HSU students respond to their magnet labels


Kaavya Thirumurugan

HSU students often take Foods and Nutrition 1 as an elective course at Manual. Photo by Kaavya Thirumurugan

Isabella Edghill

For the second installment of RedEye’s series on magnet based stereotypes, we heard from students in Manual’s High School University (HSU) magnet. Some students preferred to remain anonymous so that they could freely provide honest and candid feedback. Students addressed their experience with stereotyping, their decision to apply to HSU and the best and worst parts of the magnet.

When asked about magnet misconceptions, HSU students remarked that they have been stereotyped as lazy, untalented and basic. Some stereotypes came up repeatedly, including that HSU students are supposedly less intelligent than the rest of the school. 

“I get asked all the time if I’m in MST because “I’m so smart,” but none of us are genuinely stupid, so it’s irritating,” a sophomore in the magnet said.

This assumption is likely perpetrated due to the commonly held belief that HSU is an easier magnet. People believe that because there are no structured requirements for HSU in particular, that it must be less rigorous. A MST student who participates in science fair, or a YPAS student who has multiple after-school rehearsals could possibly feel some resentment towards their HSU counterparts when it comes to their supposedly easier schedules. 

Similarly, because there are no auditions or portfolio submissions, there is a preconceived notion that applying for HSU is “the easy way in” to Manual. In reality, it can be very competitive to get accepted into HSU because of its broad appeal to students from all over JCPS.

Students can often assume that HSU students are simply the “leftovers” who weren’t good enough for the other magnets. In reality, HSU students can be just as smart as those in any other magnet. Many HSU students want to end this pervasive label of being “dumb” for good.

The lack of specific magnet requirements in HSU allows for greater scheduling flexibility and this is what draws many students to the magnet.

“I was really interested in the college courses offered and how you had lots of electives to try out and see what you liked,” Lily Weis (HSU, 10) said.

“I chose HSU because I would have more freedom in choosing my classes, and I would still be able to participate in many of the other magnet’s classes and activities if I really wanted to,” Ashley Billiter (HSU, 10) said. 

While HSU students don’t have many class requirements, they can use their scheduling freedom to experiment in other areas of interest and push themselves harder academically.

Another stereotype mentioned frequently is that all HSU students are athletes.

The ‘dumb jock’ stereotype is pervasive both in and outside of Manual. There seems to be a chicken and egg scenario with these two stereotypes. Were HSU students first profiled as athletes, which then led to them being seen as dumb? Or was it the other way around?

Just as many students use the flexibility afforded in HSU to explore areas of interest and take harder classes, many choose to dedicate their free time to sports.  However, this doesn’t mean that all athletes are in HSU, or that all HSU kids only enjoy athletics.

When asked about the worst parts of being in HSU, some students cited the flexibility and many options offered as both a blessing and a curse. 

“There’s not much unification of the magnet,” Ethan Kaiyaraj (HSU, 12) said. 

Because there are so many different kinds of students passionate about so many diverse interests, HSU students note that it can be hard to build relationships within the magnet. However, possible magnet activities such as an end of the year get together can help to build a greater sense of community. 

While there may be some downsides and negative stereotypes, the magnet works well for many. The opportunity to explore passions before committing to a post-secondary career path is invaluable to many students.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the future when I was applying, so I wanted the liberty to explore different areas of study,” said Ada Gibson (HSU, 10).

While other magnets attract students with specific interests and talents, HSU offers a home to all those still exploring their passions, or who don’t want to commit to one focus just yet. For this reason, HSU holds a unique and important place at Manual.

HSU students want their fellow classmates to recognize that they are also smart and talented. Whether playing a sport, leading a club, balancing a list of AP classes or exploring a multitude of career pathways, HSU students’ passions are just as diverse as the students themselves.

“It’s interesting if you make it interesting,” Gibson said.

HSU is a choose your own adventure type magnet, and its students are making the most of the opportunities afforded to them.