Originally created 08/04/98

Fitting in



Seniors make fake maps, sell tickets to pep rallies and smash pies in freshmen's faces, says Brad Green.

"They do," says the 13-year-old freshman at Westside High School. "I know they do."

"Everybody makes fun of all the little freshman," says Olivia Kinsey, a 14-year-old freshman at Evans High School.

It's like being back in seventh grade. You're shorter than everyone else. "I'll be one of the smallest people in school," Olivia says. She's 4-feet-11 and was the shortest person in eighth grade.

Brad's worried about getting lost. If you're like him, you won't know where you're going -- and you've heard rumors that people are going to offer you pool passes and maybe even beat you up just because you look like a freshman.

Brad should be fine when school opens: His just-graduated brother has some of his senior friends looking out for his younger brother. But if you're not lucky enough to have a guardian angel, here are some tips on how to dupe the masses and look as though you belong:

•  First, know where you're going. One of the trademarks of freshmen is that they're lost, says Frank Roberson, associate superintendent for instructional services for Aiken County Schools. They think that the time between classes is not nearly enough. They come into class late or they get scared that they're going to be late and start frantically asking directions. This is when people start selling hall passes.

"They had some poor kid looking for the stairs to go up to the pool," says Nicole Wilson, 18, remembering her freshman year at South Aiken High School. The one-story school doesn't have a pool, much less a second floor, said Nicole, now a freshman at the College of Charleston.

Don't carry your map in front of you like you're Lewis or Clark, but try to pay attention when you tour the school. Once you get your schedule, call the principal before classes start and arrange a tour, Dr. Roberson says. Or, ask an older friend (a brother or sister would be great) to show you around and tell you where your classes are before school starts.

Try to memorize your schedule (or write it really small on your notebook). "Freshmen always have their schedules in their hands," Nicole says. Seniors don't.

•  You can sight freshmen because they've hit all the back-to-school sales, says Linda Strojan, guidance counselor at North Augusta High School. "All their things are brand-spanking new," she says. Whereas upperclassmen will just use the same torn knapsack they've had since their first day freshman year. Borrow your brother's beat up one, or snag a cool bag at a thrift store. You won't stand out so much.

•  Don't overdress the first day of school: There are no model-scouts secretly scoping out the lunchroom.

"The way we tell a freshman from a senior is they are really dressed up the first day," said Denise Brosious, a graduate of Hephzibah High School, now a freshman at Augusta State University. "You could tell they had their outfit laid out."

"It looked like their momma's dressed them," added 19-year-old Sally Flipper, her co-worker at Limited Too in Augusta Mall.

"Yeah," Denise says. "The rest of us were more casual."

"But don't wear Spice Girls, Hanson or Backstreet Boys stuff," said Kelly Power, an 18-year-old junior at the Academy of Richmond County. "Those are middle school-type bands."

•  Another freshman trademark is eagerness, says Issie Knapp, an 18-year-old graduate of the Academy of Richmond County, now a freshman at the University of Mississippi. Freshmen look around when they walk down the hallways, checking everything out, reading every poster and looking at every person they pass.

"Freshman year you're looking for people to hang out with," Issie says. "When you're older you've got your friends."

You do need to make friends, so don't turn yourself into a hermit to look cool -- just try to walk with a little more confidence to seem un-freshmanlike, she says.

•  Gym clothes -- freshmen forget to bring their gym clothes. Also, you don't want to leave them wet in your gym locker because they'll end up smelling pretty rank. A tip is to leave an extra clean pair in your locker as back-up in case you forget.

•  Remember, you really do have to do your homework here because all your grades go down on your permanent record.

"This counts. This is for real," Ms. Strojan says. "Freshmen don't take it as seriously as they should. . . . From Day One every grade counts toward going to college and toward graduation."

•  Try not to gather in the hall with your friends and hysterically giggle when people pass you, says Payal Purohit, a 17-year-old senior at Greenbrier High School. That's very freshman. The older you get, the more you play it cool.

•  Hanging out with older kids is a sure way to not seem like a freshman, Issie says. She dated an older guy and people just forgot she was younger than they were. Her sophomore year everyone was asking her where she was going to college.

Michelle Drumgold's a shooting guard on the varsity basketball team at T.W. Josey High School, so she hung out with her older teammates. "A lot of people didn't even know I was a freshman," says the 16-year-old sophomore.

•  But don't go to parties with the big kids and get smashed to fit in. It's illegal to drink if you're under 21, of course, but there's a chance you'll find yourself at a party with someone older who's drinking and you'll want him to think you're cool. It's a bad idea. It's usually the freshman who doesn't know what he's doing and is trying to impress everyone who gets hammered, gets sick and ends up in the hospital."I've heard stories of freshmen trying to be cool drinking too much and throwing up in front of everybody," Denise says.That's not a good way to kick off your high school career.

•  And don't duck into the bathroom every five minutes to fix your hair. Or take out your compact during class. No one cares. The older you get, the less you'll care. (In college senior girls go to class in sweats, and freshmen still wear makeup in the morning.)

"Just be yourself and not worry," Issie says. "I loved being a freshman. It's really really fun -- high school's nothing to be scared of."

FRESHMAN YEAR DOS AND DON'TS

DO

Take a campus tour before school starts

Memorize your schedule

Act cool, like you see on television

Wear something comfortable and casual

Have a Coke instead of a drink

DON'T

Carry a map or ask directions

Carry your schedule

Giggle in the halls

Overdress the first day -- it's not the prom.

Drink to be cool