The first year of high school is a very challenging time for many freshman students. High school has higher levels of academics that can be challenging compared to the education of elementary schools. Along with academic changes, high school is filled with many new social pressures that can be hard to deal with as a young teenager. With those drastic changes, there are many accompanying uncertainties: Who am I going to sit with at lunch? Will I be able to find my classes? Will I fit in with my peers? Is the workload going to be too much?
The pandemic also added new challenges and hardships for the Class of 2024. Not only did they have to deal with the transition to a new school, but they had to deal with the effects of the pandemic in high school. Freshmen are not often given enough credit for the hardships they faced this year. They had to come to a brand new school in the midst of a pandemic while the sophomores, juniors, and seniors had the full advantage of knowing all the ways of the school from previous years. This significantly amplifies the fears of the freshmen thus creating more anxiety than ever before.
The fears of freshmen are evident as McNicholas students from the Class of 2024 explain their first year worries and doubts when they first entered high school.
Audrey Hurlburt stated, “I was extraordinarily worried about making friends and fitting in, as well as the sports team.” However, as the school year progressed she expressed how she overcame her fears and realized high school was not as bad as she assumed. “I had the mindset that it was just going to be a me problem; no one else would have the same struggles. But walking into freshman orientation and seeing everyone as uncomfortable as I was made me almost laugh. We all were terrified, as freshmen always are! We still discuss it today- how we never thought we would have made the friends and connections that we did. I wasn’t even going to try out for the track and soccer teams because I convinced myself that I would never make it, but I made both,” Hurlburt said.
Annie Yorn explained that one of her fears before entering high school was not being able to communicate with others behind a mask. “I have always had fear/anxiety about making friends and meeting people. You don’t know the environment until you get there. It’s always been hard for me, but a mask makes it extra hard,” Yorn said.
Freshman Langley Esterle, who came to McNick from IHM, said, “I was nervous about making friends and getting lost at McNick. McNick was a HUGE school compared to my grade school.” She suddenly realized her fears were unnecessary as her time at McNick continued. “I realized that making friends was so easy at McNick because of my classes. I take Theatre, which has the best community of people and it was super easy to make friends,” Esterle added.
Freshman Taylor Smyth said, “I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to make friends. I was worried about what other people would think of me. I was nervous that my classes would be tough. Once school started, I realized that there’s no reason to care so much about other people’s opinions. If you stay true to yourself and surround yourself with friendly people, then the worry disappears on its own.”
Though many students expressed how many of their fears were dispelled after a couple of weeks at McNick, there are still valid challenges and fears at the beginning of the school year.
“I was fearful of the amount of work and how hard classes were going to be. I think that was valid because it was such a drastic change from grade school. Some classes are pretty difficult and are a lot harder than grade school classes,” Esterle said.
Smyth said, “When the year started, I found out very quickly that there will be some challenging classes. There will be times when you feel stressed, but if you manage time well and stay on task, it will be a much faster process.”
It is important to look back and reflect on your first fears and acknowledge how they have changed in a couple months. As freshmen reflect on their past year, they also give advice to the upcoming freshman class.
Hurlburt stated, “Just do it. It’s all awkward and everyone is thinking the same thing. It’s not just you, and you’ll really regret if you don’t do something that you wanted to do just because you cared too much about what other people think or what it would make you look like.”
“Live this year to the fullest. This year went by incredibly fast,” Yorn said.
Esterle gave a list of advice for the incoming freshmen this fall. “I would tell them to have good time management, get involves in clubs and other activities, go outside of your comfort zone and take classes that you wouldn’t normally take, and don’t worry about making friends because the McNick community is so welcoming,” Esterle said.
Smyth added one final bit of advice: “Branch out from your middle school friends. Although it may seem tough, if you spend time with new people you may meet someone you will be friends with throughout your whole high school career.” When freshmen enter high school for the first time, it feels impossible and terrifying. However, that is not the case. As the Class of 2024 share their experiences, they demonstrate how many of the doubts and fears will dissipate after a couple of weeks or even the first day of high school. It is normal for new experiences and chapters of life to be worrisome, but everything will eventually work out and fall into place.