Dear My Freshman Self

I recently read the letter you wrote to me, your senior self, when you were about to start high school at Menlo. You were long-winded, idealistic, and, yes, very nervous. You included two pages of motivational quotes, a long list of goals including a 4.0 GPA and a desire to start on the water polo team, and even predictions about the four years that lay ahead.

Fostering Health and Well-Being in Student-Athletes

Student-athletes at Head-Royce School face stressful challenges balancing the demands of school and sports. As an initiative to improve student-athletes’ health and well being, Challenge Success Club members decided to host a student-led H block discussing the issues and struggles of being a student-athlete in November 2017.

A Senior’s Perspective: Success in High School

Everyone wants to be successful in high school. Success comes in a variety of ways: academic success, social success, financial success (except babysitting hasn’t really been cutting it). But the kind of success that I’m describing is not something that comes in the form of a transcript or an Instagram post with this or that person. A couple of weeks ago, as college notifications were rolling out, my friend and I had a long chat and reflected on the end of high school. The conclusion we came to was one that will always stick with me: the people who truly succeed in high school are the ones that can look back and say “Wow, I had a blast doing the things I loved and I would not change a single thing.”

We Need to Challenge the Verb “Achieve”

On the wall of the library, a discolored gray slab of concrete with chipped gold paint proclaims our school motto: “Achieve the Honorable.” It glares down upon an expansive collection of books, each awaiting a curious student. It hangs above shining computers, the drab concrete words contrasting sharply with the innovative technology. It lords over students who scramble to fulfill society’s lofty expectations for success, scribbling last-minute homework to the rhythm of “achieve, achieve, achieve.”

A Student’s Perspective: The Importance of a Caring Community

On paper, Castilleja is not so different from other schools. There are other private schools, even all-girl schools, that can claim the same benefits and advantages that Casti can. At least, I used to think this was the case. A few weeks ago, I discussed the practice of Senior Talks with a friend from a different school. Her school is much like Castilleja – small, all –girls, but located in a different state. They also have senior talks, where seniors speak about an important experience or idea that they want to convey to their peers, in a speech that is often moving and deeply personal. However, at my friend’s school, the best senior talks get voted on in a competition to win scholarship money. At Castilleja, the only prize you get for a senior talk or 8th grade speech is flowers …

Busywork Blues

This was written by a student (and friend) involved with Challenge Success. We appreciate his wlllingness to share his personal story with us. In the living room of my parent’s house there is a table worn smooth from the weight of books and spotted with flocks of pen tip indentations. This of course is the dreaded “Homework Table,” which sustained nearly two decades of use by both me and my older brother. It is from this table that I would often depart early in the morning, only to return again later—after school was out, after tennis practice was out, well after sundown. Although I explicitly remember spending what constituted a significant portion of my adolescence at this table, I am hard pressed to recall the specifics of any of the actual assignments. Granted, this retrospection is a few years removed, it still brings up an interesting question: if the overwhelming majority of homework is busywork, why assign it at all? While each of the papers t …

Friendships 2.0

This was written by a student (and friend) involved with Challenge Success. We appreciate his wlllingness to share his personal story with us. I don’t have a Facebook account. Anymore. About two years ago, I deleted it in a move which has since brought me a lot of weird looks and comments about how “out of the loop” I have become. People complain that I am now “hard to reach” and wonder how I manage to stay “in touch.” Which I all find very interesting. Because I have a phone. And an email address. And even a P.O. Box. And I also live on the same campus as them. It is almost as if the rules of social interaction have been rewritten. Apparently, it is no longer socially acceptable to get by with seeing people face to face. So what is it about these new platforms that makes them such a crucial part of day to day life? Why do I really need one? And how did it get to the point where I found that they were actually hu …

The Allure of Perfectionism

This was written by a student (and friend) involved with Challenge Success. We appreciate his wlllingness to share his personal story with us. High school was the first time where I ever saw something other than a straight line on my transcript. I was shocked. But I should have seen it coming. My entire semester of AP calculus had been a grating experience, but being the stubborn student I was, I refused to really do much about it. Although I didn’t fail the class, seeing the physical manifestation of my struggles printed on an official document was a particularly humbling experience—especially because it was in a subject that I never expected to have difficulty in. In middle school I had been placed in an accelerated algebra class with a dozen other kids under the assumption that we would all be able to thrive in advanced courses designed for students two years our senior. The first few years weren’t easy, but still reasonably challenging, and I fou …

The Right Fit vs. Collecting Colleges as Trophies: A Student’s Perspective on College Applications

For me, the college applications process started early and finished late. And it was anything but easy. I “narrowed” my top choices to a list of 19, and I started mailing out my apps the summer before my senior year of high school. By the time that the school year had even started, I was already getting admissions letters in the mail. But 19 sounded absurd to me, even at the time. After all, wasn’t I only going to end up going to one? And this is only one example of the handful of likeminded questions that were running through my head. The more I considered it, the less it made sense. But at the same time there was something speaking louder, which I couldn’t resist: the pressure to conform. I wanted to be a part of the college frenzy that was running rampant throughout my high school. I mean, it had started harmlessly enough—a few kids with Princeton shirts in middle school, rumors of summer camps at Duke—but by the time senior year rolled around, …