The Freshman Experience

Supporting Each Padre’s Transition to Serra

Making the transition from middle school to high school is an exciting time in a young man’s life. It’s a new beginning. An important step toward college and career. A reason to dream big.

It’s also a school year filled with lots of change, new friends, increasing responsibilities and expanded academic and extracurricular opportunities. It’s an entirely new school community for our newest Padres. We understand their excitement and anxiety. That’s why we’ve created an integrated program, the Freshman Experience, which is designed to promote connectivity, engagement and support. Serra’s Freshman Experience team members–teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches and other key staff members–have their eyes and ears on our youngest Padres at all times. The team meets regularly throughout the school year to check in and share observations and ideas. Their mission: to help students successfully navigate that critical first year of high school. 

It all starts before the first day of school with a two-day orientation and retreat. Students have an opportunity to meet their new classmates, get connected to a big brother (our juniors take on this important role), learn about the history and culture of the school, and hear about the expectations and virtues that are foundational to the Serra brotherhood. Friendships begin to form before the first school bell rings.

Once school begins, there are important events and programs that continue to support the boys during  this transitional year. It starts with their teachers. Freshman class teachers are assigned to freshman classes because of their keen interest in this age group and track records of success teaching at the freshman level. Freshman teachers quickly become mentors, building a rapport between students and adults that is critical to school connectedness.

I have a Big Brother named Joey, and he has answered a lot of my questions. Our Big Brothers give us advice and talk to us about how we're doing. I have had a great freshman experience! I'm involved in crew and the AV Club, and I've made a ton of friends." 


- jake lager '23 

More programs and events that underpin the Freshman Experience:

Summer Technology Orientation

Incoming freshmen attend a three-hour technology orientation during the summer, which includes the critical topic of digital citizenship. In addition, they are required to independently complete a host of assignments designed to prepare them to use technology efficiently and responsibly when school begins.

Tri-School Social Events

Freshman year begins with a splash–literally! The Frosh Splash is the kick-off social event for Serra, Mercy and Notre Dame freshmen. It’s hosted by Serra at our beautiful Aquatics Center each August. Additional Tri-School events are held throughout the school year.

Counseling Support for Students and Parents

Freshman counselors are actively engaged with students and their parents in a number of ways to ensure they get off to a good start. They meet individually with each student early during the first semester of school and with each student and his parents early during the second semester. These meetings are designed to ensure that the student is acclimating well and to begin a dialogue about college planning and goals. Counselors also meet with students in their homerooms during the year to address issues such as starting a college resume using an online tool, Naviance, and developing academic self-awareness by participating in a learning style inventory. Counselors serve as student advocates and are always available to meet with students and parents as requested or needed.

The counseling team also offers two support groups each school year, open to freshman participation. One is focused on students’ social transition and how to get engaged in the Serra community. The other topic is flexible and chosen in response to students’ needs and interests.

Student Advisories Led by Big Brothers

Freshmen will keep in touch with their Big Brothers, whom they met at their August orientation and retreat, through homeroom advisories that are scheduled throughout the year. As trained student advisory leaders, Big Brothers facilitate discussions on practical matters such as how to use office hours effectively as well as on this year’s advisory theme, which is health and well-being.

Surveys that Keep a Finger on the Pulse of the Freshman Experience 

Twice a year, the Freshman Experience Team surveys the boys in the freshman class to get firsthand feedback on how they are doing. This information helps the team assess the needs of the class as a whole as well as uncover any issues of concern that have been shared by individual students. For example, the survey helps to identify students who are experiencing stress or anxiety over the academic expectations or who are struggling to fit in socially. It also lets the team know who among the students has not engaged in a school activity outside of class (all freshmen are strongly encouraged to get involved in an extracurricular activity within the first six weeks of school). This information prompts counselors to reach out to students who are having difficulty coping academically or who have not yet found a group, team, or activity to connect with. Counselors serve as their students’ advocates; they work with the young Padres to find solutions and to find their place. 

Insight from the Principal’s Desk

Principal Charlie McGrath sends an email letter three times a year, addressing timely topics of particular interest to freshman families.These letters are targeted toward parents, as they navigate the landscape of their son’s start of high school. Past communications have addressed how families can engage in their son’s social media activities, how to help him prepare for his first final exams and ways to manage stress during his high school years.