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The Campanile

A freshman’s guide to guidance

Entering Paly for the first time can be a daunting experience, whether you start as a freshman or transfer in during junior year. Friend group dynamics are tricky to figure out, there’s a weird schedule and what is an open campus anyway?

However, there is one person here to help you navigate through all the intricacies and adversities of high school life: your guidance counselor.

For the freshmen who don’t know about Paly’s guidance system, here’s the basic rundown: each grade gets one guidance counselor for the entirety of high school who deals with everything from class changes to college planning to personal predicaments. However, these counselors who are so integral to our wellbeing are also notoriously hard to track down. Never fear, for I have gathered a couple of pro tips to ensure that you not only find your guidance counselor, but that you end the school year as besties (secret handshake included).

Step 1: Finding out who your counselor is. This is probably the most fundamental part of the process. After all, you can’t spill your deepest, darkest secrets to your counselor if you don’t know who that person is. For this operation, I suggest bringing binoculars, a marsh-green bodysuit and a trusted friend. First, scan the perimeter of the Tower Building to familiarize yourself with the uncharted territory. Use the binoculars to peer through the windows and catch a glimpse of the main office. Once you’ve done enough recon, it is time to don your green bodysuit and enter the premises, heading straight for the main office. Sneak into a counselor’s office through a window or rappel down from a ceiling vent to snoop through their paperwork and find the right name.

The bodysuit will help you eavesdrop by allowing you to blend in with your surroundings. For instance, if you are caught spying at a suboptimal time, you can simply collapse onto the floor or smash your body against a wall to instantly disappear into a sea of green paint. If all else fails, signal to your friend and have them elaborately fall in the middle of the hallway. (Fake blood is not necessary but highly encouraged.) The concerned Wellness Center staff will provide the perfect cover for you to make your escape.

Step 2: Making an appointment. Thanks to your extensive espionage skills, you now know the correct guidance counselor for your grade level, but still need to make the infamously-hard-to-book appointment. Since each guidance counselor is in charge of roughly 500 students, it is understandable that they will be busy. Therefore, I like to apply the same philosophy to Guidance that I use when making DMV appointments: assume that you have no choice but to schedule your meeting three months in advance. For immediate concerns, such as start-of-the-year schedule changes, I would recommend setting up camp in front of the Tower building starting in mid-July to ensure that you will be able to secure a time slot in the first quarter. More hard-core students have been known to pitch their tents the moment finals week ends in the spring. In the meantime, record fun little anecdotes for your appointment. In fact, it might be easier to take up journaling, so your guidance counselor can read extensively about your life. This way, they can get a more accurate sense of everything that has happened to you in that time period, instead of having you narrow your problems down to just two or three major dilemmas.

Step 3: Bonding with your counselor. Now that you’ve made an appointment, it’s bonding time! In case you are shy or unsure of what to say, I’ve compiled a list of conversation-starters that are always a hit with the adults:

1. Mention your cat’s pregnancy

2. Exchange dating tips

3. Ask them about the world before the internet. Or texting. Or Russia.

4. Talk about what you had for dinner last Tuesday

5. Despair over your meager 1590 SAT score

6. Bring them a bottle of chardonnay from Trader Joe’s

With all these tips and tricks, you and your counselor are guaranteed to end up with a relationship your real friends will envy.

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