With the school year coming to an end and Regents exams right around the corner, it is a good time to reflect upon the freshman year of the class of 2020. The first year of high school is one of the most influential, with changes from middle school ranging from more options in levels of classes to opportunities in student government. Hearing feedback from students is important so that the experience can be further improved.
Freshman year is the first opportunity for students to take Advanced Placement classes, notably AP World History, which are college-level courses designed to challenge students to a higher extent than honors classes. Jefferson Sheng ’20 commented that “AP World prepared us for future AP classes, especially with the workload and the amount of information taught.” Students are often encouraged to take these AP classes to further prepare themselves for college. However, many students found them a huge step up from honors-level courses and this generated a lot of stress, especially when combined with extracurricular activities, in which many students participate.
In terms of extracurricular activities, freshman year was also the first opportunity for many students to participate in varsity level sports, such as cross country, soccer, swimming, and track and field. Those who chose to do so found that their time to do homework and to study was significantly slashed, although the majority of students said that they were still able to manage their time effectively in order to complete schoolwork. People also commented that IHS offered a much larger variety of clubs to participate in than their middle schools did. Freshmen who participated in clubs such as Code Red and Music Production Club said that they were a great, enriching experience.
Another opportunity freshmen had was to participate in their class government. This body of students runs fundraisers to raise money for class activities and also plans class meetings. Alex Whitehead ’20, the current president of the freshman class, said, “During the year of 2016–17, our class government was able to run a classwide meeting to help students meet one another. We also helped to set up the Winter Formal, and had a bake sale which produced profits way above the expected amount. Also, we were able to create a Google Classroom after discussing this idea with other class leaders.”
Possibly the most important change going into high school was the freedom in course selections to a much larger extent than middle school. Aside from required classes such as PE, students can, for the most part, take whichever classes they want to that they have completed the prerequisites for, as long as they meet requirements for graduation. Students said that they enjoyed their greater freedom to choose what to learn instead of just taking the required classes that had already been chosen for them. This allows students to learn about new topics that they are interested in, and provides more opportunities to explore their interests outside of clubs.
The consensus from most freshmen is that high school, although challenging, offers a much-welcomed increase in freedom to choose courses and partake in extracurricular activities. Overall, students responded positively to the challenge of their first year of high school and hope that their high school experience continues to improve.