Private school can be hard. Keeping your social life afloat while maintaining your grades gets increasingly difficult as you make your way through high school. The rigor of classes, the commute to school and the extracurriculars all add to the challenge. Being one of the few students of color in a primarily white school can prove to have it’s own challenges. High school can be tough, but with these four tips in mind you can navigate the halls with confidence!
#1: Be prepared to feel out of place, but don’t worry -- it doesn’t last long.
Feeling out of place is never fun, especially when you look around and notice most people are wearing clothes and talking about concepts you don’t understand. Giana De La Cruz, a Boston resident and private school student at Noble and Greenough in Dedham, said, “The only challenge [I faced] as a student of color was learning how to accept myself, and realizing I wouldn’t fit in with some of the other white girls or kids. They didn't understand my culture and where I come from. But later on thankfully, I found white, Asian, and black friends who did understand and still loved me.” Finding friends who look like you or have similar interests as you always helps in easing the burden of going to a school where the majority of people look different than you. Olivia Martin, a freshman at Noble and Greenough said, “A problem I face[d] is relating to people. The only other black girl in my grade stopped being friends with me, so it's weird trying to find someone to relate to. But Sister 2 Sister helped.”
#2: Be friends with as many students of color and try your best to attend the various affinity groups your school offers
Making friends and forming connections can be difficult; the majority of the white kids who go to private school all flock from the same towns, which leads to them already having connections. Don’t be alarmed! Affinity groups, common at private schools, are a safe space for people of color to go to discuss their shared experiences in an environment where they’re the minority. Affinity groups unite people of color and help them form bonds to strengthen their place in the community.
#3: Don’t change yourself, the people who want you will come. Spending four years with people you can be yourself with is better than spending four years lying to yourself and others.
Trying to change your appearance and the way you act is common for new students of color. Dr. Jennifer Hamilton, a school psychologist at Noble and Greenough, said many students struggle with assimilating to their school culture, especially when it is different than a previous school, home or neighborhood. It is natural to want to relate to other students by dressing and acting like them. “It's a perception that everyone is the same,” said Dr. Hamilton. “The impostor syndrome... feeling like everyone else fits in but you don’t, is common. It’s seen in schools and workplaces across the world.” However, it isn’t worth sacrificing your own identity in order to fit the ‘mold’ of your school. Even though ‘everyone’ may be wearing the same thing, that doesn’t mean you need to dress the same way.
#4: Find someone you can talk to! It’s always important to have a trusted adult or figure you can confide in through the tumultuous times ahead.
In the wise words of Dr. Hamilton, “Never worry alone!” High school is difficult for everyone. On top of your circle of friends, you should have an adult to rely on and confide in. Even though it might not always seem like adults give good advice, they’ve gone through high school so they might know what they’re talking about.