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We’ve all seen High School Musical and heard the song “We’re All In This Together”, which tells us that high school is going to be supportive and full of singing. And remember The Lizzie McGuire Movie? Before high school started, Lizzie’s 8th grade class went on a trip to Italy and she became a superstar. When I was little, I always though high school would actually be like that: exciting, fun, and filled with high heels and extremely well-choreographed dance moves. The schools I’d seen on television were the only things I had to go off of. I thought that the boys would be cute and that I would soon find my lifelong BFF. I thought I would get to take a million electives like cooking and home economics and then get into Harvard.

And let me tell you, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Media has always painted this happy, glowy picture of high school. There is always a happy ending and the greener grass is on your side. That’s just not true. Don’t trust the pretty people in the TV who insist that high school is the best time in your life. TV gets it wrong, and it’s time to call them out!

1. Same people, new classrooms. Unless you switch schools or move, the people you went to junior high school with are going to be the same people you go to high school with. On ABC Family’ Bunheads, two mysterious and cultured kids move to town and enroll in the local high school. THIS NEVER HAPPENS. The only new kids are transfers from the other high school in town or kids who just moved from Smalltown USA. Those kids can be interesting, but don’t expect them to speak seven languages or to play the sitar.

The dream you have of meeting a bunch of exotic new kids in high school is not going to come true, nor will the one of scoring a date with the dreamy exchange student. And because it’s the same kids, groups of friends stay the same too. As do maturity levels. You would think getting a driver’s license or taking on the responsibility of a job would get teenagers to grow up a little and use there brains but, alas, the eighth grade mentality lasts a lot longer than just one year.

2. There are no class trips. Well, this is true of public schools at least. I’ve heard beautiful rumors of the local private schools taking trips to Europe and Africa, but if you are stuck in a government-funded school like me, you will be lucky to have a desk that doesn’t give you splinters. And by no class trips, I mean not only elaborate ones like Lizzie McGuire went on, but the general field trips that were so common in elementary school and junior high. Hold on tightly to the memory of the first grade trip to the garbage dump, because even that will seem like gold after four long years where the only trips taken are one’s to the bathroom.

3. Electives are going extinct. Seriously. Remember when they had classes like cooking and Latin and Driver’s Ed? Well, I don’t. But my mom does so that means they must have existed at some point. Everyone looks forward to driving around in the weird car thing made famous by Saved By the Bell but don’t be fooled. Driver’s Ed is long gone in many schools, and instead, those looking to get their license are lucky enough to pay hundreds of dollars for private lessons! Woo-hoo. But don’t worry: you still get to take health class and watch the infamous natural childbirth video.

4. You have to take real classes. If I learned one thing from watching way too much TV, it is that I can take study hall, woodshop, the Science of Food, and cooking class and get into a stellar college, no problem. That is a lie. Disney Channel never told me that I needed to take math, lab sciences, English, history, and a foreign language all four years and that they all must be AP if I want to get into Best Bet University.

5. No one goes to “The Big Game” because “The Big Game” doesn’t exist. You know how in The Luck of the Irish, everyone cheers in unison for their star basketball team? That scenario exists only in the minds of screenwriters who clearly never went to high school. I’ve been to three games in the three years of my high school career and they were all homecoming football games. And that was just mostly to find out which class won Spirit Week. No one goes to football games. Or basketball games. No one says “See you at the game!” The only people you will see at a game are the parents and siblings of the players. And there is no big game. Only a handful of schools make it to any sort of championship, and even then most of the student body does not show up. It just doesn’t happen.

6. No one sings. Or dances. Ever. Actually, that’s not true; the kids who never turned in their registration papers and get stuck in choir do sing. But it’s nothing like in High School Musical. If you even try to dance on a table during lunch, the campus supervisor will be yelling at you in ten seconds flat. Whats up with that? We’re just trying to add a little brightness to the drab that is high school. But even if the supervisors didn’t squash your groove, your classmates certainly would. In this day and age, breaking out into song in the hallways just isn’t acceptable. And no, singing your oral presentation in English won’t go over well either.

7. There isn’t even enough going on to complain about. Yeah, everyone gets in those little fights and things, but there is no real drama to be heard of. There are no parties that get busted up by the cops, and no one ever gets arrested for doing something stupid. Nothing happens. High school is essentially the same day on repeat for four years. And even in My So Called Life which supposedly portrays a girl who hates high school, scary yet exciting things happen. Claire Danes has to save her drunk friend from creepy guys in a parking lot, or dyes her hair bright red. You’re going to hate high school, but you’re not going to have anything tangible to complain about.

TV doesn’t get it. It’s not fun, it’s not rah-rah. It’s a ton of hard work that may or may not pay off. And most importantly, the guys and girls don’t look anything like they do on Teen Wolf (unfortunately).  But despite how badly TV gets it wrong, everyone survives. Despite the fact that TV usually shows the light at the end of the tunnel as getting the girl or pulling off the party, the truth is the real light is college. If I’ve learned anything from all the shows and movies I’ve watched it’s that college rocks. But don’t even get me started on how television portrays college life…



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the author

Kathleen is a Northern California native and incoming freshman at Washington & Lee University. She spends much of her free time obsessing over the future (not in a crystal ball way) and making plans to visit as many countries as humanly possible throughout her four years of college. She loves her dog Morton, Grey's Anatomy, and money. One day she hopes to become the perfect mix of Cristina Yang, Mindy Kaling, April Kepner, and Amy Poehler. Until then you can find her crying over how exciting life is and retaking the Myer's Briggs Test to make sure she really is ENTJ.

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  1. Cassie on July 5, 2013

    So, all of this is the opposite as my public school. We had 3 different middle schools and 10 elementary schools so there were tons of new people at my school. We had groups that went to Africa and Europe and Asia all the time and you could get school-funded scholarships too. We had SO MANY electives and Driver’s Ed was mandatory in my state. I hung out with theatre kids so we sung and danced in the hallways all the time. But, my school is so weird because it’s super-funded and cares LOTS about other things besides sports and academics plus it’s got almost 4000 people so I know my school is like this public school utopia it’s just weird to think about.

    • Neecole on July 5, 2013

      I think it depends on where you go to school because my school sounds like yours.

  2. Riann on July 5, 2013

    All of this is true except for 6. The teams at my school are constantly winning state championships, so people are always going to games

  3. Siena on July 6, 2013

    This is LOL and pretty much nails my high school!!!! We don’t seem to have any money for ANYTHING except the football team which is pretty bad so no one goes to games. When we were freshmen, there were new kids from different middle schools but everyone just formed the same cliques. I’m glad to hear from Cassie and Neecole that there are awesome high schools out there, but most of my friends are bored out of their minds here and even the teachers look bored. A friend who moved to Denver says it’s not much better there, but another friend who goes to a private school says it’s awesome.

    • Cassie on July 6, 2013

      Yeah, my school has more money than they know what to do with because our taxes are so high but it’s ok because education is really important to everyone. The private school in our area, even the governor of our state (who went there) says it’s turned to crap and that he would have rather been an alumni of my school because it says more.

  4. Neecole on July 7, 2013

    My school is a public magnet and it definitely doesn’t have a lot of money. We are an art school so I guess maybe that’s why it’s different? Geography plays a part in it too.

    • Cassie Scaman on July 8, 2013

      Ah got it. We should be an arts school because we have such great programs (our ceramics students make like 20000 bowls every year for Empty Bowls and our theatre and music departments are the best in the state with all that they offer). But no, it just costs a lot to live in my town because Hemingway, Frank Lloyd Wright and Betty White all lived there.

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