Senior advice to underclassmen

What does the class of 2020 have to say to the underclassmen?


Photo Courtesy of Cole Keister on Unsplash

Portia Dai, Editorial Board

Seniors have worked hard to get to where they are today and even if they won’t get the graduation they imagined, they will still get greeted by a college, or maybe a gap year in the coming school year. Coming from those who have finished four years of learning and stress, here’s some advice to the underclassmen and rising juniors from graduating seniors, Cathleen Papas and Rajiv Joshi.

Cathleen Papas, former team captain of the fall and winter seasons of color guard highlights time management as a major part of her success saying that it “will help you make sure that you’re able to do all your work and extracurriculars.” This is pertinent as Papas took three AP classes in her junior year, whilst being able to participate in color guard as well as the music department. Despite Papas’s encouragement to push yourself in academics, she also stresses the importance of making sure you still have time for some fun; after all, you’re only in high school once. Papas’s full interview can be found below.

Rajiv Joshi also emphasizes a balance between academics and extracurriculars saying “I wish I kept a more balanced schedule between academics and extracurriculars” and that people who take more APs than they can handle “become trapped in a constant loop of studying.” Joshi features the importance of the relationships you form in high school, both between teachers as well as friends. Joshi gives advice on choosing classes, outlining that if there’s a particular subject that you favor, you should try an AP class in that subject, and switch out if you decide if it is not the fit for you. Joshi goes on to provide some advice on how to figure out college and future plans. Scroll down to see Joshi’s full interview.


Cathleen Papas

What would you say is the most important thing underclassmen should know going into junior year?

Junior year is hard, it might have been my hardest year of high school, but having good time management will help you make sure that you’re able to do all your work and extracurriculars. Junior year was the first year I took an AP and was a team captain(I was a captain of the Fall Color Guard team for 2 seasons and the Winter Guard season for 2 as well) and without time management, I don’t think I would have been able to be as successful as I was.

What do you think about taking AP classes? How many do you think is too much?

This year I took three APs: Lit, Gov, and AB Calc. I really enjoyed my time in my AP classes for the most part, especially Lit with Mrs. Tatian because she loves the topics she’s teaching so much and it’s infectious! I think 3 or 4, depending on the student, is a good amount because yes, you want to push yourself in classes, but you also want to have space in your schedule for classes you love, like music and art classes.

A lot of people have an idea of what they want to do in the future career-wise, but a lot of people still don’t. How important is it to have an idea of what you want to do in the future and choose classes accordingly?

The nice thing that Oakton has to offer is that it has such a large spread of different types of classes for students. Because of this, I found it easy to try different classes of various levels to figure out what I did and didn’t like. I think high school is a time to explore what you may like so just try different classes to see what career path you may want to go down in the future, but don’t tie yourself to computer science, for example, just because you took all the CS classes at Oakton.

Going along with trying different classes, what’s your opinion on academy classes and dual enrollment?

I personally never took academy or dual enrollment classes because I was never able to fit them into my schedule, but I think they’re a great thing for students who want to go into fields that a traditional high school setting wouldn’t be able to accommodate.

What’s something you want to emphasize overall about the high school experience?

I’m proud of my various accomplishments and very thankful to all my teachers for their willingness to help me along the way with my different activities, like color guard and music. I’m also ok with how everything ended because I feel I left an impact on everything that I could, especially in the music department.

Great! Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

One thing I feel I didn’t really do freshman year was leave time for fun. I feel I was always studying for something, so just leave time for fun or join something that you love!


Rajiv Joshi

What would you say is the most important thing underclassmen should know going into junior year?

Build a proper relationship with your teachers so that the class becomes more enjoyable (also good relationships make it easier to ask for recommendations. Also, remember to ask for help from other and stay on top of your assignments. Falling behind can slowly add up over time.

How do you think students should maintain a balance between school and extracurriculars?

Plan and prioritize. It’s important to participate in extracurriculars because they are a good stress reliever. Junior year always has that negative atmosphere in its name, but doing extracurriculars helps to remove that. By creating a plan, you will be able to see any upcoming events, tests, meeting days, and due dates, allowing you to prepare accordingly. 

What do you think about taking AP classes? How many do you think is too much?

In my opinion, if you had to put a number on this, five is the max. Kids who go above normally become trapped in a constant loop of only studying and at a point, it just becomes too much. The fun in your life gets replaced by studying altogether. What I recommend kids do is only take APs you need to take. Don’t take an AP just because you can, or your friends are doing it, or it looks good on college applications. Do the APs that will actually benefit you for what you want to pursue in the future. There is no shame or harm in taking a small amount Just do what you think fits you best. AP classes teach you the rigor of actual college, so make sure to plan.

How important do you think it is to know what you want to do in the future in order to take classes accordingly?

Everyone goes at their own pace. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do by college. Some kids, as colleges say, figure out their passion in college. But, others like me, know what we want to do earlier. For me, I knew I wanted to do engineering since elementary school because of my passion for robotics. So, if you enjoy math maybe try an AP math, history then maybe AP history, and so on. Remember you can sign up for an AP class and if you don’t enjoy it in the beginning, talk to your counselor and you can switch. Don’t feel rushed or behind just because you don’t know what you want to do. Take your time because you will regret doing something you don’t enjoy.

What’s something you want to emphasize overall about the high school experience?

High school goes based on the way you want it. Make sure you balance studies with fun. But most importantly, when times get rough (they will for everyone), remember that you can do this, You are not alone and there is always someplace where you can change and improve. Remember Hakuna Matata (from the Lion King); it means no worries, for the rest of your days. Staying relaxed is the best thing you can do for yourself.

How did you figure out which college you wanted to go to/future plans?

Make sure to VISIT COLLEGES. That’s the only way you will actually know what college suits you best. You get a feel for the campus, the people, the food, the dorms, the extracurriculars, and also what major and programs they offer. Make sure to do some research first and make a small list of where you would like to visit then based on the visit, narrow down your list. Look and see at the average requirements and accordingly rank the colleges as reach schools, target schools, and safety schools. Your counselors will talk more about that. You will get rejected from certain colleges, but that’s just life, everyone does; just remember there is always another path in life that is still just as good. You can always transfer if you want that. Spend time on your applications: take time because they take LOTS OF TIME and a good application can make up for some lower grades or extracurriculars. Make sure the college gets to know who you are. A good time to start visiting colleges is the end of junior year or the summer between junior and senior year.

What advice do you have regarding SATs/ACTs?

It’s just one exam you will have to take. Do your best the very first time because taking it multiple times can get boring and annoying. Do lots of practice and time yourself. Also, take either the SAT or ACT. Most colleges will take both, so taking both is very exhausting. Read into each exam and prepare for the one you want to take.

What is something you wish you did differently regarding high school overall?

I wish I stayed more on top of my assignments and kept a more balanced schedule between academics and extracurriculars. Your junior year basically defines what colleges see. So doing your best is important. Senior is much better though, for me, because I got into my rhythm and life’s been wonderful.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

Build good friendships. You and your squad can work through it together. Working in a group helps to motivate you. Have friends that motivate you. One more thing: volunteer.