Good to Go Blog
At St. John's, good knows no bounds. It's greater than great academics. Here are snapshots of what it means at the Prep. Something amazing happens when you're open to good!
Let's face it. There's no substitute for talking to someone who's been there, done that. Especially when you're a high school senior wondering (and dreaming) about life in college.
That's why the School Counseling Department at St. John's invites recent grads to return to campus and talk with seniors about their experiences in college. When a group from the Class of 2016 shared time with the Class of 2018 recently, we asked them for their best advice for college-bound seniors.
Gathered around a table in Memorial Dining Hall on a frosty day in January, the collegians represented a range of schools—Boston College, Brown University, Northeastern University, St. Louis University, and Villanova. At the midway point in their sophomore year, they've all settled on majors that include accounting; business/finance; chemical and biochemical engineering with minor in religious studies; economics with a minor in history; and international relations with focus on international development. They're striking out on different paths, but they all agree on the best principles for success in college!
Be True to Yourself
Heading to college gives you a clean slate, but that doesn't mean starting over as a different person. Stay true to yourself when you leave the familiar environs of home and high school. Use the values and lessons you've learned at home and at St. John's to inform the decisions you make. Make sure that what you do aligns with who you are—and who you want to be.
Keep Your Door Open
Everyone is in the same boat at the beginning of freshman year. Take advantage of meeting new people and exploring new opportunities. Consider Ben Fisher '16. He says he found an instant group of friends when he joined the powerlifting team at Northeastern. "It quickly became a group of people I could study with. Plus, the captains understood what it was like to be new in college. They'd taken the courses we were taking. They become mentors."
Manage Your Time Wisely
College life is less structured than high school, which means it's essential to stay on top of your work. As Jay Carnevale put it, "No one else will walk you through it." Finding a good organizational tool is the key. Whether it’s a journal, Google calendar, a simple notebook, or a big whiteboard on your dorm room wall, pick a system and stay with it. It’s also important to strike the right balance between academic and social life. Opportunities abound in both realms. It’s up to you to figure out how to get the best out all that college has to offer.
Take a Risk
Grab the opportunity to challenge yourself academically. Heads nodded in agreement when one member of the group recalled Dr. Matt Ford from the Prep Science Department telling them, "If you’re not taking a course that makes you struggle, you’re not doing it right." Remember about keeping your door open? Well, keep an open mind when thinking about courses to take and opportunities to explore.
WE'D LOVE TO SEE YOU ON CAMPUS TO LEARN MORE!
At St. John’s, we believe that the more students write, the better they write. As they’re exposed to different styles across disciplines, each student has a chance to develop his own writing voice and maximize his comfort level with composition.
This overarching mission is supported by the Prep’s Writing Center, which offers students one-on-one consultations with full-time, trained writing coaches to assist with any stage of the writing process. The mission of the center staff is to guide students toward becoming confident and independent writers who will succeed at the Prep and beyond.
We asked them for their top five secrets to writing success...
KNOW YOUR ASSIGNMENT
It’s critical to print out a copy of any writing assignment so you can have an eyes-on approach. This tactic will allow you to identify and break down the specific requirements of the project. It’s also helpful to highlight or underline precise components of what is expected for the successful completion of the assignment. Students who visit the Writing Center report that switching back and forth between screens to check the details of a writing assignment is unproductive and can even result in unpleasant discoveries once they print out the requirements and give them a close read. Use this tip to avoid moments like: “Oops! I needed five sources, not three.”
PRE-WRITE, THEN WRITE
Give yourself 10 minutes (by all means, use a timer) to scribble any thoughts and questions about the topic that come to mind. Feel free to make a mess. By creating a list of all possible ideas, you're doing the hard work in a low-stakes format. This technique makes it easy to filter out the junk and spare yourself the heartache of writing into a dead end once you compose an actual draft. Jumping right in to typing into a Word doc puts unnecessary pressure on every writer to come up with quality content right away. That’s a recipe for a whopping case of Writer's Block!
STAY ON TARGET AND DO, DO, DO READ ALOUD
Once you land on a good thesis, highlight it in a bright color within your draft. This way, it's easy for you to loop back as you tackle your body paragraphs and ask yourself that critical question: Am I really proving my thesis? (P.S. It’s normal to tweak your thesis as you draft). Reading your draft out loud is an excellent way to catch errors on your own. Writing Center staff at the Prep frequently ask students to read their work in front of them before a formal discussion session of the paper begins because it’s so important for students to understand how their writing sounds. Better to have those cringe-worthy, what-the-heck-was-I-trying-to-say moments before you hand in your paper.
FOCUS ON YOUR VERBS
Dull verbs make for dull papers. If you slow down and think, it usually results in generating two or three better alternatives to boring verbs like “is” or “have.” Sometimes, upgrading your verbs requires you to restructure your sentence, but fear not, it’s worth the effort. The more varied your word choice and sentence structure, the stronger and more readable your writing becomes.
SIGNAL PHRASES ARE YOUR FRIENDS
Learn signal phrases and use them. A signal phrase is a phrase or clause (or even a complete sentence) that introduces a quote, indicates who is speaking or sets up the delivery of information. Many students err by inserting “drop quotes” or “quote bombs” in their papers, which results in a lack of proper context or missing transition that is necessary to distinguish a shift from their own writing to someone else’s. Signal phrases are the cure. The Writing Center provides its student clients with a sheet of handy MLA signal phrases as a reference. Some examples (with sample citations):
- At the end of the novel, Paul reflects, “I should have grabbed that trophy when I had the chance” (Smith 80).
- According to John Bigmouth, “Only 15 percent of young adults prefer talking on the phone to texting” (18).
- When Chen finally discovers her biological father, she laments, “The stroke had robbed him of his ability to speak. For all I know, he could have washed away four decades of mystery with a simple sentence” (Chen 243).
The Writing Center’s services include discussion of texts and writing assignments, assistance with planning and outlining, grammar and mechanics support and strategizing for meaningful revision. Available to writers in grades 6 through 12, at all levels, the Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm and is located within the Prep’s Center for Learning and Academic Success (CLAS).
One in an occasional series of check-ins on after-school life at St. John’s Prep. Curious to know more about St. John's? We'd love to see you on campus!
How it Works
The Environmental Club is a student-led organization that aims to create a positive influence upon the environment on campus and in the surrounding community. There are environmental-advocacy opportunities, outdoor adventures and the planning of exciting events like Earth Day, among other initiatives. Students themselves drive each year’s overall agenda.
"I joined the Environmental Club in eighth grade because I wanted to make a difference in my community when it came to protecting and preserving the environment,” says Jacob Garland '21. “When I originally joined the club, I had a lot of drive, but no direction to focus it with. A year and a half later, there is still a lot of work to be done, but it’s been incredibly fulfilling to see the physical difference one person can make in their community. I love the Environmental Club because it gave me an opportunity to explore a new interest and develop it. Since joining, I have become a part of numerous environmental groups, and even started my own environmental blog. Saving the environment remains a necessity often lost amongst the distractions and other problems of the modern era. The fact that there is an Environmental Club here at St. John’s helps keep this important topic at the forefront of discussion, which is essential."
"These kids are very motivated," says co-moderator Kerrie Tingle, the Prep’s assistant director of annual giving. "For me, it’s a pleasure to interact with the students and get to know them more, so I can do my job better. Not a lot of students come to the third floor of the Administration building where I work, so I was very excited to get involved. I think we should be doing as much of this on campus as possible and it’s so interesting to see what the kids are interested in as individuals in the context of the environment and sustainability."
First Semester 2017 Highlight
A December Winter Walk at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, a 25-acre property that is home to a private, non-profit house museum owned by the Danvers Alarm List Coy. Club members toured the grounds and walked trails around marshes and through woods to identify animal tracks and observe the property’s vernal pools, in addition to examining the raised garden beds on site with an eye toward replicating the project on the Prep campus. The homestead is a living monument to Rebecca Nurse, who, at the age of 71 during the Salem Witch hysteria in 1692, was found guilty of witchcraft and hanged.
William Boemer '21, Sean Buckner '22, Mattheus Carpenter '18, Jack Clasby '21, Henry Fuller '21, Jacob Garland '21, Marcel Joe '24, Jake Katz '21, Garrett Kelley '22, John Laffy '22, Alexander Melville '24, Maxwell Olson ’'21, Andrew Vo '21, Owen Warriner '24, and Miles Wauchope '21.
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