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An Uphill Struggle: Starting Freshman Year During a Pandemic

Danielle Kanter, Grade 9, Staff Writer


Quarantine has transformed the high school experience. The everyday environment of school hallways and classrooms has been replaced by Zoom calls and homework. Freshmen specifically have had a tough transition. The beginning of freshman year is normally filled with social activities where freshmen are given opportunities to meet their teachers and peers. While transitions are always tough, this year is uniquely difficult. Freshmen are finding it even more challenging to meet classmates and adjust to the fast-paced life of high school.

Freshmen at the High School of American Studies are anxious to meet their peers. However, with strict social distancing guidelines and the small size of HSAS, students were only able to attend in-person school once every other week, meaning they were unable to interact with a majority of the grade. After the school shut down on November 18, freshmen no longer had this opportunity. “Because of the COVID-19 precautions and the distance between where people live, it’s hard to get to know other people in person, especially to get to know them well,” said freshman Nora Demak. Everyone is grappling with the start of high school alone.

Without full-time, in-person schooling, the freshmen were not fully introduced to the HSAS community. Many freshmen have had a tour of the school, but do not know most of their classmates or teachers. Many of the reasons as to why students chose HSAS are not relevant this year: the close-knit community, the relationship with guidance counselors and teachers, and the spirited class discussions.

The large workload, although toned down due to the pandemic, has made students stressed out. “The workload gets very overwhelming because of tight due dates,” said freshman Camila Slatopolsky. Many other freshmen echoed Slatopolsky’s description, saying that the heavy workload made the transition from middle school especially difficult.

Students might normally turn to their peers for help with the heavy workload, but freshmen know few of their classmates and have no one to contact for assistance.

Nonetheless, the upperclassmen and faculty at HSAS have tried to make the freshmen transition into high school as seamless as possible. The HSAS Committee for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion introduced a freshman mentorship program that matched upperclassmen with incoming freshmen. Their hope was that freshmen would be able to reach out to the upperclassmen whenever they needed help with homework or if they had questions about HSAS.

The isolation combined with the heavy workload has made many freshmen feel anxious. Many are spending their days indoors. “I don’t get to go outside every day, only when I have an activity or a plan, so about three or four times a week,” said Demak. “I was outside every day last year, whether it be walking home from school, doing after-school activities, or hanging out with my friends.”

However, freshmen are trying to make the most out of a difficult situation. At the end of the summer, students organized a couple of meetups in Central Park, a few Zoom calls, and a group chat.

But without an end to the pandemic in sight, many freshmen at HSAS are nervous about the future of remote schooling. They do not know if they will be allowed in school again, when they will be able to meet other freshmen, or when they will be able to partake in school traditions. All are excited for a return to normalcy so they can fully integrate into the HSAS community.

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