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‘I’m just a little bit angsty’: New York City students talk about what makes them nervous about high school

Students from Breakthrough New York visited the Chalkbeat offices.
Students from Breakthrough New York visited the Chalkbeat offices.
Julia Donheiser

For many students across the country, switching from middle to high school requires little more than a new bus route.

But for New York City’s eighth-grade students, it means navigating a maze of tests, interviews and applications — otherwise known as New York City’s notoriously difficult high school admissions process.

Last week, a group of rising eighth- and ninth-graders from Breakthrough New York, a program that helps high-achieving, low-income students get to and through college, visited Chalkbeat’s office. Over pizza, we did our best to explain journalism, and used the opportunity to ask these students about school next year.

In response, we heard a lot of nerves — about applications, writing samples, and starting over in a new place. Here is what these students had to say. Their responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Oreoluwa Ojo, rising eighth-grader at the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars

Something that I’m most afraid of is the whole application process for high school, because I know that there’s a lot of tests that you have to take. One high school that I want to go to is Bard, Bard Manhattan, and I know that there’s a test for that school. And I’m afraid that I may not pass the test. I feel like I’m going to forget to look at my email one day and it’s going to have something important — one thing that I forget.

Frangel Soriano-Fabian, rising eighth-grader at the New School for Leadership and the Arts

What I’m most nervous for is the application. The biggest thing I think is the SSAT [Secondary School Admission Test, used for private schools]. Cause I’m trying to go to an independent boarding school that has to do with medicine so I can do what I want and become a doctor.

Yeah, I’m very scared for the essay part of the SSAT. I heard it’s pretty difficult. We already took at least two practice parts of it.

What was difficult was the time that they give us. Cause I heard it’s like 25 minutes for the essay, so I’ve got to time it all. I think it was three minutes for intro, four minutes for the body paragraphs, and same thing for the conclusion. And I have two minutes to revise everything, edit everything. I think I’m well-prepared for it. I’m just a little bit angsty about it.

Madeline Garcia, rising ninth-grader at Cardinal Spellman High School

One thing that I’m nervous about, not nervous about, but like scared for it to happen is that I might like not focus or I might get off track or something like that. Which, hopefully I won’t do. But [maybe] I will not be as focused as I should be or something will happen where I’ll have to take time off school. I want to focus on another scholarship because I have to pay for tuition. Also, I want to go to Columbia University, so I’m just afraid that something might get in the way of that.

Janet Hernandez-Romero, rising eighth-grader at the American Dream School

What I’m most nervous about this fall is the interview part of the high school process, because I feel like that’s the moment they meet you and I feel worried about what I’m going to say.

It’s my first impression and I want to make a good impression. And I’m afraid of making a bad impression. And also, the whole [process of] visiting schools because I want to go to a boarding school. And I’m not sure my parents are going to agree on that.

I want to go to a boarding school because I live with three sisters and it’s always a little noisy, like I don’t have a lot of time to concentrate. And also, I feel like I want to explore more places alone even though I love my family a lot. I just feel like I’m a more independent person. I want to learn how to be more organized without my mom. Because I want to see how I live without anybody telling me what to do. I want to take control of my life.

Hillary Matos, rising 9th grader at Columbia Secondary School

One thing I’m really nervous about is being the new kid in my school. Because at Columbia Secondary School, most of the students are from the middle school so it’s hard to try to create a bond like that. Starting from sixth grade, the community there, they’re such a family and everything and I just feel like I won’t fit in.

I’m used to being the new kid, but at least I’ll [usually] have somebody, like a friend that I knew. I guess I’m going to be the new kid now.

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