Summer 2021 Advice Column: Transitions, Transitions, Transitions

Change is coming, whether it is from school to summer vacation, from high school to college, or from quarantine to vaccinated. The Editors-in-Chiefs of ‘The Science Survey’ are here to help you to negotiate these changes.

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Julia Sperling

Pictured are the Editors-in-Chief of the 2020-2021 ‘The Science Survey’ planning out this advice column during a Zoom meeting. From left to right, top to bottom: Kate Reynolds ’21, Julia Sperling ’21, Jamie Lee Nicolas ’21, Maggie Schneider ’22, Alina Chan ’21, Michael Toscano ’21, and Lavanya Manickam ’21.

Hey Bronx Science!

Wow! It is hard to believe the 2020-2021 school year is wrapping up already. Since this is the last Advice Column of this academic year, we hope these answers will help students as they enter the summer, perhaps with the college application process (for current juniors), or with college itself (for current seniors). 

With this Advice Column, most of us Editors-in-Chiefs are signing off our time spent with The Science Survey. As we look towards graduation, we are grateful for all the people at Bronx Science who have given us advice when we needed it throughout the past four years. We hope we can help you just as they helped us. Have a great summer, Bronx Science!

With love,

Julia Sperling ’21, Kate Reynolds ’21, Lavanya Manickam ’21, Jamie Lee Nicolas ’21, Alina Chan ’21, Michael Toscano ’21, and Maggie Schneider ’22

Here is a table of contents to help navigate through the questions: 

Returning to in-person learning

Friend break-ups

Work/fun balance

Finding opportunities

Picking colleges 

High school to college transition 

For the 2021-2022 school year, everybody will be returning to school in-person. What should we do if we are feeling slightly nervous to go back and socialize with others? 

First and foremost, I would say, don’t be nervous! The pandemic has been an extremely odd and (of course) isolating time for all of us; it is very unlikely that many students will return as social savants. A year and a half of COVID-19 has definitely put things into perspective, especially the importance of being understanding with one another. I think you would be hard pressed to find any type of Mean Girls-esque social environments at Bronx Science in September 2021. 

That being said, if you feel unsure about your conversational skills after all this time (I know I certainly am), reach out to people over the summer! Even if you’re not necessarily close with them, starting a conversation with others and taking that first step can be a great way to ease back into normalcy and get some socialization experience before school starts. It can be scary to be the initiator, but I truly believe that everybody will simply be happy to see and talk to one another, even if it’s a bit awkward at first :).

— Maggie Schneider ’22

How can we readjust to a more normal school life in terms of tests, homework, and overall school work when we go back to the building next year? 

What an amazing question, but this might be hard to answer as there’s only so much we as students can do to adjust. We can only hope that the next school year will be closer to what we had before the Coronavirus pandemic. But, on the bright side, I know many people who have said that their workload was actually more difficult during the remote learning period than in it was when they attended in-person school, which means it might be easier to readjust to in-person learning!

As for advice, though, I’d have to say time management would be of the essence here. Get a planner (or use the one provided by Bronx Science) and write down all of your tests, homework assignments, projects, and things to get done daily. When studying, try to study a little every day for a week before exam day, so that the information stays fresh in your mind. Try to do the same for projects too, but some people have to finish work in one sitting because they know they’ll never get it done later on (including yours truly). If you’re getting distracted, lock up your devices or go to a setting where you know you can get some work done. Also, really important: communicate with your teachers! If you’re having trouble getting things done on time, talk to them. Whether they give you a deadline extension, help with managing work, or give one-on-one time for a topic that you don’t fully understand, it cannot hurt to have a conversation with them and let them know what’s up. Do your best, and good luck with the upcoming school year!

— Alina Chan ’21

There is a friend of mine who has known me since middle school, but recently I feel like our friendship is extremely draining. She makes me feel like my feelings and opinions mean nothing, and that her problems are always worse. How do I break up with a friend? 

This sounds very much like a toxic friendship. Over time, it’s normal for friendships to come and go, especially transitioning from middle school to high school. People grow apart,  interests and goals change, and sometimes people just don’t jive with each other anymore. This is a tough situation, but it is good to hear that you are ready to end the friendship. Someone who makes you feel like your opinions and feelings are not valid is doing harm to you, and not a good friend to keep. If you are already growing apart, I don’t see the need to confront them or try to salvage the friendship. Perhaps try to distance yourself from this individual, stop investing energy in your relationship, and see what happens. I would still stay cordial with the person when you see them, but overall try to remove them from your life. Best of luck.

— Michael Toscano ’21

How should I balance having fun with friends and family this summer with trying to get internships/jobs/volunteering hours? I want to just relax, but everyone around me is so focused on getting things on their résumé for college. 

I definitely have had this problem before.

The first piece of advice I have is to try not to compare yourself too much to your friends and peers; everyone has different priorities and will take different paths, so there’s no need to stress yourself out by telling yourself you aren’t doing enough. 

You’re right that summer is a really important time for relaxing and not worrying about school year-related stress, so do find time to relax and chill out. At the same time, though, it’s good to find a productive way to spend summer since you will have so much free time. Don’t feel pressured to spend your time doing what all your friends are doing, but I think it’s a good idea to look into activities that you will actually enjoy. If you don’t want to study for your SAT all summer, don’t! But maybe spend the weekends volunteering, or try out a new sport, or even take an interesting college course online. Summer is too important of a time to waste.

Most importantly, don’t spend all your time stressing about the things on your résumé. You will end up doing activities that you dislike or forcing yourself to pursue opportunities that don’t interest you. I know it can be stressful to think about college, and everyone can feel the pressure to perfect their applications, but colleges can see what extracurriculars you truly cared about, and those that you only did because your mom wanted you to or because you needed to meet the necessary number of volunteer hours. The extracurriculars that you’re most passionate about are always the ones you should focus on. 

 — Kate Reynolds ’21

Bronx Science has so many different opportunities, but sometimes I find them hard to navigate and end up missing out on cool experiences. How do you learn about and keep yourself informed on everything that takes place at our school? 

Thank you for your question! At a large school like Bronx Science, it can be hard to keep track of all that is going on. There are, however, ways to find activities that will be most meaningful to you. 

One experience that is worth doing is getting involved with a team or club during your time at Bronx Science. No matter your interest, there is bound to be a club that excites you and, if you do find yourself struggling to find one that fits, you can always create your own club after ninth grade. To find clubs, you can check the long club list created every year that details what clubs exist, when clubs meet, where they meet, and the club’s advisor. I would say to first explore many clubs and teams you find interesting and then narrow the amount you commit to during your time at Bronx Science. 

Students also get weekly updates of what is occurring around the school through e-mails sent out by the Student Organization and Ms. Golan, Bronx Science’s Parent Coordinator. The SO’s weekly emails highlight all of the projects the organization is working on, while Ms. Golan’s emails inform the Bronx Science community regarding more general school-related issues.

In addition to this, if you want direct access to planning school-wide events, you can try getting involved with the Student Organization or Cabinet. Getting involved with student government in this way will allow you to both plan exciting events for your peers and know exactly what the SO and Cabinet have planned for the school year. 

However, if you’re worried about missing academic opportunities like fun classes, I wouldn’t hesitate to turn to the course catalog. Divided by subject and providing brief descriptions of classes and the requirements to get into them, it’s easy to find exactly what you want to study in the upcoming year. 

Finally, don’t feel pressured to partake in everything! Focus on what YOU enjoy doing, not what a lot of your friends are doing or perceived as prestigious. 

— Jamie Lee Nicolas ’21

During the college application process, what should students base their college choices on? 

When creating your college list, your main goal should be to find schools that are the best fit for you! If you have no idea where to start, think about what you like about your high school experience and want to keep the same in college, and what you want to change (for example, maybe you want a smaller school or maybe you enjoy the STEM focus and want to continue at a college with that same focus.) Use what you know you like and dislike, and look for matches from there! 

Here are some other factors to keep in mind:

  • Size and location: Do you want to be in a bustling city? Do you want your class grade to be smaller or bigger compared to Bronx Science? Do you want to stay close to home? Figuring out your ideal size and location of a school can help you narrow down your list. You may want to consider things like faculty-to-student ratio, class size, and whether classes are typically taught by teaching assistants. 
  • Programs and opportunities: If you have a specific career or academic interest (i.e criminal justice; you want to be on a pre-med track), you should research schools with established and renowned programs that match your interests. If you are looking to conduct research in college, find schools with the resources you will need. If anything, be sure to know whether schools on your list have majors in which you are interested. You want to choose schools that have academic opportunities that spark your interest. 
  • Communities and extracurriculars: Will you feel represented at this school? Are there supportive communities based around identities that you hold? Think about whether you are looking to participate in any communities that center a shared cultural, religious, LGBTQ+, or racial identity, and find schools that have it! Additionally, research whether schools have extracurricular activities that interest you (i.e debate, magazines, or musical theater). 
  • Cost: Some schools are more affordable than others. Some have broader scholarship opportunities. Some are need-blind, and some are need-aware. Find schools that promise to be a good financial fit. 
  • Social life: Picture your optimal social scene and look for schools that emulate that. Reach out to current students for honest accounts of social life. 

 Throughout this whole process, research is key, but trust your gut. You may find one bad comment online about the social scene at a school and feel completely deterred, but you may find that when you visit, you absolutely love it. You may feel pressured to go to a certain type of school but know it is not right for you. Remember that at any school, you will ultimately have your own distinct college experience. Keep an open mind!

— Julia Sperling ’21

As a senior, I’ve spent the last fifteen months of high school almost entirely remote (since mid-March of my junior year), and now I’m graduating. How do I gain a sense of closure despite not being in school surrounded by friends and teachers?

As a senior who chose the remote learning option as well, I have also been really struggling to find a feeling of closure as our high school years come to an end. We are spending our last classes with each other in Zoom classes that are unable to mimic the interactions we would have had in person, and we have missed out on many of the senior-specific events that mark one’s final semester of high school — so it is reasonable to feel disconnected from the idea that we are graduating in a few weeks. 

To combat this dissatisfaction, what I have been doing — and recommend that you do as well — is forgoing the pressure of gaining closure! Instead, spend as much time as possible relishing in the fact that you are a second-semester senior. For once in our four years at Bronx Science, as much as academics do matter, spending time with our friends and loved ones is even more important. AP exams have wrapped up and the number of final projects still due is abating, so use these next few weeks to have some amazing final moments with your friends before the next era in our lives begins. Get on calls with them, get together at parks or other outdoor spaces, if possible, and most importantly, allow yourself to have fun. What I have experienced is that my friends and I end up talking about college and graduating, and it does feel like high school is coming to an end — this allows me to unintentionally gain a sense of closure as well. 

While they cannot replace the events we would have had if not for the Coronavirus pandemic, there are many events for seniors that are occurring this month that could help you gain closure. The Senior Awards ceremony is happening on June 14th, 2021, and if you participated in the Wolverine Wars competition, the closing ceremony is on the same day. Additionally, there is Senior Sendoff on 6/21 and 6/22, Graduation on 6/24, and a prom over the summer run by the Alumni Foundation, for seniors to enjoy. Simply attending these events and celebrating with your peers after your years of working hard, and working together, could help you feel that sense of fulfillment for which we have all been grasping.

In the days before graduation, seniors will be going into school to return their books and to pick up their caps, gowns, diplomas, yearbooks, and to say goodbye to the Bronx Science building. I would make the most out of this day, as you will be able to finally surround yourself with friends in the school building, something we have not been able to do for the past fifteen months, and will now be doing for the last time. Enjoy it, and celebrate yourselves as much as possible, Class of 2021 — you deserve it. 

— Lavanya Manickam ’21

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