Start a New School Like a Boss: 10 Tips From Veteran Boarding School Students

Stories, know-how, and guidance from the experts in educating boys.

Kristen Kerwin
students walk through quad

Start a New School Like a Boss: 10 Tips From Veteran Boarding School Students

The thought of stepping foot onto a new school campus this fall can be a little nerve-racking, if not completely daunting. Along with navigating to all the places you need to be—even WITH a fancy map—there are countless other unknowns. Prior to getting into the routine-groove, surrounded by your supportive group of friends (at Avon Old Farms, the New England boarding school for boys, we call this "The Brotherhood"), it's reassuring to get some advice from pro boarding school students. 

Graduation day exuberance aside, these students were once anxious newbies entering an unfamiliar school environment. After three or four years at boarding school, these eight young men have garnered enough experience to offer some words of wisdom to rookie private school students. Here's 10 confidence-building tips from our expert students:

1. Try Something New

“Try something new that you would not think to try before you came here, such as participating in the theater or joining new clubs or sports. For me personally, swimming was something that I didn’t even think of doing before my friends made me try it, and it is something that I have never regretted trying. I got to know different students that I would not regularly hang out with and learn a new sport at the same time. Try something that will make you step out of your comfort zone.”

Boon Bhakdibumi '18

2. Grades are Important... Utilize School Resources

"There are always obstacles on the path of achieving what you want. For example, giving up your break for varsity tryouts or getting up earlier than usual to study for upcoming tests. It's the small decisions that get you big results: it might be a decision that determines whether or not you make the team or get an A for that class. It's good to challenge yourself now when you're supported by teachers and parents, and Avon is a great place to do that. There's always someone who has your back—such as your advisor or the wonderful faculty at the Learning Center."

Boon Bhakdibumi '18, Bangkok, Thailand


3. Don’t Force Yourself Into a Niche

"Try not to jam yourself into a niche that you don’t fit in. The worst way to live is by doing what you think others will approve of or value you for. The first step to happiness is realizing that trying to win the approval or acceptance of others is futile ...only you can make yourself happy. Not everybody is going to like you or appreciate what you do. But as long as you value what you do and you love what you do, you're on the right track."

TJ Shaw '18, Farmington, CT (day student)


4. Find an Outlet to Express Yourself

"Some people dance to reveal themselves or to relieve stress. Some people scream, some people cry, and some people play games. I have developed a habit of writing poems—both to relieve stress and to reveal my true self. Avon pushes students to get out of their comfort zone. Youl could end up speaking at the Headmaster’s Dinner, reciting poems in front of classmates, playing a sport you're not good at, or giving a chapel talk about poetry. My teachers pushed me out of my comfort zone with poetry and I was able to find a way to explore myself. Writing poems might not be your fit. But finding an outlet to express yourself will be well worth it. So pay attention when you get pushed out of your comfort zone, because you may find an outlet to express your true self."

Joon Ho Lee '18, Daejeon, South Korea


4. Give Back to the Community

"Do at least one community service act a week. There are plenty of opportunities around campus: Special Olympics, Soup Kitchen trips, or shoveling snow. They are a simple, yet great way to give back to others and make someone else’s day better. You'll also develop a sense of empathy for those less fortunate than you, realizing that often, it may just be a bit of good luck that separates you from them. All Avon has to offer is there for the taking, but don’t just take. Don’t be the guy who just takes and takes and is all about himself. Be the man who gives back. Be the man who spreads a positive influence into his community. Be a man of Avon."

Nick Keroack '18

5. Genuinely Listen to Others

"Greet people passing by in a genuine way, that lets them know you care about them. Ask someone about their day, and then take the time to listen. Put your phone down and talk to people. Listen when there is a speaker. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained here if you are open to it."

Nick Keroack '18, Marblehead, MA


6. Be Honest

"Boys, being honest is everything in life, whether you’re talking with a teacher, a friend, or a random person. If a man doesn't have his word, then what does he have? One of my favorite sayings goes like this, 'Lying to someone is like crumpling up a piece of paper; you can unfold it, but you can never smooth out the bumps.'”

Andrew Merrell '18, Rindge, New Hampshire


8.  Choose Your Leaders

"Decide who you want to be the leaders of your life. If there was one thing I remember from the Saturday programs is that friends are like elevators, they can bring you up or bring you down. Pick the right leaders and try and learn from them."

Max Ravech '18, Avon, CT (day student)


9. View Unknown or Difficult Situations as Growth-Opportunities

"Many times, the road less traveled creates new experiences and exposes us to take new endeavors in life—as Avon shows us. And maybe this gift of courage, of even seeking new forks in the road, is the most prized possession we discover during our time here. We know that the forks in the roads ahead only get harder, not easier. But as coach Martinez tells our soccer team, “embrace the darkness” which is, I think, his description of the road unfamiliar to us. Remember, when we face a difficult time, we will know what to do because of one of our brothers next to us, or before us. We will be stronger men, more loving people, through these Avon roads less traveled. Go through life with the Avon Brotherhood in your hearts, in whatever roads you decide to take."

Dane Bartkiewitz '18, Canton, CT (day student)


10.  Talk to Somebody

"Avon is a place where you can find the right level of masculinity for yourself, but I believe that Avon is more than that. One of the strongest qualities people notice about Avon is the relationship between administrators, teachers, and students. I believe that at Avon, we have created a very accepting environment built around these strong relationships. Everyone at Avon is here to help you, no matter what issues arise. My strongest message to you is that if you are struggling with something, anything, go talk to someone. No one here will turn you away and not support you. Find someone you can trust to talk to if you need to."

Bryan Lawrence '18, Southbury, CT


Key Takeaway

Entering into a new school is a major milestone in life: honor the process of your growth throughout your years there. Right now, it may seem like you're just hovering over the school, but rest assured, you will land solidly there. Take advantage of all the many opportunities offered at the school, nurture positive relationships, and seek academic and mental health help. In the blink of an eye, you'll be donning your own graduation cap—confident and poised— like a boss.


Kristen Kerwin


 Associate Director of Marketing and Communications