Most students at Palo Alto High School are familiar with the cliche, “high school is like a roller coaster.” This is not only because they have heard it countless times, but also since they are experiencing it in real time. In the mess of course selections and college applications among a myriad of other important obligations for students to handle, guidance resources are often appreciated.
But while we already have great facilities within the guidance system, primarily run by adults working in the District, it is integral to incorporate student perspectives in providing guidance. Hearing feedback and advice from students, as opposed to teachers and counselors, can be comforting and relatable, and we don’t have nearly enough peer feedback when it comes to important high school decisions.
Choosing classes, especially for rising upperclassmen, can be one of the most important yet daunting processes at Paly. With the variety of electives that are offered, it is difficult for students to know where to start — a paragraph description is not nearly enough information for a student to understand the details of the curricula for different classes as well as their levels of difficulty.
The student-moderated class surveys conducted by Input Club is a good start to helping students better understand the difficulty levels of different classes by assessing the grade distribution and time spent on homework. But the homework time data clearly has a sampling bias, and the site lacks qualitative feedback that may be helpful to students selecting courses. Thus, it may be useful to hold student-led forums or Q&A sessions within each department to help students decide among classes, especially electives.
If feasible, having upperclassmen offer their time for one-on-one advice may be a resource worth utilizing as well, as there are not nearly enough faculty members to provide students with individualized guidance in selecting courses. Alternatively, clubs such as Input could improve on their data collection by surveying qualitative data as well.
Similarly, guidance from a student perspective can be helpful for juniors about to experience the college application process. Not many advisories are held for seniors during the application season, and merely relying on adults for help through the process can be unrealistic, considering the busy schedules of most teachers on campus.
Graduating seniors can provide a uniquely important perspective due to their recent exposure to the exact same process. In addition to providing forums for soon-to-be-seniors to attend and understand the college application process better, it would be interesting and potentially extremely helpful for current juniors to obtain a “cheat sheet” of tips from graduating seniors. While this has occurred in several advisory classes before, it would be advantageous to offer this opportunity to more students and classes.
As the year comes to a close, it is worth re-evaluating the mechanisms by which Paly guides its students throughout high school. With increased interactions between grade levels in advising, whether it regards course selections or college applications, many students would appreciate the multifaceted help.