Over its century-long history, Stuyvesant has been the subject of several books and has made several headlines. But how much of Stuyvesant’s reputation is built upon myths and misconceptions? The Spectator investigated the truth behind four commonly held beliefs about Stuyvesant.
1. Stuyvesant is only math and science oriented.
“There’s so much you can do here,” said freshman Tiana Stute, referring to the 160 classes available to the student body.
Students “seem to be focusing on social studies just as much” as on math and science, freshman Adam Shaw said. Stuyvesant’s graduation requirements support his point—while Stuy requires four years of English, social studies and science classes, it only mandates three years of math.
According to insideschools.org, a Web site that provides information on New York City public schools, English and social studies are among Stuyvesant’s strongest departments.
Senior Lawrence Huang agrees. “[Stuy’s] social studies department is excellent, and, in my opinion, the best [department] in the school even if doesn’t get much attention,” she said.
Maggie Feurtado, an eighth grade math teacher and MathCounts coach at NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies, believes Stuyvesant has a versatile curriculum. Stuyvesant is “a place where math whizzes can get a fantastic education,” Feurtado said. “[It’s] a prestigious school that offers a variety of classes in all areas [and] a school that offers much in the way of extracurriculars.”
“Although our mantra is math, science and technology, we offer a wonderful humanities program,” Principal Stanley Teitel said. “I can’t name, I don’t think, any other high school that offers 10 languages. I wouldn’t spend so much money on the history department if it were a math and science school.”
2. Freshman Friday exists.
“Don’t let freshmen flatter themselves,” sophomore Kashyap Rajagopal said. “The other three grades have better things to do.”
Huang doesn’t think Freshman Friday can occur. “How can there be when half the senior class looks like freshmen?” she said.
Junior Wardell Lee believes Freshman Friday exists, but not as a day to pull pranks on freshmen. “It’s more about acceptance. It’s not like we go around beating people up,” Lee said. “It’s more like, if you do this, you’re chill.”
Freshman Friday was not always this mild. “I remember standing on the bridge with the police because we had heard little rumors that freshmen would have trouble getting to the train that day,” Teitel said. This was four or five years ago. He likes to think that after that day, he put an end to Freshman Friday.
It appears to be so. Freshman Miro Nemelivsky, along with other freshman interviewed, have “never heard of it,” he said.
3. Stuyvesant students do not have social lives.
“I’ve heard it said that there are three things for a student. Sleep, a high academic average and a social life,” said Teitel, “And you can only have two.” On the other hand, “some [students] have all three,” he said.
Some students agreed. “Every student can find a way to balance out academics and a social life if they choose to,” sophomore Adeline Yeo said.
The workload doesn’t much affect social lives,” junior Hendrik de Kock said. “It doesn’t affect my own.”
Some students at Stuy appear to have very active and intimate social lives—enough to make the cover New York magazine on February 6, 2006. “The Cuddle Puddle of Stuyvesant High School” focuses on a “heteroflexible gang” of Stuyvesant students.
Senior Kathrene Gawel said Stuyvesant students are able to maintain friendships and devote time to work at the same time. “[Our] social lives aren’t the same as [those of] people from different schools,” she said. “We don’t have as much time to hang out because there is so much going on, but everyone still has their friends.”
4. Attending Stuyvesant makes it harder to get into college because of the competition.
“I’ve heard rumors that colleges are harder on Stuy,” said Lee.
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Columbia University Dr. Richard J. Eichler believes otherwise. He has given talks about college at Fieldston, Riverdale, Trinity, Horace Mann and the Bronx High School of Science. “It cuts both ways,” he said. “A disproportionately large number of students from a school like Stuyvesant will be admitted to top colleges. College admissions officers are aware of what it takes to get into Stuyvesant and are aware of the level of work students negotiate there, much of which is at the college level. Attending Stuyvesant will get you noticed and confers instant credibility.”
This does not mean admission is guaranteed to your top school. “You may not get into precisely the college you want, but if you’ve been a reasonable student at a school like Stuy, you’re almost assured of admission to an appropriate college that will set you on a successful path in life,” Eichler said.
If anything, [going to Stuy] helps,” Teitel said. “Harvard isn’t going to take 200 Stuyvesant students but every year we send a good number there and to other Ivy League colleges and tier one colleges.”
According to college office statistics, Stuyvesant students were accepted at a higher rate than students nationally for Fall 2007 to a host of top schools, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.
“You can’t stop people thinking what they want to think about us, but you, the student body, know the truth,” Teitel said.