Welcome to high school, population three thousand.
With the start of the new school year at Stuyvesant High School, the arrival of a new freshman class fills up the absence left by the graduated seniors, as everyone moves up a year. Orientation comes around, and the Big Sibs welcome their homerooms with cheerful faces and bits of advice; they tell the incomers of the fastest routes to classes, locker usage, and how to strike up friendships, but what do they leave out? What rules or guidelines have been deemed unnecessary, but are in fact quite the opposite? There are many, but you have probably already picked up a good amount of them through your visits to Stuyvesant. Still, dozens of tips and tricks can only be established as the year progresses, as a student endures encounters and experiences that will shape their high school career. For that reason, these conventional and somewhat unconventional guidelines have been put together, to make it easier to survive in the chaos that is known as freshman year.
- No matter how cliché or obvious it sounds, interact with other freshman during your first week. It tends to be the most memorable time for incoming students. The sight of the mob of students crowding the Tribeca Bridge and flooding the sidewalk below it is surely hard to miss. Instead of scampering into McDonald’s and waiting in line for coffee or breakfast, talking to other kids from Stuyvesant in the early hours of the day is a good idea. This is especially important since most students arrive long before their first class.
- Befriend sophomores and upperclassmen. Because they understand what you are going through, they can provide good advice, so it’s important to try to approach them in class or on Facebook. “I talked to a lot of upperclassmen [and] I had a lot of sophomore friends, because I was in sophomore foreign language. They were really nice and gave really good advice,” sophomore Iris Zhao said.
- “Lunch is actually a great time to meet people and talk to them,” sophomore Aaron Loo said. If you recognize a friendly face from one of your classes, approach it. This can be a good way to connect with people.
- Still, high school in general is infamous for social pyramids: a hierarchy made of several different groups with similar attributes—cliques. Contrary to what we’ve learned from “Mean Girls” and “Heathers,” joining such a group is good way to adjust to the new atmosphere; it can be a small circle of familiarity in a sea of everything new. However, getting involved with people who have hobbies different from yours is equally beneficial. It gives you a different point of view. Though this is often heard advice, it is no less important, “Join a club,” sophomore Vanessa Yan said. “Seriously: it’s great fun. You’ll meet new friends and have fun in general.” The Club/Pubs fair in early November is a good way to learn more about extracurricular activities, including those that fit your interests.
- In addition to being social, social media plays a big part in thriving at Stuyvesant, but not for the reasons one might think. Services like Facebook and Twitter are good tools for keeping up with assignments and class minutes. If used correctly, they can make it easier to stay afloat in your more chaotic classes.
- You probably already know this, but managing your time is key. Have a good amount of time to get ready, travel to school, use your locker, and get to class, without getting there too early. Also, be aware whether it is an A or B day. On your schedule, next to your physical education (PE) period there is an A or B. If you have an A-day PE schedule, you only have one period of science on an A day and one period of PE. On B days, you have two periods of science, and vice versa if you have a B schedule.
- Make a mental plan for moving to and from classes, and incorporate locker time, if you use yours at all. Keep in mind that the stairs are better in most situations but escalators are efficient if they drop you off on the right part of the floor. The Hudson staircase is helpful if you need to travel quickly because it is usually empty.
- “I think the hardest thing about being a Stuyvesant student is time management; especially with the long school days, the after-school activities, and piles of homework the teachers assign each night,” Zhao said. If procrastination severely interferes with this, try to fix the problem. Make a list of what you need to do, and offer yourself rewards for completing each task.
- On the performance end, Open Mic takes place after school on the first Friday of every month. In March, the school hosts SING!, a multi-grade musical competition that is one of the icons of life at Stuyvesant. The various bands and orchestras also perform twice a year in the theater, and the jazz combo sometimes plays by the senior bar during first period.
- Figure out what you are going to do during your frees and lunch periods. If you want to go to the library, get there quickly, as it fills up quickly with students that have work to finish up. The half-floor, the cafeteria, and the area around it are good for hanging out, while the first and second floors can be relatively quiet, so you can get some work done there. They are usually cooler during the hotter months.
- Most importantly, you need to organize yourself academically. The amount of homework you get will initially seem overwhelming. Break down the work you need to get done for each class and save time for unwinding, especially during weekends. It will take time to get used to it, but “adjusting is a key part of being a Stuyvesant student,” Loo said, and the advice applies to every high school student.
- Though this isn’t coming up for months, finals in mid-January before the start of second semester and during the last few weeks of school is a crucial time. It is smart to come to school early those days and form study groups at nearby places like Whole Foods and McDonalds. If taken advantage of, this can bump up your grade.
- Also, remember to study, but do not be disappointed by one bad test grade. Instead, talk to your teacher about the issue. Communication with your teachers in these situations shows them that you are interested in doing better, which helps you out in the long run. Plus, it ensures that your teachers know your name.
- However, you need to keep in mind that, even though it is Stuyvesant, not all teachers will suit your needs to teach you efficiently. You can speak to the administration if the situation is really bad. Try talking to your guidance counselor first, but if all else fails, speak to the principal.
- Apart from all the academic stuff, you probably want to know how you can take a break from the work. There are great places to hang out with friends near the school. The park is open during the warmer months of the year and is a great place for lunch, Frisbee, or hanging out after school.
- Food is also easy to find around Stuyvesant, either during lunch or after school. The selections cater to the needs of various budgets and tastes. At Terry’s and Fake Terry’s (Gourmet Market) you can find different deli products without having to walk too far. However, since these locations are closest to the school, you might have to wait on line; students from the nearby middle school tend to fill the place up. There are quite a few pizzerias, such as Donna Bella, where thin-crust slices are sold for reasonable prices. Subway has its usual deals, and the McDonalds, just a short stroll away, is a good place to hangout and eat. (Or, for a healthier choice, check out Zucker’s across the street.) Whole Foods also provides a nice selection of foods, though their prices can get expensive. Fifth-period lunch is perfectly aligned to beat the crowds at Shake Shack, which opens at 11 a.m.
- Stuyvesant is famous for its atmosphere. Kids from all five boroughs flood the school with a variety of cultures and experiences, and the location of the school makes it feels like it is in the center of its own metropolitan bubble. Not too far from the building are music stores such as J&R (where famous artists such as One Direction and Justin Bieber have recently had signings) and subway lines like the 1, 2 and 3 which can take you to places like Times Square in about twenty minutes. SoHo and the other shopping districts are just a train ride away, and if you’re ambitious enough, Chinatown is in walking distance as well.
Eventually, you will figure Stuyvesant out. The fact that the school is not actually perfect will hit you. It is true that the air conditioning does not work all the time, the dress code is controversial, and there is a competition-oriented mindset for many students. You may also have to live up to “the expectations of family and non-Stuyvesant friends,” as Yan said, but if you pace yourself and minimize stress, this will not be hard to do.
Regardless, at Stuyvesant you can find yourself. You can discover new passions and enhance your education in interesting ways. Stuyvesant is definitely not a typical high school, but the combination of the positives and negatives definitely make it special.
Welcome to high school, population three thousand.