An A- isn’t an A, just like failure isn’t success. If you can’t push yourself to manage family, extracurricular activities, and academics, you need to reevaluate your sense of self-worth. If you can’t resist the temptation of that romance novel five feet away from you, you do not deserve dinner today. These are some of my thoughts from the past few years, and if you’re a high school student, I can guess one of yours: if I don’t get into a good college, then I’m not smart. I’m not successful. I’ve failed.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the idea of getting into college has some strong points. It pushes teens to enroll in harder courses, motivates them to join new clubs, and forces them out of their comfort zones. I admit to succumbing to the system; I most likely never would’ve taken AP Calculus or Honors Physics if not for the extra appeal they added to my transcript. But what happens when college consumes one’s mind? What happens when this extrinsic method of motivation takes over, leaving nothing except an empty head behind?
There are two quantities that drive college applicants crazy: GPAs and SAT scores. Sure, a student striving to earn a good grade doesn’t sound that bad – until that same student says she wouldn’t mind a horrible teacher as long as that teacher would give her an easy A. Yes, spending a few hours a week studying for the SAT seems pretty harmless – until you run across the kid shelling over ridiculous amounts of money to take prep courses for a miniscule score boost. The worst part is when people assume these numbers are indications of intelligence or personal worth, even when they’re influenced by random factors or are just plain unnecessary.
Last year, I stood back and listened to the conversations my peers had over a 24-hour period. Unsurprisingly, as juniors, almost all we talked about was college – maybe it was just a bad day, but still. Why should the idea of college precede intellectual inquiry and the earnest exploration of learning as opposed to pushing it forward? Why are we letting the superficial standards of our education system tower over us, telling us what to do? Last year, before I published any of my blog posts, I literally contemplated whether college admissions officers would find me less attractive because of what I wrote.
That didn’t stop me from posting about mostly-naked men, but you see my point.
It’s strange, because I’ve been waiting to write this post for several months, and yet I find myself at a loss of words. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: pursue your passion, and utilize learning as your primary source of academic motivation. It’s okay if your hobbies don’t include saving Nicaraguan children from hunger (though it’d be a nice thing to do) or if you get a few B’s or a C in the course of your high school career. Remember that black and white measurements of your ability cannot come even close to capturing the many shades of grey that make up who you are. No matter wherever you go – college or otherwise – your experience, or at least a large part of it, is what you make of it.
In conclusion, two reasons I wrote this post: 1) it’s been a week since my last one, 2) I think I failed a calculus exam today and in the middle of it realized I did not care. And not caring about academics does not fit my standards. Then I thought, hey, I should write that college post I’ve been meaning to write, but it didn’t come across as clearly or concisely as I wanted it to, and… yeah, you get the point. Hopefully this was somewhat entertaining because I’m super passionate about college admissions and how high schoolers push themselves way too hard to gain admission to select colleges. Overall, there are tons of qualified applicants and not enough spots, it’s all about learning for learning’s sake, if I can get into an Ivy without knowing that lettuce isn’t a flower so should other people, etc. Anyway I have a few major exams coming up in the first weeks of May so until then my posts may be more sporadic. I apologize in advance and I hope everyone is well and safe!
Also, please comment if you have any suggestions on how to ameliorate the college admissions conundrum, or if you disagree with anything I’ve written here. I’d love to obtain new insight regarding this issue even if I can’t respond right away!