The transition to high school for sophomores and freshmen


Many underclassmen worry about getting lost in the hallways of Pioneer.

The first week of school has been an abrupt transition for everyone. After a year and a half in quarantine, holed-up indoors, students and staff must now face the stark contrast of in-person school. But Pioneer freshmen and sophomores have an even bigger transition to confront: the shift from middle school to high school.

Many underclassmen say they have a sense of imposter syndrome walking the halls of Pioneer, and feel as if they still belong in their middle school classrooms. “I honestly still feel like an eighth grader,” said Pioneer sophomore Sophia Chen. “Looking back at it, the pandemic seems to me to just have been a blank hole in my life. I was technically going to school, but it didn’t really feel like I was going to school.” 

Chen says freshman year of high school seemed like a continuation of middle school, since she “never got to enter the physical building and experience that traditional ‘freshman panic’ of finding my way around the school until the last few weeks of the year.” 

Pioneer freshman Sydney Pelani agreed, saying she had a similar experience as Chen. “I can’t believe I’m already in high school. Yesterday I was a seventh grader, and now suddenly I’m wandering the halls of Pioneer … it’s like time just disappeared.” 

Aside from adjusting to their grade levels, students have also been faced with a transition to the heavier course loads prompted by high-school level classes. “I think my course load last year was definitely not as big as it would’ve been had I been in regular school. My teachers were a lot easier on their grading and more lenient on their deadlines. So I’m currently in the same position as a freshman in regards to adjusting to high school course load,” said Chen. “I’m taking the AP US History course this year, and I could tell within the first week that I would be getting more homework than I ever have before. It’s definitely been tough for me to stay on top of deadlines and assignments, but I’m going to have to learn how to do this stuff anyway sooner or later.”

 Many Pioneer staff and students familiar with the building have helped to quell the uncertainty and confusion in their own ways by helping underclassmen navigate the hallways and learn about the various activities available at Pioneer.

For freshman Andy Wright, senior volunteers of Pioneer Link Crew soothed his concerns about getting lost in the school. “I remember being so worried the night before the first day of school that I would get lost in Pioneer,” said Wright. “It’s such a huge school, and I tossed and turned in my bed the whole night feeling scared that upperclassmen would pick on me or that I would get lost and nobody would find me.” 

With the help of Link Crew upperclassmen, Wright’s first day was nowhere near as bad as he had prepared himself for. “It was definitely overwhelming at first to walk into Pioneer for the first time and see large crowds of people swarming the hallways. But the seniors who were on Link Crew were really helpful for me, and they pointed me in the right direction for my classes. They really helped me to feel more welcome in my new environment.”

Chen found that even though she is technically already a sophomore, she couldn’t be any help at all to the freshmen navigating the halls those first days. “It’s just ironic to me how many freshmen have come up to me to ask for help on course selection, navigating the school, and other high school stuff,” she said. “I always feel bad telling them that I’m a sophomore and that I can’t really help them. Like, dude, I don’t know what’s going on either. I’m sorry!”

Despite the challenges of adapting to their new school environments, underclassmen say they look to the years ahead with optimism. 

“The thing about a big school like Pioneer is that, even though I worry about getting lost in the building or getting trampled in the hallways, it presents so much opportunity that is just there for me to explore,” said Wright. “I was looking at the club roster sent to me from a few years back, and it seems to me that there’s an extracurricular for every passion you might want to pursue. If I want to see what it’s like to help out in a theater production, I can join the theater guild. If I want to get myself more in-shape and form a bond with teammates, I can join a sports team. If I want to geek out over science, I can join the Science Olympiad team. The possibilities are endless, and I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead in my next four years.”