Max Steinert, a Curious Cardinals mentor and current sophomore at Princeton University, is one of those students who seems to “do it all” – thriving in academics, sports, and his social life – with ease. Max grew up in Concord MA, where he was a day student, or, as he says “95% boarding student,” at the nearby boarding school, Groton. He excelled there in every department: graduating summa cum laude, a math prize-winning whiz, captain of the Varsity soccer team, and dorm prefect.
Often we think accolades come naturally to certain kids, but Max is a testimony to the very conscious effort that is required to maintain multiple passions simultaneously and with success. Speaking to Max, it becomes clear that this success stemmed from conscious practices to maintain a balance and keep a clear picture of his priorities. He explains: “I definitely took the approach where my academics always came first and then, sports was secondary for me and I know that's not true for all students. So that made it pretty easy for me to distinguish, but that doesn't mean that sports weren't important to me.” Keeping his focus on academics, and turning to athletics as a decompressor rather than a stressor helped Max thrive: “I think having the time where you're in school and you're sitting in class and you're focused, and when that's over being able to go outside and really enjoy yourself and run around for two, three hours was probably what made me enjoy school so much.”
In this reflection, Max identifies a key piece of advice for high schoolers: prioritization can be a brutal but crucial skill to embrace when you are striving to strike a balance. This lesson is one many Curious Cardinals mentors have identified for themselves, and impart to their students who struggle with time management or a packed schedule: articulating your priorities gives you a clarifying framework with which you can take agency over how to best spend your time.
Max also owes his sense of balance to his community: “I think because of the friendships and the relationships with teachers and everything that I was able to make at school, I really enjoyed going to school every day. So I guess if I had advice, it would just be to find ways to make high school really enjoyable, and that will help sort of keep your drive up and keep enjoying what you're doing. Because I know traditionally high school is thought of as sometimes not a very enjoyable experience. And it's something that a lot of kids hope is just going to end quickly. But I actually really enjoyed those four years just because I was surrounded by people that I liked being around. So that's probably my biggest takeaway.” In Max’s experience, there’s a key takeaway: having friends, classmates, teachers, and coaches who you like spending time with makes your high school journey more enjoyable–and even productive! If you haven’t found these sorts of relationships that inspire you and hold you accountable, don’t be afraid to seek them out–and you might even find them in a Curious Cardinals mentor!
Leaning on his community for support and accountability definitely helped keep Max motivated, and sometimes it was as simple as working alongside friends: “Because I was at a boarding school, everyone would be around, until sort of later in the evening around dinner time. And I'd normally hang around school until then. So when I was doing my homework, which sometimes I had a lot of, I was doing it with friends and, you know, chatting and hanging out while we were getting our work done so that I think both helped, helped me be more productive, but also just enjoy what I was doing.” Max now brings that same spirit of accountability to his Curious Cardinals students, making academic work as grueling as math problem sets or writing practice enjoyable yet productive!
Now two years into his undergraduate experience, Max is facing new dilemmas and challenges inherent to college life, like deciding on which major and course of study to pursue. But for Max, the key to managing seemingly competing academic interests has been connecting them through interdisciplinary study. He expresses a passion for studying international relations, but links this passion to other fields of interest, such as math, computer science, and business through the study of international trade, interest rates–which are becoming increasingly relevant and applicable in today’s global economy.
Having navigated the difficult task of balancing academic and extracurricular interests in both high school and college, Max is a reassuring and relatable role model to his students. He lends his own experiences to his mentorship, advocating for a relationship-based approach that will help his students make the most of their high school experience.
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