Adviser System

At Hopkins, faculty members wear many hats. They teach, coach, lead activities—and they advise. The last is a very important element of the job and involves faculty members more closely with students than most other interactions. The adviser stands at the hub of a student’s life—the connecting point between home and school, between student and faculty, between the present moment and the student’s past and future. Hopkins asks much from its students and families; they ask much from the School. In a very real sense, advisers act as mediators, as well as confidantes, mechanics, parental stand-ins, and whatever else is needed. They need to balance passion and patience, long-range philosophy and short-term expertise, soft shoulders and strong arms.

The Role of the Adviser

List of 9 items.

  • Adviser Groups

    Each grade is divided into adviser groups, usually made up of six to eight students who share an adviser. The adviser system provides each student in the School with an adult, drawn from the faculty, who is professionally responsible for and available to that student.

  • Adviser–Parent Relationship

    It is also vital that the mission and understanding of the adviser extend to the parents of advisees. Parents of our students are encouraged to call the adviser with any questions, simply because the adviser is in the best position to answer the questions or to refer the parent to another person when appropriate. If a parent has a question about a particular class, for example, it is standard practice to urge the parent to talk to the teacher directly. In general, the adviser will want to alert the teacher of the course involved and stay involved in the discussions. Sometimes an advisee will have difficulties of one kind or another that give the parent and adviser reason to speak frequently. Such conversations are very important — for the parent, the adviser, and the advisee. The adviser is responsible for keeping the relationship with the parent(s) on a professional foundation, maintaining focus on the advisee, being sure to inform the advisee about conversations, and encouraging the parent to do likewise. Adolescent children must know, on the one hand, that the adults in their lives are concerned about them, but they must also know that their adviser considers them old enough to be included in the responses to their difficulties and to participate in any decisions that need to be made. It is the adviser who is likely to be instrumental in furthering the advisee's capacity to take responsibility, handle difficulties, overcome them, and learn to become independent. Sometimes parents need coaching and encouragement to allow their offspring the freedom to grow.

  • The Practical Adviser

    The adviser acts in the advisee's interest in a general, practical way. This means that the adviser is a reliable source for any colleague who has questions or information to convey. That is, the adviser is the person who knows the full range of each advisee's involvement at school: the academic load and schedule; sports, activities, social interactions. The adviser also knows about each advisee's special interests, abilities, circumstances, problems, responsibilities, and pursuits outside of school. The adviser acts in the advisee's interest in a general academic way. This means that the adviser keeps track of each advisee's study habits, helping students make the best use of time and to do their best work.


    Finally, the adviser acts in the advisee's interest in a particular way if a situation arises. The adviser will know about an advisee's whereabouts, absence from school, or performance in class, for instance. It may be a simple, practical situation, like a schedule change, or the guidance given advisees each February to make course choices for the following year. That annual task, moreover, challenges advisers to understand the curriculum, to be aware of the sequences in each subject, to know the requirements for promotion and graduation, and to have a sense of where opportunities for choice and flexibility lie. Of course, the Dean of Academics, all Department Heads, the School's Scheduler, and Head Advisers stand ready to meet with advisers so that they are equipped with the understanding and knowledge needed to be effective advisers, but it is up to the adviser to translate all that into clear-headed advice and to help the student deal sensibly, frankly, and honestly with problems and with people.

  • The Personal Adviser/Counselor

    To some extent, the word adviser is misleading, seeming to suggest that the central function is to “give advice.” And advisers do do that, responding to nuts-and-bolts, how-to questions almost daily, offering practical advice in the form of workable strategies. But, while useful, that kind of communication is not the most valuable service provided. Rather, listening comes first. Only then can advisers locate and respond to the adolescent— and sometimes familial— conflicts and fears that often underlie the more obvious academic problems. Advisees need an adviser who can help them deal with fears, anxieties, and conflicts simply by listening to them sympathetically, offering a mature perspective. Students are growing people; they are in the process of becoming adults. Therefore, it is incumbent on and reassuring to advisers to remember that they need not handle advisees' problems by telling students what to do — by literally giving advice; by providing quick answers to all questions and solutions to end all problems. In order to succeed in the process of becoming adults, advisees need to engage in the process of figuring out their own motivations, strengths, weaknesses, solutions, and goals. The eyes, ears, heart, intelligence, and good judgment of an adviser provide exactly the guidance young people need in order to become confidently self-reliant. In short, the adviser offers counsel as well as advice.


    The adviser is available as a person the advisee can speak with frankly and confidentially, a person the advisee can trust in a close, personal way. Close relationships are not a requirement of the adviser system, nor do all students want or need them, but trust is. Given trust and time, adviser and advisee will find common ground and form a good relationship. Every relationship with every advisee will have its own degree of closeness, depth, and feeling, its own individual, defining quality. It is the responsibility of the adviser to keep each relationship on a professional foundation, remembering, on the one hand, that the advisee is a child entrusted to the maturity of the adviser, and, on the other hand, that the advisee who confides in the adviser is trusting an adult who can be counted on to be effective, respectful, caring, and discreet.

  • Practical Strategies

    Each adviser meets with the adviser group, normally twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At those meetings, the "nuts and bolts" matters receive attention. For instance, a Class Council representative is elected; the representative solicits ideas for class projects or reports on suggestions made at Council meetings; special events are announced; advisees fill out sports choices and assorted questionnaires. Advisees should feel that they can also set the agenda for these meetings, which also provide a forum for discussion of any issue or problem that concerns someone in the group. These meetings are often devoted to pleasant conversation.

  • Absences

    An advisee's occasional absence of one or two days requires no special action on the adviser's part. But an absence of three days or more or a pattern of absences involves some planning for ways to make up missed work. After three days, the adviser should call the advisee or the parents to see what is happening. The adviser coordinates the collection of assignment sheets from teachers and books from the advisee's locker so that another student can deliver them or a parent can pick them up, usually at the Baldwin Hall or Thompson Hall front desk, or from the Head Adviser’s office.


    Prolonged absence requires extensive planning with advisee, teachers, and parents, so that the advisee has the materials at home to do all he or she can under the circumstances. If a child is sick, students and parents can become very anxious about missing school. The adviser can be especially helpful here, allaying the anxiety by reassuring the advisee and parents that teachers will be understanding, patient, and accommodating.

  • Conferences with Parents

    Each year, after the November and April midterm grades and comments are sent home, parents of all students are expected to meet privately for a scheduled conference with the adviser for approximately half an hour. The conferences offer excellent opportunities for parents and advisers to talk over and compare impressions and concerns regarding the advisee. Such conferences strengthen the relationship between parent and adviser, and, by extension, between parent and school. Parents are asked to schedule a November conference when they meet with their child’s adviser on Parents’ Night.  Parents who miss that opportunity should call their child’s adviser to schedule the appointment. The April conference will be scheduled in the second term with the adviser and parents via email or phone call.

    If a parent requests a conference at any time of year, the adviser schedules the conference. If the advisee in question is having academic problems, the adviser may suggest to the parent that a teacher (or teachers) attend. The Head Adviser is available to sit in on any conference if the adviser chooses. Sometimes, if a student is having problems (academic, social, or emotional) that seem pervasive or chronic, adviser, teachers, and Head Adviser together may agree that a conference with the parents is indicated and may suggest that the School’s Psychologist attend. In some instances, the advisee will attend the conference. 
  • Comments & Grades

    Comments and grades are issued for all students four times a year: November, January, April, and June. Only the term grades (January and June) and final year grade become parts of the student's official transcript. At two of these four report periods, the adviser writes an additional comment, the adviser comment. Adviser comments are written at the end of terms 1 and 2. The adviser comment focuses on the student's whole experience, emphasizing the adviser's over-arching concern for the student.

    Between each grading period, also four times a year, a day is designated for teachers to submit confidential Interim Reports to advisers of students who are in difficulty. The purpose of these reports is to alert the adviser so that the adviser can confer with the advisee, possibly also with the teacher, perhaps discuss them with parents, and help the advisee to improve the situation. All reports offer the opportunity to adviser and advisee for conversations that focus on the nature of the teachers’ comments rather than on the grades alone. 
  • Special Problems

    Occasionally, an advisee will run into difficulties or present a problem the solution to which will require the adviser to confer with other members of the faculty or with professional people outside the school, always and crucially with the advisee’s knowledge.


    If a student has academic difficulty that persists, the adviser should urge the advisee to speak to the teacher involved, perhaps with the adviser doing some mediation or preparation. If the situation is serious, the adviser will notify the parents. Solutions to academic problems should almost always begin with the advisee going to the teacher for regular sessions of extra help. If that strategy proves insufficient, a tutor may be needed. See Support Services. If the problem is largely procrastination on the advisee's part (rather than poor understanding or extremely slow performance), the adviser may initiate some counseling discussions, whose object is to help the student discover why he or she puts off work. The adviser, along with the teachers involved, might recommend study halls and/or Saturday Hours to provide additional structured study time. If, despite an advisee's best efforts and signs of promise, performance continues to be weak, the adviser may suggest consultation with the school psychologist.


    Like learning difficulties, emotional difficulties may at first seem to be academic difficulties to people working in a school. When a student's level of performance drops, it is natural to assume the problem is academic, and usually that is exactly the case. An adviser keeps track of advisees and gets to know them well. Emotional changes sufficiently pronounced to affect academic performance may be readily apparent. If so, an adviser can take action first by talking to the advisee. If the advisee confides private matters, barring anything of a life-threatening or criminal sort, the adviser must respect the confidence. If it seems that the advisee needs professional psychological help, the adviser, with the full knowledge of the advisee, should contact the parents to make that suggestion. Short-term counseling is available at Hopkins, and the New Haven area is well supplied with psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers who specialize in the treatment of adolescents. Head Advisers, the School's psychologist, and experienced advisers can help with referrals.


    Students at Hopkins respect each other and the adult members of the community, who can informally and directly remind students, if necessary, about standards of civility, honesty, and courtesy. Occasionally, a student does commit a more serious infraction. The consequence of an infraction may be a serious talk with the Head Adviser or a disciplinary hearing. It is the adviser who helps the advisee in the long term by having those conversations from which a young person learns how to handle feelings, how to respect rules, how to judge the effects of his or her actions on other people, and thus to be a positive presence in a community.

Meet the Advisers

List of 6 items.

  • Carrie Shea: 7th Grade

    Grade 7 at Hopkins School is a year filled with a great deal of personal growth, development of important new skills, and the establishment of a love of learning.

    Seventh-graders go through a period of change from their former schools as they adjust to more homework and learn to study effectively, manage time, and organize their new lives. Created by supportive teachers and advisers, the generally nurturing environment of the School is conducive to the inevitable adjustment required of students given new responsibilities. In addition, faculty and advisers communicate frequently with new parents, helping to ease the student's entry into the Junior School.

    The primary components of 7th grade at Hopkins are the promotion of excellent study skills, introduction to and development of analytical writing proficiency, encouragement of experimentation and exploration, and fostering a sense of belonging in the Junior School and larger Hopkins community. This sense of unity starts with a class outing to the Durham Fair in September, a memorable social event for the 7th-graders to get to know one another outside the classroom.

    As a group, the Junior School faculty aspires to guide these young people to become confident, caring, and intelligent human beings who love the adventure of learning.
  • Jocelyn Garrity: 8th Grade

    Teachers and advisers strive to achieve three primary goals by the end of a student’s 8th grade year. First, the Junior School faculty works to strengthen the students’ academic skills and prepare them for their high school careers. Specifically, we work on further developing organizational skills, time management, and strategies for studying. We also work closely with the students to encourage their personal development; respect, honesty, and appropriate behaviors are emphasized at all times.

    Second, we encourage our students to be independent thinkers. The Junior School is a safe, nurturing environment and is the ideal place for young minds to stretch and develop. Each student is required to give a short, prepared address in front of the entire Junior School. This activity helps students grow more confident in their public speaking skills and allows them to share formally with their peers some of their thoughts.

    Finally, we aim to create interdependence within the class as a whole. By 8th grade the students feel more comfortable with each other, allowing them to start them thinking about who they are (and who they would like to be) as a class. We begin this process by taking the entire 8th grade onto the Adam Kreiger Adventure Course for a day in September. While Hopkins’ demanding curriculum is rigorous and challenging, the environment we strive to maintain in the Junior School is a non-competitive one.
  • Marie Doval: 9th Grade

    At Hopkins, 9th grade is very much a transition year for students. Approximately two-thirds of the class matriculates from the Junior School, while one-third is attending Hopkins for the first time. Thus, the initial challenge of the year is to bring the class together as a cohesive group. Students begin this process at orientation, where they have the opportunity to meet their advisers and the other students in their adviser group, to tour the school, and to play games with the entire class. Later in the fall semester there is a family picnic for the class, and the school year continues with several social events for the students (from bowling to dances), sometimes including a class trip at the end of the year. Ninth-graders become increasingly well acquainted with one another during the year through their classes, athletics, and activities. Consequently, the social dynamic is constantly changing.

    In addition, 9th grade students must adapt to the increased demands of high school. We expect them to take more responsibility for themselves and their work, to live up to our expectations, and to become more independent. This is the first time that they truly are given unscheduled free time, especially with the addition of "Free Fridays," special days when students do not have to attend supervised study halls. Furthermore, many students must adjust to having athletic practice after school, which forces them to learn how to use study halls effectively and how to organize their time. Ninth-graders are strongly encouraged to join clubs and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, to try new things, to follow their passions, and to develop their talents.

    The key word for 9th grade at Hopkins is undoubtedly transition. Nevertheless, by the end of the school year, it is difficult to tell which students were new to Hopkins and which ones attended the Junior School; they all appear to have been friends for years.
  • Scott Wich: 10th Grade

    The major point of emphasis with the sophomores is to help them master their academic, institutional, and athletic fundamentals. The sophomore advisers communicate frequently with the sophomores about organization, discipline, attention to detail, and accepting responsibility when something goes wrong. A Hopkins student learns to read with comprehension, write with insight, and solve complex problems and to do so repeatedly and on short order.

    The intellectual and emotional transformations that occur during the sophomore year are essential to preparing the Hopkins student for the opportunities and challenges of the Upper School. The young people are no longer the “new kids,” and the immaturity exhibited by the younger students is increasingly something of the past. Students typically make enormous strides in self-awareness, in maturity, and in the sophistication of their interpersonal relationships during their sophomore year.
  • Lars Jorgensen: 11th Grade

    At Hopkins, the junior year is the portal to adult sensibilities and perspectives, a world in which juniors turn their attention away from the past and the pleasures of the present, and more toward the needs and possibilities of their futures. It is both daunting and exhilarating; no wonder they approach it and live through it intensely.

    It is a time shadowed with myths, chief among them the fable that the Hopkins junior year poses impossible burdens and insurmountable peaks. The reality juniors find and create is somewhat different. It is probably the most demanding year at Hopkins, but juniors discover that they have prepared themselves for it; it is well within the range of their ambitions and abilities. It makes them grow and discover new strengths and an enlarged sense of self.

    It is a year in which students take on numerous AP courses, take their first official SATs, and meet with college counselors in groups and individually to see how closely their college dreams match reality. In all these new challenges, they grow increasingly aware of and oriented toward their future prospects and what they want to be and can be.

    It is a year in which students discover the bracing freedoms of extended privileges and independence: driving themselves to school, and enjoying the ease and liberty of unsupervised free time. They also discover that their teachers expect them to respond with autonomy and self-direction to their intellectual challenges. Moreover, juniors take on greater leadership roles, directing not just themselves, but others as well

    It is a year that ends in remarkable—even radical—changes in the way students see themselves and their place in the world.
  • Kristine Waters: 12th Grade

    The senior year is, naturally, the culmination of it all. It is time for the seniors to step up and make their mark on the school. They do so by assuming leadership roles as club and activity heads, as veteran athletes and team captains, as lead performers in music and theater productions, and merely by taking their rightful place at the top of the social hierarchy.

    The college application process, which began in the previous spring, is in full swing by the fall of senior year. Campus visits, interviews, essay writing, the lining up of recommendations, and the filling out of applications become a major focus during the late fall, and the process generally reaches a crescendo by the start of the winter holiday. A fair number of seniors have the good fortune of receiving early admission acceptances in mid-December, but the majority of seniors must play a waiting game until late March or early April. A few last campus visits help them to make a final choice.

    As always, academic and social matters demand a great deal of time and energy. Expectations are high for the seniors, and a solid performance during the first semester can be particularly important to college admission committees. For the most part, seniors can say goodbye to standardized testing by the end of November, as requirements are nearly satisfied, although many remain focused on the pursuit of AP credits throughout the spring. With the advent of Term II, the academic pressure is largely off. In recent years up to two-thirds of the senior class has elected to undertake Senior Projects during the final two months of the year, encouraging them to branch out in electives and untested areas for the sheer joy of learning something entirely for its own sake.

    Ultimately, the senior year is about tying up loose ends and consolidating friendships with peers and important relationships with adults as students prepare to embark on an entirely new phase of their lives. Commencement is the culmination of several years of growth, endurance, success, and accomplishment; there is a bittersweet reality that an important chapter is concluding. For most, graduation day is filled with excitement and overwhelming pride.