I've only let a few things slip about who I really am on Newsvine, and the one thing that I have said fairly regularly is that I attend a prep school. I joined Newsvine back before this phase in my life and I've written before about my experiences and such. I thought I would take the time to share a few more and some stories as the 7th graders of America start looking, the 8th graders start applying, and the 9th graders either begin to apply or start questioning their decision. Believe me, I've been there too.
This article is mainly aimed at people ages 13 to 16 and their parents, though I welcome all to read, rate and comment. I do hope that a few outsiders to the 'vine will see this and find it helpful, and if so, please feel free to drop me some questions or a note via the "contact author" button on my column (or email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org).
For those who are already at school, skip down to the relevant stuff. Everyone else: here you go.
1. Your biggest concern isn't really a big deal after all.
We all have them, whether it be a uniform, too much homework, some form of a religious service, whatever. I can personally say that I had a lot of those when I applied to the school I eventually went to. Come time to actually experience those things, you find that you'll be thinking to yourself, "this isn't really that bad after all." Neverless, ASK QUESTIONS!!! That's what all these people talking to you are there for!
2. You won't have questions during interviews, but on the way home you think of zillions.
It's perfectly normal to be a silent little thing when you're on tours and interviews. I have to routinely force questions out of kids and let me tell you, it's not easy. The sheer amount of information being thrown at you is enough to kill brain cells. My parents asked all the questions for me during those tours. My advice: look at the website beforehand and write some on the card. If they're not answered during the tour, ask the questions as you come to the subjects. It makes you look prepared, which is what they are looking for.
3. A good handshake goes a long way.
Here's how to do one: Find your hand, then find their hand. If you can't find your hand, it's attached to your arm. Upon contact, make eye contact, don't keep staring at your hand (even though it is beautiful, I'm sure). For guys especially, make the grip firm, but don't kill the person. Grip the palm, not the fingers, and apply pressure based on how much their applying. Usually, firm for dudes and a bit lighter for the ladies in the admissions office.
4. Just get the essays done.
I know they suck but they are important. Get them done, then have them checked by a number of people. If you can't find a number of people, many of us on Newsvine would be more than happy to look them over (for me, just send me an email and I'll be more than happy to look it over).
I have more, but those will have to come later. Here's the advice for the people that are in a prep school for the first time:
1. Personalize your room.
Posters, pictures, maps, rugs, beanbags, couches, lamps, whatever is allowed, do it. It makes the room a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.
2. GET A DAMN FAN
Out of all the people from the other schools that compete with us I questioned, their #1 lifesaver was a fan. Dorms can get hot, so get one that works decently. I have a Honeywell, one of those little black circular ones. If not for temperature control, it's for white noise when you're trying to sleep.
3. Keep it neat!
Last year my room was the site for a bomb testing, or so it appeared. This year I pick up every night before I go to bed, and I cannot express how much better it is. Yes, it's annoying to keep it clean, but it's so worth the effort. Think of it this way: you'll have to clean it on the last night anyway.
4. The Grades aren't important... for the first 14 days.
I have to tell a lot of freshmen to relax. A prep school is supposed to be harder than a public school, and for those who are used to acing tests, it's a reality check. Until you really know what to expect, don't over stress and lose sleep because you're studying all night. Use the first few weeks to get your feet wet. It's natural to pull a C on your first test, believe me on that one. Don't kill yourself over it. Stress after, when you know what you need to do to get the job done. In the meantime, worry about the social adjustment or getting to your French class on time.
5. You'll be a lot better off going to a new school and NOT acting like you're the s***.
Fun fact: All Freshmen guys are a-holes and immature, and all freshmen girls are naive and immature. Don't make it worse. Respect the sophomores, juniors, and seniors of the school. They've already gotten a year under their belts. To them, you're not cool, so don't act like it.
6. Get used to having a "lights out".
You may come from a background where you stay up until 3AM playing video games. Not in prep school. Lights out to you should mean "lights out". We already get little enough sleep, don't try to be superman during your first year.
7. Know what's going on.
Keep asking questions. Know the expectations, rules, and/or customs for situations before you're getting into them. It's better to look like a fool in front of one person than one hundred.
8. Label Everything
Clothes, valuables, everything. Mark it, etch it, whatever. Make sure everything that's yours has your name/initials somewhere on it.
List of helpful items:
external hard drive (nothing fancy but definitely comes in handy),
Power strips (You don't know what the electrical system of your dorm is like, make sure everything is hooked up)
scissors and tape
Spiral notebooks (DO NOT USE LOOSE-LEAF PAPER)!!!
Extra hangers (common thing heard on first day: "Dude, do you got any extra hangars?"
3 hole punch
Piece of foam (the school mattresses are not always comfortable)
Somewhere safe for valuables: you don't know what the situation is, and theft happens no matter where you go. Either bring a lock and hope that there's something that you can put a lock on, or do what I did: lock box. It's bulletproof, fireproof, and secure. I keep my money, important documents, and an extra computer cable (power cable) in there myself. It has come in handy.
Intelligent alarm clock: Stupid alarm clocks are no use when you need to hightail it to class. Make sure yours not only works, but will wake you up without fail. My iHome will even wake me up when the power goes out, a feature I discovered and used on more than one occasion. Oh yeah, and keep that snooze button out of reach. Even better: one that jumps up and runs around after a while. Those things are awful but they make you get up.
Duct tape, sharpies, clear hockey tape (At least, I can find about a thousand uses for it), some food and gatorade, extra sheets and towels, umbrella, frebreeze
Nerf gun (Alright, it's not exactly "necessary", nor is it "helpful", except to annoy your roommate)