Freshman year is getting easier.
The first two semesters of high school are still rife with challenges, from adjusting to a bigger workload to worrying about theft in the school building.
But the class of 2011 is likely to have an easier go of it than students in years past. The hazing rituals that were common as recently as 2001 have fallen by the wayside, and students feel less outside pressure to think about college. That means this year’s freshmen can devote more time to enjoying the high school experience, by making friends and learning the ropes.
One of the best things about starting high school this year is the absence of “Freshman Friday,” when freshmen supposedly bear the wrath of senior pranksters.
“I don’t think [Freshman Friday] exists,” freshman Kristina Koon said. From the start of the school year, freshmen have noticed a lack of pranks on Fridays.
Freshman Tammuz Huberman said, “Freshman Friday was just like any other day.” In fact, Huberman said, upperclassmen have treated her well even when provoked: “I did step on this senior’s foot,” she said, “but he was cool about it.”
According to senior Donald Chow, Freshman Friday has consistently become nicer each year. “Seniors haven’t really been doing anything,” said Chow.
“Last year wasn’t so bad. [The seniors] would choose a freshman, and then at the end of the day [they] made them fight each other like Pokémon. [They would say] ‘I choose you, [insert Freshman name here]!’ ‘Use Fireball [insert Freshman name here]!’”
That’s a far cry from the way things used to be.
“‘Freshman Friday’ is anything but dead at Stuyvesant,” wrote Joshua Chang in “Freshmen Beware” of a September 2001 issue of The Spectator. According to Chang, upperclassmen had targeted freshman girls by pouring rubber cement into their hair. Male freshman hazing included forced imitation of homosexual acts.
Senior and Big Sib Chair Liz So doesn’t think this year’s freshmen are likely to encounter problems. But if they’re worried about pranks, she said, Little Sibs should try “staying in groups and sticking with Big Sibs if they feel uncomfortable.”
Another problem that’s better than it used to be is the pressure from family, friends and teachers to start thinking about college.
Justin Fox told The Spectator 15 years ago that “after two weeks as a freshman at Stuyvesant H.S., I have already been told to start planning for college.” Fox said he was bombarded with college advice from all sides.
If this year’s freshmen are worried about college, it’s because it’s important to them personally—not because they’re facing outside pressure.
“Any anxiety that I feel is completely self-driven,” freshman Sam Furnival said. He’s been thinking about college since seventh grade and worries he will “end up going to a community college” if he does not make the top 25 percent of the class with an average high in the 90s.
Other students have more laid-back attitudes about college admissions.
“I don’t really think about it yet,” said Koon, the student who considered Freshman Fridays extinct. “I have a year or two left before I have to start deciding on these things.” For now, her biggest worry is getting to class on time.
Huberman, the freshman who thought Fridays were like any other day, agrees. She thinks first-year students are more occupied with adjusting to a new environment than with thinking about college. “At the moment, everyone’s just trying to fit in and make new friends and start off on the right foot,” said Huberman.
But not everything has changed for the better. Crime, a long-time problem at Stuyvesant, is still a concern.
Huberman said a friend has already had two wallets stolen. That’s not much different from tales circulated in previous years. The Spectator reported in “Theft Brings Changes in SU” of an October 2002 issue that there was a “$2,000 swiping of camera equipment from the Spectator office.” The same issue said a student stole a Game Cube right under another student’s nose, while a third student was mugged on the Tribeca bridge.
Still, seniors say freshman year isn’t as bad as it’s rumored to be. Most upperclassmen have avoided thefts and gotten into college. And some are too short to razz newcomers.
“If I were taller than the freshmen, I might [have] play[ed] a creative joke on those little cute ones. But looking at [this] year’s incomers, it seems like it won’t happen,” said senior and Big Sib Michelle Lee, who is five feet tall.
Seniors’ best advice to freshman is to look for the good. The first year, for example, has the lightest workload.
“If you’re the type of person to slack off, freshman year is the time to do it,” said senior Betty Zhao.