Ask a Bearcat: The Most Difficult Year at Hotchkiss


Dear Bearcats,

I was recently asked to write about the year at Hotchkiss that I believe to be the most difficult. This is a tricky question; I am a firm believer that the quality of a challenge is subjective and relative to our own personal experience. What is difficult for one person might come as second nature to another. That said, as I reflect on my time at Hotchkiss, two years in particular stand out as being difficult: Prep and Senior years. Both epitomize one of life’s great challenges – coming to terms with change.

I will never forget how intimidated I felt as a Prep. It was the first time that I had the opportunity to experience a sense of self outside of the context of my family and also to be a part of a large, diverse institution. At times it seemed overwhelming; I wondered daily about whether or not I was fitting in. Prep year is uniquely difficult, because while you are coming to terms with growing into yourself, separate from your family, it also poses the challenge of meaningfully integrating that newfound sense of self into a new community. It is no easy task, and it takes time.

My advice to Preps is simple. First, try as many new things as you can, especially those that push you outside of your comfort zone. Be patient with yourself and carry a sense of humility and willingness. The greatest opportunities for growth and learning occur when we are in unfamiliar territory. Second, the best way to forge a new friendship is to start with a sincere and heartfelt compliment!

When Senior year arrives, major change is yet again on the doorstep. No doubt, the stress of applying to colleges while keeping up with classes and other commitments takes its toll. Once applications are in, then begins the painstaking wait, with bated breath, for acceptance (and rejection) letters. Senior Spring and the accompanying relief is indeed glorious upon its arrival!

Aside from the pressure of college applications, the most salient challenge of senior year, and possibly the most difficult aspect of one’s time at Hotchkiss, is learning to saying goodbye. It is never easy to say goodbye to one person, let alone an entire community where lifelong friendships were formed, cherished memories were made, and a sense of loving familiarity formed around the paths, pillars, and people that make Hotchkiss what it is. Seniors, there are no words I can offer that will make saying farewell to Hotchkiss any easier. What I can tell you is that the mix of emotions that I am certain you will be faced with as graduation approaches is a testament not only to how much you have grown to love Hotchkiss but also simply how much you have grown.

In closing, I would like to offer one last piece of wisdom for all students. The greatest predictor of lasting happiness is the quality of our relationships. We will go through many changes in life, but we will always need the help and kindness of others to succeed. Creating and maintaining good relationships is a lot like growing a garden; it takes skill, effort, and attention. Just as a garden provides nourishing food, if you make your relationships a priority, then no matter what changes and challenges you face during your time at Hotchkiss and beyond, you will have all the love, support, and strength that you need to overcome them.


Brother Bearcat