Cite this article

NIDA. (2009, October 1). Are You In or Are You Out? What Does it Mean to be Cool?. Retrieved from

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Sara Bellum
October 1 2009

Last year, 14-year-old Shelby Marie Raye from Manatee High School in Bradenton, Florida was looking through a teen magazine and saw an article that said "How To Be Popular in High School." She wondered what traits made someone appear to be popular or "cool."

Since she had a science class that required a science fair project, she decided to study that question like a scientist. So she surveyed hundreds of students in her school about what it means to be "cool." Her project, titled, What's In and What's Out: High Schoolers' Perceptions of Coolness, determined that in her school, football was considered to be the "coolest" sport for boys while cheerleading and dance were the coolest sports for girls. Over 50% of the students said that grade point average was not related to being cool, and that as teens got older they thought it was less cool to be in honors classes. (What's that about anyway?) She also learned that by the time boys turned 18, they thought it was less cool to drink, smoke, and take other dangerous risks than when they were younger.

Interestingly, more boys thought it was cool to have a girlfriend....than girls, who weren't as convinced it was cool to have a boyfriend. And what traits make boys seem cool? Boys said the coolest traits were to be funny and confident. Yet females thought being friendly and outgoing were the coolest traits.

To see Shelby present her work to the Director of NIH and other scientists, check out the video above. You can also watch a video about Shelby's science project..

BTW, NIDA scientists were so impressed with Shelby's project that they awarded her third place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and Shelby walked away with a prize of $1000—proof that being smart is pretty cool after all!