The SLHS freshman experience: what the newest underclassmen really think

Erin Burchill ‘25, Entertainment Editor

“High school is better than middle school,” is a commonly spoken opinion among those who went through the final period of grade school; although it may not be a unanimous belief, it can be agreed upon by many. Parents love to reassure their teens by saying, “Don’t worry, high school will be better. I loved high school.” But is it really better? Especially this year?

Upon starting high school, some things became clear: the leniency with rules, more independence, the feeling of finally starting to grow up, and the sprawling possibilities of classes to take. For example: in middle school, hats and hoods are against the dress code, and teachers often tell students that high school will not be as easy going about rule enforcement; flash forward to high school where nearly everyone wears hats and upperclassmen can get away with skipping school, swearing in class…whatever they want—that is, at least, according to them.

High school is the big time in students’ lives when they really start to feel like they are becoming adults. Freshman Gianna Collier said, “Middle school was definitely more controlling, like teachers now are definitely more laid back about stuff. They don’t really care about phones and they’re more lenient with the bathroom…they just trust you more to be on your own.” There is a level of independence that comes with starting high school; it is a difficult feeling to describe, but there is no doubt that many freshmen feel it.

Looking deeper, however, a few changes were extremely apparent and a bit intimidating: the large gap between the maturity and culture of freshmen and seniors and an intense dislike, almost disdain, for freshman from the upperclassmen. The pep rally and football games showcased what it is like to be a tiny freshman in front of a group of seniors; the two classes were on opposite sides of the stands, but even then, seniors started chanting “go home freshmen” and bursting out in mocking laughter when a group of freshmen were absolutely destroyed in a match of tug-of-war against juniors, and football players to boot.

However, us freshmen do not tend to take this mockery personally. Freshman Charlotte Thomas said, “It’s honestly more annoying than hurtful.” It is not that we think we are being oppressed because we are freshman—it is that going from being the oldest to the youngest students in school is a huge switch, and it gets tiring being verbally belittled by the older kids.

On the topic of age, although only four years of age separate the oldest and youngest high school students, the two groups are vastly different from one another. An anonymous freshman said, “I just feel like since we’re new to the atmosphere that it’s a lot different and seniors have been used to the school… it’s just a lot more for us to get used to, and seniors have been here for so long.” She believes that the difference in familiarity with this phase of schooling highlights the difference in maturity between the two age groups.

Some teachers have even remarked on noticing a lack of maturity in this year’s students—specifically freshmen—when compared to previous classes, and it seems to be a common agreement among them that it is mainly due to online learning mentally stunting the school’s newest teens.

COVID has been an even worse factor for all grades, especially freshman classes, going as far back as 2019; the pandemic has taken away many opportunities for school activities and even some clubs and sports. Freshman Morgan Tucker said, “With the mask mandate thing at school, it was a lot harder when we were playing [volleyball] because you always had to make sure it was on your face.” Some classes could not participate in past activities—snacks on movie days, close contact games, field trips—because of the high COVID risk. Freshmen have missed out on essential experiences that would help acclimate them to the high school environment, and there is no telling how long this will continue to happen for future freshman classes.

While it may be true that this year’s freshman class is not entirely unique from others, the culture of the individuals that make up the ninth grade will always be changing. The freshman experience is known by each and every high school graduate, but it seems that it is often forgotten by upperclassmen once they move on from freshman year. Seniors especially need to be reminded of what it is like to be the fresh meat in a huge school with some peers that are considered legal adults. We freshmen deserve more respect from the older classes as we brave the metaphorical swirlies and lunch money theft of the famous American high school experience.

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