The Class of 2020: Then vs. Now

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Issue 16, Volume 110

By The Editorial Board 

Cover Image

Every class of students, starting with the class of 2015, takes two surveys during their time at Stuyvesant: one before the first day of their freshman year and one during the last days of their senior year. Here we have collected the thoughts and data of 251 outgoing seniors. Here is what we found:

Part A: Entering High School and College

By Morris Raskin, Clara Shapiro, and Brian Zhang

I think there is a positive correlation between my SHSAT score and my academic success at Stuyvesant so far.

I would prefer that the SHSAT remain the sole criterion for admission to Stuyvesant.

The majority of students (53.5 percent) do not believe that there is a strong correlation between their Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) score and academic success at Stuyvesant. Over 25 percent were neutral, maintaining that there was no correlation, and only 20.5 percent agreed or strongly agreed that there was a positive correlation between their SHSAT score and their academic performance at Stuyvesant.

A large majority of seniors surveyed (66.6 percent) felt that the SHSAT should remain the sole criterion for admission to Stuyvesant, while 20 percent were neutral and 13.5 percent disagreed. It is perhaps to be expected that the majority would vote in favor of the SHSAT, given that the SHSAT is the means by which all seniors were admitted to Stuyvesant.

One of the strongest and most frequently cited arguments for keeping the SHSAT is that students who do not meet the testing threshold would not be able to fulfill the demanding academic expectations of specialized high schools’ curricula. Surprisingly though, the largely pro-SHSAT Stuyvesant population did not seem to believe there is a strong positive correlation between their SHSAT score and their academic success, indicating that the majority of Stuyvesant students were in favor of maintaining an admissions system they do not believe is predictive of academic success at Stuyvesant.

I am attending an Ivy League university or other elite university this upcoming fall.

I think I might attend an elite university (2016)

As students in a school with a reputation for providing an elite, almost college-level education, it is no surprise that the class of 2020 had Ivy League ambitions as incoming freshmen. In fact, 65.3 percent of the incoming class had thought they might go to an Ivy-level or other elite university after graduating from Stuyvesant. In reality, this percentage of students will not be attending an elite university; eighty-four percent applied to these universities while 40 percent, or about half of total applicants, will be entering said universities this fall. It should be noted, however, that Ivy Leagues, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University were the only schools specified as “elite” in the freshman survey, while schools that qualified as such were not specified in the senior survey and thus determined by each student’s perceptions of what qualifies as an “elite” university.

While just over half of seniors (52 percent) believe their chances of getting into one of these schools were higher compared to those of students at non-specialized high schools, 28 percent think their chances were actually lower. This difference in opinion might be due to the common sentiment that elite universities only accept a small number of students from each school, not all qualified students, and therefore have limited seats for Stuyvesant students. Despite this belief, the vast majority (90 percent) of seniors feel that regardless of where they end up, Stuyvesant has prepared them well for the next four years of college. Only 2.5 percent of survey takers believe that Stuyvesant did not prepare them properly.

PART B: Lifestyle

By Morris Raskin and Jonathan Schneiderman

How many times have you used marijuana? How many times have you used study drugs (prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin)? How many times have you used “hard” drugs (cocaine, opiates, etc.)?

Though most Stuyvesant seniors have never used marijuana, a sizable minority (29.5 percent) have used it at least once. The majority of those who have used it (16.3 percent), seems to have only experimented with the drug. Nationally, this number is much higher: 37 percent of seniors report to have used marijuana in the past year. Still, around 10 percent of the Stuyvesant seniors surveyed said that they use marijuana either semi-often or regularly. This data contrasts with the students’ views when they were incoming freshmen: about 85 percent of them said that they were opposed or strongly opposed to the use of marijuana by high school students. Evidently, at least 15 percent of seniors had a change of heart at some point. What this data doesn’t tell us, however, is how many of the 70 percent of students who have never used marijuana still oppose its use by their peers.

Despite the stereotype of widespread study drug usage among Stuyvesant students, the vast majority of seniors surveyed had never taken a study drug in their four years of high school. A small minority (10 percent) used such a drug once or a few times, and students who used study drugs semi-often or regularly constituted a tiny minority (3 percent) of the seniors surveyed.

The vast majority of seniors surveyed, nearly 95 percent, never used a hard drug, and more than two-thirds of those who had had only done so once or a few times, with only two percent of students reporting that they used hard drugs semi-often or regularly. This data is roughly in line with national statistics on drug use among high school seniors. Only one student responded to the survey saying that they regularly used hard drugs; thus, if the surveyed population constitutes a representative sample of the senior population, three or four students in the senior population regularly use hard drugs.

I am opposed to the use of recreational drugs, like marijuana, by high school students.

A vast majority of seniors had been opposed to drug and alcohol use as freshmen, with only 4.2 percent of freshmen claiming to not be opposed to the use of recreational drugs such as marijuana. Similarly, only 2.6 percent of respondents identified as not being opposed to underage drinking. By the end of their high school experience, however, 29.5 percent of seniors tried marijuana in some form, which is over seven times the percentage of those who had not opposed it in their freshman year. While it is possible to simultaneously be opposed to drug usage and use them, it is clear that a large portion of opposed students reformed their views or changed their minds over the course of their time at Stuyvesant.

How many hours of sleep did you get/expect to get during middle and high school?

How many hours did you spend on leisure activities online (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, etc.) before online learning?

The majority (53.8 percent) of seniors spent between one to three hours on leisure activities before online learning, with 30.7 percent of seniors spending three to five hours. As freshmen, however, most students (69.1 percent) had spent only zero to three hours watching TV a week, and 43.6 percent had spent between zero and 1.5 hours on Facebook. A significant amount (43 percent), however, did not have a Facebook account but spent time on social media. The apparent increase is surprising given the stereotype of Stuyvesant students being overly studious, but this may be due to the burnout that some seniors feel after working intensely for many years.

I most closely identify as:

While 86.7 percent of freshmen had identified as heterosexual in 2016, only 76.1 percent of seniors identified as straight, marking a 10.6 percent decrease over the four year period. Whether it was through coming out, self-acceptance, or self-discovery, the LGBTQ+ community saw a clear increase throughout the class of 2020’s time at Stuyvesant. Additionally, the percentage of students who felt unsure about their sexuality decreased. One possible explanation for this might be the inclusion of the “asexual” category, which was not an option on 2016’s survey but garnered three percent of senior survey answers.

Have you received treatment for mental illness since coming to Stuy?

About one in six seniors surveyed have received treatment for mental illness since coming to Stuyvesant; in a senior classroom with a random student population, one would expect five or six students to be in this category.

It is difficult to draw any strong conclusions about mental illness at Stuyvesant from this data. Without every student being examined by a mental health professional, it is impossible to know what portion of the student body might need treatment for mental illness. Therefore, no real conclusions can be drawn about whether Stuyvesant students are getting the mental health treatment they need. There is, however, a significant difference between the relatively low number of students who have received treatment for mental illness at Stuyvesant and the number nationwide: around 40 percent.

Part C: Academic Dishonesty

By Claire Shin

I have participated in something that qualifies as academic dishonesty in high school and middle school.

I think that academic cheating (in any form) can be justified.

I would sacrifice a good grade to preserve my academic honesty. (2016)

Given the intense academic environment at Stuyvesant, it is not surprising that many of the freshmen in 2016 changed their opinions on academic dishonesty. While 88 percent of the class of 2020 said they rarely or never cheated in middle school, only 12.7 percent of them never cheated by the end of their senior year.

This data, however, may not completely capture this shift in mindset. While 72 percent of the class as freshmen had agreed or strongly agreed they would not cheat, seniors, when asked whether all forms of cheating (including extreme cases) are justified, gave more mixed responses: 38.2 percent of seniors were neutral, with the rest of the responses split relatively equally—34.7 percent agreed and 27.1 percent disagreed. Had the 2020 question been worded similarly to the one from 2016, there may have been more people who answered “agree” or “strongly agree.” Regardless, the shift, even with differently phrased questions, is apparent.

Part D: COVID-19

By Talia Kahan and Erin Lee

Are you taking a gap year before college because of COVID-19?

Have you been personally affected by COVID-19?

As one would expect, COVID-19 has had a tremendous effect on the class of 2020. Seventy-two percent of seniors have been affected by the pandemic to some extent, with just over half of responders personally knowing someone who has or had the virus. In addition to cancelling their prom and graduation ceremony, the pandemic has canceled a large majority (82.5 percent) of seniors’ summer plans and has impacted where 15 percent will be attending college. Only one percent of respondents confirmed they would be taking a gap year due to COVID-19, and 31.5 percent of seniors were undecided, though this percentage would have most likely changed after college decision deadlines.

Beyond the effects of COVID-19 on seniors’ post-high school futures, many seniors were saddened by the senior-specific opportunities they would miss out on. One senior wrote, “We worked for 12 years to get the best three months taken away from us.”

Another echoed, “I am so sad that our class will not get the closure that we deserve. No amount of online anything will make up for not having our second term senior year. I am devastated that we will likely not have prom or graduation.”

Ultimately, though, seniors understand that the sacrifices they might be forced to make are for the greater good of the public, with one senior writing, “It sucks that our senior year is no longer what it was supposed to be, but at least it is the way it is in order to prevent more death and suffering.”

Part E: The End

By Matt Melucci, Caroline Ji, and Irene Hao

I have taken a class at Stuyvesant that has significantly encouraged/DISCOURAGED me to pursue a career in a certain field

Over 70 percent of seniors who participated in the survey have taken classes that both encouraged and discouraged them from a career path, suggesting that classes at Stuyvesant meaningfully impacted students’ futures after high school. Most classes have had a lasting effect on seniors, whether it be encouraging or discouraging.

In addition, as freshmen, around 60 percent of respondents had considered themselves aware or very aware of current events, while more than 80 percent of senior respondents fell into this category. This significant increase further demonstrated how Stuyvesant students grow into more active and informed citizens over the course of their four years in high school.

When i am older, i hope to go into:

When i am older, i hope to go into (2016):

Stuyvesant may be very STEM-based, but many seniors have gradually shifted away from wishing to pursue career paths in STEM. As expected, the majority of freshmen (59.7 percent) hoped to go into STEM-related fields. On the other side, 22.2 percent were unsure or wished to pursue business-related fields or social science at 8.7 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. The 59.7 percent of students who were eager to pursue STEM as freshmen declined to 50 percent. Seniors had a greater balance in terms of career interests than their freshman counterparts, with 27.5 percent wishing to go into humanities, 25.5 percent interested in finance and business, and 9.3 percent hoping to pursue art.

Would you choose Stuyvesant again?

to what extent did a parent/guardian pressure you to come to stuyvesant? (2016)

In a sentimental moment of nostalgia and reflection, students were asked if the endless nights of John Green, Khan Academy, and of course, coffee were worth it. Eighty-eight percent of the seniors surveyed said that they would choose Stuyvesant again. One senior praised Stuyvesant for its academic rigor, remarking that the robust work ethic of the Stuyvesant community pushes students to excel in many academic areas.

Twelve percent of the seniors surveyed, however, did not hold such positive sentiments, citing the toxic, competitive, and college-oriented atmosphere as “suffocating” and “cutthroat.” Some believed that had they gone to a less demanding school, they would have had more time to focus on extracurriculars and their mental health.

As one senior wrote, “The juice was not worth the squeeze.” Despite these varying attitudes, the profound impact Stuyvesant has had on seniors is apparent; we all watched a class of anxious, jittery freshmen transform into passionate, confident seniors. We bid them farewell and many congratulations as they lay to rest the most bittersweet moment yet of their high school careers: the end.