Freshman Year: A Place for the Fish

Published on Jul 22, 2019

“This article is a part of Fiveable’s Field Notes series. Field Notes is a collection of articles curated by students and teachers from around the world detailing their academic experiences.”

The chasm between high school and middle school is huge – academically, socially, and even emotionally; there was no way to compare the two. Of course, I knew that high school wouldn’t be the same… of course I knew! I knew that it would be hard, but I certainly didn’t expect the workload to exponentiate from middle school. That summer, I agonized over the big bad thought of high school. I procrastinated on summer assignments as I completed them in a rush. I was scared and unprepared, and the worst part of it was that I was aware of my own shortcomings. I knew I wasn’t ready for the rigors of high school.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

Despite my misgivings, time marched on, and before I knew it, freshman year had begun. As an avid music lover and performer, I knew that I would continue to pursue band in high school. After all, I had been playing piano for as long as I could remember (how Asian of me), and had participated in band throughout the course of middle school. I had made it this far, I thought to myself, that I might as well see what the next four years of music will have in store for me.

So I signed up for marching band. At our school, there is a minimum commitment of two years of double-blocked band classes. The reason for this is that during the fall marching season, we would earn half a physical education credit and in the spring concert season, we would receive another half credit for fine arts. In that way, we received both a physical education and fine arts credit. I was in it for the long haul.

That year, school started August 16, which was rather late, considering that most of my friends from other districts had already been in school for weeks. Nevertheless, I was ready to dive into AP courses and a new language. Oh dear, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? As any athlete knows (believe me, marching band is a sport!) extracurriculars are tedious and we started with an intense four-week-long, eight to five band camp.

Camp was grueling. There are other ways to describe it of course: intense, productive, sweaty, crowded… the list goes on. As someone who usually spent summers parked on the couch, it was a surprisingly nice change of pace. Time passed faster during camp as I met another member of our three hundred-strong program, memorized another page of music, and created a network of inside jokes. Friendships were easily planted and many of them flourished as we endured the sun, the sweat, and the unforgiving pace of the metronome. Friendships with my peers and my upperclassmen created a fail-safe security net that would grow to catch me. Academically, emotionally and socially, band was my home.

My State of Mind

Flash forward to November: the after-school practices, the Friday games and Saturday competitions, the precarious balancing act of time between sleep, homework, and band. I was getting by – I was surviving. However, surviving wasn’t good enough. I needed to succeed, and I wasn’t. Despite my efforts, I was beginning to unravel – the pressure of my AP class, the unfamiliar new language I was desperately trying to pick up, I was quickly falling behind and we still had one last major competition. We had to go to State.

State went well. We medaled third and everyone was excited. The group’s energy was high and the rest of the season would be smooth sailing with simple football games and school songs. Despite that, every band member had missed three days of school. Some took it better than others; I for one, did not take it well. I was extremely under-prepared for the sheer volume of time that band took up. I wasn’t prepared for the rapid influx of assignments in preparation for the rapidly approaching midterms.

But Then Again… So What?

My band family pulled through with me. All the friends I had made over the course of the season banded together (pun very much intended). We reviewed concepts, studied in groups, and checked each other’s homework. I found my support system, and I used it. I asked for clarification on assignments. I discussed concepts with my teachers. I worked collaboratively with my peers. I no longer felt crushed by school during that time. Sure, the pressure was still there, but now it was shared.

Academics have never come easy to me. An easy A is not something I can own with confidence, but my grades climbed, slowly and steadily. They climbed and it was all due to the fact that I had simply asked for help. I had finally found a family of friends.

Now it’s your turn to think for a second: have you found yours?

⚡ Want to hear more stories from fantastic freshmen? Read: 

I am a rising Sophomore attending school in Austin, Texas. I'm a proud member of the Vandegrift Marching Band and I'm excited to write for Fiveable!

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    Love the title!

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    Estella, thank you for sharing the power of friends and asking for help. Your article reminded me of how friends can help each other when they come together in shared common interests (like band). We should make this article a part of a freshmen survival guide!


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