What Our Mentors Wish They Knew Before High School

There’s no denying it: the transition from middle to high school is one of the toughest, most high stakes transitions in a young student’s life. Will they thrive and come into their own? Or will they fall behind with college applications looming? 

The most pressing question: Are they ready?

Our mentors went through high school not too long ago, and now they’re here to help your students learn from their successes and avoid their mistakes.

Here’s what three Curious Cardinals mentors – Kai (Yale pre-med grad), Jayla (Princeton senior in engineering), and Matthew (Poli-sci student at Yale) – wish they had known as they entered high school:


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Yale '25, History and Political Science

My advice would be two-pronged: 1) be intentional about the ways you prepare yourself for college admissions so it doesn't consume your high school experience, because you’re a student and a teenager first. And 2) avoid the temptation to become a carbon copy of the last person who was admitted from your high school into your dream college.

Rather than doing millions of extracurriculars that you don't really care about or trying to mold your high school experience in the image of someone else, be intentional about choosing something that you feel passionate about, even if those passions aren't readily available to you in your high school — which I think opens the door to something like Curious Cardinals and mentorship and having the opportunity to branch outside of that high school incubator and chase what feels genuinely interesting to you. Being unique and true to yourself in high school is actually going to serve you down the line when you move into college application season!

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Princeton '23, Civil and Environmental Engineering

I always thought my passion would come from what I was learning and I would somehow be told which path was best for me. Looking back, I realized that it was the other way around. I used my natural passions to drive my learning within the classroom. My passion for sustainability and environmental justice drove me to study engineering and physics so that I could find my calling in building sustainable communities.

Luckily, high school is a unique time that you have to ask as many questions as you can and to think outside of the classroom. I would not only ask my younger self, "What do you want to do in school?" but, more importantly, "What do you want to do in life?" You won't necessarily have the answer to this question, but you'll realize there is so much for you to explore. When you are doing what is right for you, learning will feel like an adventure. I wish I could tell myself to ask more questions, know that your potential for success is limitless, and create a network of peers/mentors that you look up to so you can learn from them also."

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Yale '22, Religious Studies 

There’s no one right way to do high school. Instead of comparing your academic interests and extracurricular activities to your peers’, focus on whatever YOU are passionate about. You’ll never regret spending time doing things you enjoy — whether it be delving into innovative research during the summer or spending your free periods in choir rehearsal with friends! 

It can be tempting to follow a beaten path, but the things you enjoy are also the things that will make you unique. Leaning into your passions is an important step not only in your academic life, but also on the road to self-discovery! That's the exciting thing about high school — you get to figure out what excites you and start taking a deep dive into it.


High school is a time for immense personal and academic growth, and luckily, our mentors are here to guide your students through it! 

If you want your child to work with a relatable mentor who was recently in their shoes and can help them through this exciting and difficult process, schedule a brainstorm session today. 

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Stay Curious, 

Audrey Wisch 

Co-founder and CEO, Curious Cardinals


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