High school stereotypes are often based on generalizations and assumptions that people make about a certain group of students. While there may be some truth to these stereotypes, they often overlook the individuality of each student.
Some students look to these stereotypes to construct their own identities and may even consciously gravitate to one or the other as they “try on” different identities to see which one seems most natural for them.
Below are some of the most well-known high school stereotypes.
High School Stereotypes
1. The jocks
This is the stereotypical high school student who is always into sports and hangs out with other athletes. They usually have a macho attitude and can be bullies. An example of a jock in popular culture is the character Andrew Clark from the movie The Breakfast Club.
2. The nerds
This student is typically very intelligent and spends most of their time studying or doing homework. They often have minimal social life and can be bullied by the jocks. Nerds are often the subjects of jokes, but they usually have the last laugh because they end up being wealthy after school and peak later in life, and some nerds embrace the term as a positive stereotype. An example of a nerd in popular culture is the character Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.
3. The popular girls/boys
These are the students who are always at the top of the social ladder and have lots of friends. They usually dress in the latest trends and can be snobby and mean to others. An example of a popular girl in popular culture is the character Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl. The popular boy in Gossip Girl was Chuck Bass.
4. The band geeks
These students are usually very passionate about music and often join the school band or choir. They can be social outcasts and are often ridiculed by the other students. An example of a band geek in popular culture is the character Michelle Flaherty in American Pie.
5. The theater kids
The theater kids and band geeks often occupy the same place on the social hierarchy (which is pretty low). These students are usually very creative and expressive but not traditionally seen as cool by others. They often participate in school plays or musicals. The kids on High School Musical are all positioned as theater kids in one way or another.
6. The rebel
This student doesn’t care about school or what others think of them. They often get into trouble and dress in a way that stands out from the rest of the students. The rebel often defies the norms and rules because they feel disempowered by the school. They might feel as if the teachers don’t like them or the way the teachers deliver lessons is unappealing and doesn’t relate to their lives. A good example of a rebel is Ferris Bueller from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
7. The overachiever
This is the student who is always trying to get straight A’s and participate in as many co-curricular clubs and extracurricular activities as possible. They can be perfectionists and can be quite stressed out by their desperate need to be the best at everything. An example of the overachiever is Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls who obsesses over getting into an Ivy League university.
8. The slacker
This is the student who doesn’t care about school and does the bare minimum to get by. They often sleep in class and skip homework and may even skip school whenever they have the opportunity. This student doesn’t seem to care about their own education and doesn’t have much of a vison for their future. An example of the slacker is the character John Bender from The Breakfast Club.
9. The know-it-all
This student thinks they know everything and can be very arrogant. They often butt into conversations and make others feel unintelligent. They often don’t have many friends because they’re abrasive and even the teacher finds their know-it-all attitude abrasive. An example of this negative stereotype is Paris Geller from Gilmore Girls.
10. The loner
This is the student who prefers to spend their time alone rather than with other people. They may be shy or have social anxiety and can feel out of place at school. Or, they may have tried to make friends but doesn’t have the social skills to do so. A good example of the loner is Seth Cohen from The O.C.
11. The class clown
This student likes to make everyone laugh and is always joking around. They may not be the best students, but they’re always entertaining. The class clown often makes the other students feel more comfortable in awkward situations but they frustrate the teacher because they interrupt learning. An example of the class clown is Bart Simpson from The Simpsons.
12. The teacher’s pet
This is the student who is always trying to please the teacher and is always raising their hand in class. They may be a suck-up or just trying to get good grades. Either way, this student is not very popular with their classmates. An example of the teacher’s pet is Hermione Granger from Harry Potter.
13. The artsy kid
This student is into creative things like art, music, or writing. They often have a unique style and can be different from other students at school. They’re often misunderstood by the other students and may feel like they don’t fit in. They’re usually very talented in the arts but don’t get the respect they deserve from their classmates. An example of the artsy kid is Lane Kim from Gilmore Girls.
14. The misfits – emos, goths, and punks
The misfits are students who feel disempowered by the school and unliked by the mainstream children. They often retreat to angsty music that empathizes with their emotions. Three subcultural groups that misfits can fit into are the emos, goths, and punks. The emos listen to music like Simple Plan and revel in misery. The goths listen to angry music and wear leather jackets and spiked hair. The punks listen to music like The Ramones and The Clash that explores themes of anarchy and rebellion.
15. The hipsters
The hipsters are into vintage clothes, obscure music, and alternative lifestyles. They often sneer at mainstream culture and try to be non-conformist (but, ironically, conform to their own cultural meld). They take their fashion and hobbies from cues the beat generation of the 1950s. An example of a hipster is Jess Mariano from Gilmore Girls.
16. The skaters
The skaters are the students who spend their time skating around the school or in the skatepark. They often dress in baggy clothes and listen to punk rock music. They don’t care about school and often get into trouble for skipping class or causing disturbances. An example of a skater is, of course, Avril Lavigne, who epitomized the female skater girl of her generation.
17. The Christians
The Christians are the students who go to church every Sunday and try to live their lives according to the Bible. They often have strict moral codes and can be judgmental of others. They’re often ridiculed by other students for their religion, but they stay strong in their faith. An example of the Christian student is Jamie Sullivan from A Walk to Remember.
18. The hippies
The hippies are the students who believe in peace, love, and understanding. They often have long hair and dress in colorful clothes. They’re usually very accepting of others and try to get along with everyone. However, they can sometimes be obnoxious in their attempts to appear spiritual and open-minded. An example of a hippie is Che from Season 4 of The O.C.
19. The floaters
The floaters are the students who don’t really fit into any one category. They’re not popular, but they’re also not outcasts and often end up being friends with many different students from different groups. They often just float through school without making much of an impression on their classmates. An example of a floater is Cady Heron from Mean Girls.
More Stereotypes Lists
Stereotypes exist in every high school, no matter what kind of students attend it. While some of these stereotypes may be true for a certain percentage of the student body, they’re not always accurate. It’s important to remember that people are more than just their labels and we should get to know each other before making judgments.
But media, and particularly pop culture movies, tend to perpetuate these high school stereotypes from generation to generation.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]