I’m still really happy that I did it. Don’t try to avoid things you think you’ll regret. You should be happy when you don’t like something because that helps define you as much as something you do enjoy.

What comments do you have on the honor system? Since Elise has been talking about it all year, I want to hear from the rest of you. Brinn, coming here from public school what’s different about being at a school with an honor system?

Brinn: Thanks for putting me on the spot, Mr. Liese!

Mr. Liese: That’s why you’re here.

Brinn: Well, honestly, you should be thankful that you have an honor council. Coming from public school, where you could do whatever, you don’t want that. You really don’t want that. Here, you leave your purse out, no one will touch it. You can’t do that anywhere else. It's just different. Here, your teachers have so much trust in you and that’s also so different. The teachers really care about you and care about your learning and your future. They want you to succeed. The Honor Council helps all of that. Be thankful.

Lillie: There’s a great bond of trust between all of us.

Sanders: When you get here as a freshman and hear about the Honor Council, it can sound like a big, scary thing, but their goal is to make you a better person for when you go out into the real world where no one will be responsible for you. Outside of the Randolph bubble, you’re on your own. It’s nice to know that people here are looking out for you. The Honor Council is not out to get you. If you cheat, you are really just cheating yourself. It’s such a great thing that our school has going for it. It’s a learning experience. Having an Honor Code sets you up for success in the real world.

“It’s teaching you responsibility,” James added. He urged students to be clear about what was being expected of them in their assignments, whether work was supposed to be completed independently or whether you were meant to work with others. “If you don’t understand, just ask.”

“That’s one of my big regrets,” Sanders added, “not taking advantage of the relationships you can have with your teachers. If you’re confused, go talk to them. Don’t tiptoe around assuming things. Take advantage of the small class sizes. The relationships that I do have with some of my teachers are one of the big things I’ll take from here.”

James: Teachers will listen. They are all advisors. They will try to help you solve your problems. Don’t be afraid of talking to them.

What’s one piece of advice you have for the 9th graders?

Elise: Don’t wish away your time while you’re here. Make friends with everyone, not just older kids. Enjoy your time in high school. If you’re feeling like you don’t want to be here, get involved in something.

James: Don’t get stressed about everything. Have fun. Find the balance between fun and your academics.

Will: You don’t want to go to either extreme. But don’t forget, this is when it counts. Between now through your senior year is going to make the biggest difference about where you go to college and your life.

Troy: Try something new. Step out of your comfort zone. You could find your calling. And even if you don’t you’ll be glad that you put yourself out there.

Brinn: Don’t take it for granted. You’re so lucky, and I say this coming from public school… for everything that you have, that we’ve already touched on. I would also say use your time and your free periods wisely.

Lillie: Make this place your home. Get to know everyone by name. Know everyone in your grade. You’ll enjoy your year more.

Sanders: School will be what you make it. Don’t be grumpy about trivial things. Enjoy it. Have impact!

When we return from the Winter Break, the senior class will hear advice about the next four years in their lives from a panel of young alumni, now in college, who will speak about making a successful transition from Randolph to a variety of college campuses around the country.

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Topics: 12th grade, 9th grade, Academics, Arts, Athletics, community, family, freshmen, honor, Interim, Off-campus, teachers, traditions, Upper School, People

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