Counselor Advice to Upperclassmen

Article by Audrey Sy

As the last two-week stretch before ICARE, and three week stretch until the end of the semester rolls in, seniors all around struggle with the looming weight of college applications. For some, it is an incredibly challenging and confusing time, and as such we interviewed two senior guidance counselors, Mr. Douglas McQueen and Ms. Janelle Grier, to ask for their parting words of advice for these last 3 weeks of the first semester.

  • What advice do you have for the upcoming challenges that the seniors are about to face?

    • You can’t help but be busy as a senior, especially in semester 1, because you have IB, final assessments, sports, social activities… and then you’re adding on this college piece. Definitely make sure you communicate continuously with your counselors and your teacher as well. If there are assignments that are building up, the best thing you can do is to let them know what’s going on, and to see if there’s any flexibility to move things around. – Mr. McQueen



  • What are the big trials that the seniors are about to face in the next few weeks?

    • One of the big challenges for the students who applied early is waiting to hear about their decisions, and that brings a lot of anxiety. Just remember that failure is a part of this process, and that’s true for everyone… There will be bad news but just remember that there will be good news coming too. – Ms. Grier



  • Do you have any tips on time management?

    • Look ahead monthly or by two months, and try to break down what assignments you know are coming up. Try to piece together a plan where you’re not cramming all your work at the very end by breaking it up into manageable parts throughout the week. – Mr. McQueen
  • How do you manage stress levels?

    • Give yourself a little break once in a while and pat yourself on your back… try to reward yourself for all the work you’ve been doing. – Mr. McQueen
    • Self care: do things that make you feel like you’re taking care of yourself, whether it’s yoga, or meditation, or sports. If you can keep that stuff balanced, it’s definitely easier to keep the academic stuff balanced too. – Ms. Grier
  • How can this year’s juniors learn from the senior experiences?

    • For the juniors, especially, is to talk with their counselor – coming in and meeting with them, talking about what they are thinking about with college, and to just start that whole process early… Knowledge is really helpful to know what’s coming up. – Mr. McQueen
    • To some extent there are certain things that are inevitable… but what you can learn is how to respond to these things. Look at people who seem to have a good work-life balance, and who can be a model for how to cope with the stress. – Ms. Grier
  • For those with upperclassmen friends and family, how can we help and support them through this demanding time?

    • Support them when they get some of these college decisions… if you can be there for them, remind them it’s not a referendum on how they are as a person. If they get rejected, it doesn’t mean they’re not good enough or not smart enough, it just means that this college application process is intense. – Ms. Grier
  • For the seniors suffering from early onset “senioritis”, how can they stay motivated and focused?

    • Try to find what motivates you and find that balance – have some fun but realize that the school year’s not yet over. – Mr. McQueen
    • Be really clear on your own goals for why you’re doing what you’re doing, and make sure you feel like you did the best you could to end the year on the highest note possible. – Ms. Grier
  • Any last pieces of advice for the seniors?

    • You guys are working hard; it’s going to pay off… Try to use this winter break as an opportunity to recharge your batteries, and then there’s one final push, and you’re making some wonderful memories of ISM. – Mr. McQueen
    • I know the instinct for the seniors is to just give up this last week because they’re so tired, but hang in there, put in your best effort, and just know that you can sleep pretty soon. – Ms. Grier