A smaller person staring up at someone towering over them. This shows how the phenomenon of shrinking freshmen seems to many; they feel as if they are towering over the freshmen.
Drawing by Everette Cogswell. 

Each year, a brand new group of students arrives to Franklin’s halls. Fresh out of middle school, they are proud and confused, and terrifying to the rest of Franklin’s community, which they seem proud of as well. They are deemed freshmen. It happens every year in the same way, with the same annoyances, the same sighs, and the same lessons. But one thing appears to be different: Each year they seem to be smaller and smaller, looking like they don’t belong in high school halls at all. No senior, junior, or even sophomore can remember looking as small as the freshmen they see, but not too long ago, they were the same age. So how is it that the freshmen look so short? Are the freshmen shrinking, or is it our perception that has changed?

A survey was conducted to discover the answer to this phenomenon. In total, 73 responses were received, which recorded not only current students’ heights, but the heights that non-freshmen were as ninth graders. In response, eyes were rolled from the freshmen, and many non-freshmen realized how short freshmen look. The data: shocking! At first glance, it seems that the freshmen are the exact same height that non-freshman were; that is, an average of five feet five inches if you round the nearest whole inch. But in specifics, Franklin’s current freshmen seem to be shorter by 0.128 of an inch. While it may not be much, the difference is still there.  

The peculiar part, however, comes with further data gathered (aside from the recorded averages). No freshman’s height was gathered above five feet nine inches, while many non-freshmen reported being five feet eleven inches. This could have been due to faulty data collection, but the question still stands: Where are the tall freshmen? 

Perhaps our perception is what amplifies this change. Those of us who are shorter than the tall freshmen overlook them, in disbelief that we could be shorter than freshmen. And those who are taller, excuse that the younger they are, the shorter they must be. Or, it may be similar to walking into a childhood room and thinking, “this couldn’t have been so small.” We refuse to admit that we too were that small once.

Either way, the shrinking of freshmen is a peculiar phenomenon. It doesn’t hurt anyone (yet), but still confuses the minds of many. The answer to “why” hasn’t been determined yet, so assumptions are all we have to try and answer this part of the question. Perhaps the cause is the weight of responsibility that has recently been placed on their shoulders. Or perhaps the overcrowded hallway has stunted their growth; a survival mechanism to creep through the crowds. Or, maybe the culprit is the world’s current favorite factor to cast blame upon; COVID-19.

Regardless of the reason, this phenomenon does seem to exist, even if only slightly. After all, if the trend continues—freshmen shrinking 0.128 inches in three years—just think of what the future holds. In just under 25 years, they may be a whole inch shorter.

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