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The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

The Student News Site of The Bishop's School

The Tower

New Student Survival Guide: Essential Tips For New Students’ Success

David Lai
Kellan McDougal (’27) smiled before soccer practice as he said that he is ready to conquer his first year at Bishop’s. He said, “First day, I didn’t know what I was doing. It was [only] my third time on campus [and] I didn’t know where anything was, but there were really nice kids [who] came up to me and said ‘hi welcome in’. They gave me their names and led me around the campus and gave me a full tour.”

With application season for students in full swing at The Bishop’s School, many components come with it, such as filling out an application form, taking the ISEE test, doing an interview, and touring the school. 

Many new student applicants likely wonder what to expect, how to be successful, how to have fun, how to adjust to Bishops, and more. Faculty and students share advice for prospective students on how they can succeed academically, athletically, and socially.

Academics, extracurriculars, and social life are arguably the three most important components of a middle schooler’s and high schooler’s life. Both faculty and students advised new student applicants on how to tackle Bishop’s academic difficulty. Spanish III and IV Honors teacher, ASB Co-Advisor, and Mock Trial Coach Sra. Nicole Uhland said, “Focus on your journey, your goals, and what you want to do, not what your friends are doing or what others want you to do…In real life, you can’t do it all and you will have to say “no” to something, so you might as well do what can do and do it well.”

“A challenge is that there are a lot of incredibly talented people here who are maybe better than you at math or singing… and that can be a real blow to the ego,” said Dean of Students Ms. Michelle Shea. She continued, “My advice is advice that my mother gave me: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. She said it a million times [to me] when I was growing up – to be the best of who you are and spend less time comparing yourself to other people.”

Director of Athletics Coach Paula Conway mentioned that new student applicants once admitted “should take advantage of the resource center, [Director of Teaching & Learning] Dr. Stephanie Ramos, and the people in the library…Your teachers and other people are here to support and help you.”

Students attributed helpful teachers and office hours to their academic successes. Kathleen Owens (‘29), who is in her second year at Bishops, said, “Homework was not as scary as I thought; all of the teachers were super nice and helped me get to where I needed to be even if I messed up.” New student Baron Li (‘27) also said, “Office hours are useful for studying for tests and you can ask teachers questions.” Kellan McDougal (‘27),  who’s also new to Bishops this year,  added that there’s been “not too much homework [since] teachers have been integrating it into the year quite well” while also saying that teachers have included him in group activities and discussions.

Alongside office hours, Ms. Shea mentioned student-teacher relationships. She said, “Students should seek out time that is more casual time [like] talking about your favorite movie and not just asking about problems …A lot of teachers on this campus really like to spend time with their students and know them beyond their understanding of the Pythagorean Theorem.”

Hand in hand with the importance of student-teacher bonds, Gerard also mentioned office hours. “It was something [that] I didn’t want to do at the start since it was new,” he said. “But you have to go to office hours because when you go, you can ask questions about the material which is helpful, but the biggest thing is that you can build [a] relationship with the teacher.”

Many Bishop’s teachers are also coaches for some of Bishop’s sports teams. To help familiarize new high school students with coaches, teachers, students, and the school, Coach Conway said that it’s always helpful to participate in a fall sport for a few reasons: since they usually start in the summer, it allows new students to meet other students and coaches and it also allows them to familiarize themselves with the campus. 

For new middle school students, she said, “Try all the sports you can in middle school. If you play a lot of sports outside of school, do art or theater or something else [during] X period that might give you a taste of doing something different.”

In April, right after students get accepted, Coach Conway hosts a meeting called “Introduction to Upper School Sports” where she goes through the clearance process, the general flow of the school year, the sports that are offered, and more. She also recommended looking on the Bishop’s website to see all the sports that Bishop offers for both middle school and high school. 

With Physical Education (P.E.) requirements for high schoolers and sports or art choices for middle schoolers during X period, most have to balance academics and extracurriculars. Coach Conway gave her advice: “It is helpful if you do take a summer class so that you have a free period in your day. Using that free period to get a lot of studying done is important.” She also said, “Use your time wisely. For example, if you take the bus home, maybe do your reading on the way home or do some of your homework on travel times.”

Also touching on efficiency, Sra. Uhland said, “Time management [is important]. Make sure you check Blackbaud to see what your assignments are. Make sure you stay on top of it and communicate with your teacher in advance if you’re in a pinch because the reality is that teachers know you are human and you might have a conflict. It is better to be proactive instead of reactive.” 

Also advising on how to balance academics and extracurriculars, Ms. Shea said, “Focusing on sports for a period of time after school is a great way to relieve some academic pressure. Extracurricular activities are a great place to connect and find a small community on campus. Teams can be a positive influence, [for example], if you’re in Acting Workshop, Performing Dance Group (PDG) or whatever, they create a real sense of ownership of the campus and belonging.” Kellan agreed and mentioned that soccer helped him adjust to Bishops. 

At Bishop’s, it’s not just about grades; the sports teams, arts groups, and more create a supportive social life beyond the classroom. Discussing her experience so far, Kathleen said, “I made a lot of friends here that I hadn’t met before.” Baron also mentioned the community as being great and helping him adjust. 

Regarding the student and teacher community at Bishop’s, Ms. Shea said, “We have a student services team who are on the lookout for students who seem to need extra support. We are always asking advisors, ‘Hey, have you noticed a change in one of your advisees or someone who is struggling in class who wasn’t struggling before?’ We try to build a community where it is difficult to fall between the cracks.” 

Gerard Blake (‘24) offered his advice for new student applicants as to how to join social circles. He said, “Talk to people and see who has your interests and what social group fits you. At Bishop’s, people are pretty nice…I think there is a place for everyone.” Gerard later said, “[Join] clubs that you [are] interested in, don’t just sit there and hang out. [It’s] also a way to meet people… Choose a few clubs you really like [and] odds are that your friends may be in it and you will start to enjoy it.”

Both Kellan and Ms. Shea mentioned advisory as being a place to make one’s first friends and for Kellan, they were the group of people who welcomed him to Bishop, and showed him around the school. Ms. Shea also said, “We have two counselors [Director of Counseling Mrs. Megan Broderick and School Counselor Ms. Lauren Gray] who are really well versed in talking with students through hard times, anxiety, stress, or feelings of being overwhelmed.”

Part of the social life of Bishops is the traditions and the holidays Bishop celebrates. Ms. Shea mentioned Bish Bowl, retreats, and the Christmas tree lighting. For Bish Bowl, Ms. Shea touched on the sports games, barbeque, and also the walk to La Jolla High which she said “is something that people love and reflect fondly upon every single year.”

Through her experience, Ms. Shea said, “The Christmas tree lighting is a great event and really festive and fun. The singing that goes on there is beautiful [and] I think it’s a lovely tradition.” Being an advisor herself with two new students in her advisory, she got to go on their local retreat. She reflected, “[The two new students] thought retreats were great to meet a million new people [while] away from the academic stress and finding their feet.”

Being ASB co-advisor, Sra. Uhland mentioned Bish Bowl, homecoming, team bonding games, and spirit events as some of her favorite things ASB organizes. As ASB represents the student body, Sra. Uhland said, “We are there to help welcome new students and applicants and share a little bit about the heart of Bishops… Also, we are there to have a familiar face when someone is new [since] it is nice to have a few people you recognize and people you can go to if you have questions.”

In the end, Sra. Uhland said, “Enjoy the process [and] recognize that you are unique and there is no one like you. Be the best version of yourself and learn the skills that will help you be successful in your dreams and goals, [while also] allowing downtime and fun, which is absolutely necessary and important.”   important.” 

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About the Contributor
David Lai
David Lai, Staff Writer
David Lai, the only returning staff writer, is a junior who loves playing soccer. No matter if he sleeps one hour or 10 hours, he always has a full tank of energy.  He loves MUN, speech and debate, and knows how to speak four languages. Whether he is hanging out with friends, talking to his siblings, doing homework, playing video games or soccer, David is always energetic. He loves writing about sports, politics, MUN, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and more. 

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