Q&A Advice Column

Amelia Scharff

Dear Q&A,

How can I meet more of the new 9th graders in a friendly but not weird way if I don’t have classes with any of them?! Lol. Also do we have a 9th grade dance this year?

Q: Hey! It can definitely be tough meeting new people and trying to build friendships when you don’t see them very often. You can always go up and introduce yourself to someone. A convenient time to introduce yourself would be when you see a friend of yours with a new ninth grader. You can go up to them, greet your friend and then introduce yourself to whomever they are with. That is a great an opportunity for introductions because you will most likely feel more comfortable since your friend is there. Then, you can say ‘hi’ to that person around campus. I completely understand how you feel. Sometimes, I get nervous too because someone might think it’s weird if I say hi to them when we don’t know each other well or at all for that matter. However, generally, people like when someone says hi to them and it can make them feel good! Be friendly to that person, ask them questions, sit with them in the library, eat lunch with them, etc. You might have to step out of your comfort zone at first, but this is an opportunity for you to make new friends and to grow! Lastly, yes, we do have a 9th grade dance this year, which I believe is happening in the Spring and should be a lot of fun!

A: Hi! I’m sure you have classes with at least some new ninth graders- you should start there. Begin by by just introducing yourself in a natural way. Ask them questions to see what they like, and the next time you see them around campus, say hi. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to say hi to someone you’ve never met them before, however it is the most important step to making new friends. It’s also important to know that most people, especially new ninth graders who are looking for new friends, will be more receptive than you might think. In terms of making friends who you don’t have classes with, try asking mutual friends with new ninth graders to introduce you to them. Also remember the bus rides to the Upper School for sports or after school activities are a great way to meet new people. Maybe sit with someone new on the bus ride or partner up with someone new during sports practice. Another way to get to know new students is by going to clubs during break. Not only will you meet new people, but you will also meet people who have the same interests as you! Just remember to always be friendly and warm. We also are having a ninth grade dance this year!

Dear Q&A,

My parents are putting a lot of pressure on me to do three sports this year. As I’m in ninth grade, I know I will be too stressed out and won’t have enough time to relax. I’ve tried to tell my parents that there will be too much on my plate this year, but they say it will look good on college applications. What should I do? Thanks.

Q: Hi! Wow, three sports is a lot, and I understand that is a huge commitment along with the stress of school work. If you know which sport you are the most passionate about, try telling that to your parents. Let them know you really love that one sport and want to focus on it. Tell them that if you only do one, then you will work your very hardest, without the pressure of the other two sports. Tell them you want to be the best you possibly can at that one sport and simultaneously will try to get really good grades. Also, try letting them know there is a lot on your plate right now with practice and sports games, homework, studying and schoolwork. I really hope this helps!

A: Hi! I really understand that you feel like you would be stressed with three sports. I want to let you know that colleges like proficiency and dedication to one area. Maybe you should try speaking with your dean about how stressed you might feel this year. The deans might be able to help you facilitate a conversation with your parents, or they could help you manage your workload to help relieve stress. I hope this helps.

Dear Q&A, how do you deal with stress during the school year?

Q: The first thing I do is organize my time efficiently. During the school day, I do as much homework as I can. I don’t always want to spend my free period doing that, or maybe I’m just not in the mood to, but doing my homework really helps. This way, when I get home after sports practice, I don’t have as much homework to do so I can study and try to go to bed at a reasonable time. I organize my time by writing what I have to do on a Google Keep Checklist throughout the day. Also, I’m always planning out when I’m going to do my work for each class. I write on my calendar/agenda the days I have my tests and keep that on my desk at home so I can always see it. This gives me a better idea of when I should start studying, so then I am not cramming everything in to the last two nights or even the night before the test. Another thing I do is talk to people who support me. I talk to my mom and let her know everything that happened in my day. This helps by allowing me to release my feelings and any built up emotions. I talk to my friends at school and also on the phone with friends who don’t go to Harvard-Westlake. I try to make fun plans with friends on the weekend. Your happiness is very important. We all have a lot of work and studying, but we need to be able to relax sometimes and have fun.

A: One way I deal with stress during the school year is through self-care. I make schedules on my computer through Google Keep, and it helps me organize my day and it helps by making me feel less overwhelmed with all the things I have to do. Not only that, but it also helps me set aside time to have some “me” time, which is crucial to staying mentally healthy and feeling less stressed. Every night before I go to sleep, I set aside an hour or 45 minutes to watch Netflix, which really helps me relax and feel less stress. I also make time to get a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night, which makes me feel much better and it makes it easier to focus at school, therefore relieving stress. I also use my basketball practice as a way to relieve stress. All that exercise releases endorphins and makes me feel much better. All the stress we accumulate can really have an impact on health, so it’s really important that you take care of yourself by doing things that make you happy. I understand you might feel as if you don’t have enough time to do things that make you happy, however, I strongly encourage you to make time for them. I promise it will make you feel a lot better and be worth it.

Dear Q&A, how can I be efficient while doing homework on the bus?

Q: I don’t take the bus very often, but when I do, I know it can be very hectic and loud. I take the bus once a week to the upper school and also to games. Something you can do is bring ear plugs (the little foam packaged kind) and put them in your ears while you do your homework. It is much easier to focus this way because you won’t be as distracted by all the noise around you. You can listen to music from your phone and earphones too, if this doesn’t distract you from your work. The bus is pretty loud anywhere, but if possible, you could try sitting somewhere where it isn’t as loud. Also, you could sit with a friend who shares one of your classes with you and do homework together. If the bus is moving rapidly or you don’t think you can do your homework efficiently, you can study too. If you aren’t someone who gets car sick, read over your notes from class and review.

A: I take the bus every day to and from the upper school, and I usually try to sit alone if I can so I don’t have anyone distracting me, and so it will be easier to take out my books. Another thing you could do is to try not to sit with your friends so you stay focused instead of talking to them. I also like to lis
ten to music to tune out all the loud voices around me. Make sure, however, you keep your phone in your backpack so you don’t get distracted by it. It’s also important you know what your homework is for all of your classes prior to getting on the bus, because it can be hard to access the internet once on the bus. Even if you get carsick while reading or doing your homework, you can do little things to be efficient. Your friend can quiz you on the material from class and even thinking about what you learned in class that day can help you remember information better.

Dear Q&A, I feel a lot of pressure to get good grades and to always be the best. I also struggle with the idea about being worthy enough to get into good colleges.

Q: Working your hardest to fully understand your school material, should lead you to getting good grades. The grades you get reflect whether or not you have mastered what you’ve learned. To do so participate in class because when you are more engaged you learn more. Meet with your teacher, start studying for tests and quizzes in advance, and review all the work you’ve done in class that day. Regarding getting into good colleges, in 10th grade we will each be assigned a college counselor who will guide you through that process. Work your hardest and your smartest. Find what you are interested and pursue that. When the time comes, which ever college you feel you belong at and want to go to is the one you should work towards. When thinking about “being the best” just be the very best you can be. Try not to add on the extra stress of worrying about if you aren’t as good as other people. We all can put a lot of pressure on ourselves and think that we have to be better than everyone else, which isn’t true. Each person is their own, with their own passions, and their own problems/stresses. We have to remember that we are all still teenagers. We are all learning and growing side by side, and experiencing such a competitive environment. This can be really stressful and add on a lot of extra anxiety.

A: I understand that the pressure of getting into a good college and being the best all the time can be really stressful. I see the importance of trying your best in every class and pushing yourself, but only to an extent. Middle school and high school is supposed to be a time where we have fun and grow up, and often, when we spread ourselves too thin, we end up unhappy. I encourage you to take the classes you want to take and are most interested in instead of the classes you believe will look best to the college you want to go to. It’s important to have a balance between challenge and enjoyment, and striking that balance can be hard. I encourage you to challenge yourself, but at the same time make sure you have fun and take care of yourself. I also understand that the classes you take might be your parent’s decision, however, if you ever have an issue, your deans can talk with your parents and they can vouch for you. I also would like to point out that the college you go to doesn’t determine your “worth.” Your “worth” is determined by how you treat others and how hard you work. It’s really important that you stop putting pressure on yourself to be the best all the time. It’s not healthy and no one is the best all the time. It is okay to fail and it is normal to have a bad day, and I think you need to remind yourself of that. You can also talk about the pressure you feel with our school psychologist, Dr. Decker. She is a wonderful lady who can help you manage your time, and help you talk to your parents about the pressure you feel, or help you manage your own stress.