Freshman survival guide

Tuesday, August 9, 2005
Fourteen-year-old Gideon Barr, left, an incoming freshman as Cape Central High School attended freshmen orientation as his mother Tina Barr, right, checked his class schedule on Friday.

Calling all high school freshmen: Terrified of walking through a group of very cool seniors by yourself, sitting at the wrong table in the cafeteria or stuttering when you introduce yourself in class? Well, you should be.

Fear is a natural part of your first week (or month) of high school.

Since establishing that probably hasn't done much to ease your jitters, here are a few tips from upperclassmen and Dr. Mike Cowan, principal at Central High School, that may help get you through unscathed:

Respect the seniority

There's an unspoken rule, mostly among senior guys, that upperclassmen take priority over freshmen, explains Central senior Paige Foley. Sometimes seniors may cut in line at lunch. Don't worry, there's plenty of food for everyone. And speaking of food...

Eat something

The cafeteria is not intended to be a torture chamber

But it can be.

"As a freshman, I didn't know about the food, so I'd just grab whatever I could and then end up with $5 worth of stuff I didn't want," said Claire Segar, a junior at Central.

Central has a food court style cafeteria that offers everything from Mexican and Italian flavors to cheeseburgers and salads. Eat something.

Once you've negotiated the food court, said senior Monica Toole, you face an even bigger obstacle: Where to sit.

Find familiar face

"Lunch was hard as a freshman. It's so crowded, you lose your friends," said Toole. "I worried I'd sit at someone else's table."

There's not much advice to be had on this subject, other than trying to find someone in the crowd who looks friendly. And while you're looking...

Try not to trip

Especially while carrying a lunch tray or walking down a flight of stairs, said the girls. But if you do, laugh it off. That'll be the best way to blend in with everyone around you. Unless you're injured, in which case a trip to the school nurse may be in order. At Central, her office can be found down the main hallway near the counselors' offices.

Not junior high

Slacking in class or on your homework in your freshman year can carry over to your senior year, potentially impacting your diploma.

"Please understand as quickly as possible our commitment to academic intensity and how academic success determines the successful march towards graduation from the very first assignments of the freshman year," said Cowan.

Don't sweat it

But again, it can be.

"I was always worried about my appearance in gym," said Segar. "You know, how sweaty I was."

Guys may be sweating a slightly different gym-related anxiety, but it really comes down to one thing for both sexes: You don't have a choice. Gym is a requirement.

Just remember that everyone else is either in your shoes or has been there recently, advises Foley.

And the mention of shoes brings us to feet which brings us to walking which brings us to most freshmen's form of transportation.

Make an entrance

Mainly, do it as close to the first bell (7:35 a.m.) as possible, advises Foley.

That's especially important for freshmen, who are likely to either ride a bus or be dropped off by mom or dad, she said.

At Central, if you arrive early, you have to sit in the cafeteria.

"If none of your friends are there, you end up sitting by yourself," said Toole.

And one is the loneliest number.

Don't run away

Tempting as it may be, don't rush out of school at the ringing of the last bell.

Instead, consider signing up for extracurricular activities.

"The research is clear that those who are the most involved are those who are the most successful not only in school but also later in life," said Cowan.

Local high schools offer a variety of after-school activities, including drama, a hip hop dance club, jewelry-making classes and athletics at Central.

Joining in might also be the fastest way to make older friends, who just might offer you the occasional ride to school, which just might save you from the embarrassment of mom kissing your cheek good-bye in front of the entire student body.

335-6611, extension 12

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