Yes, it’s that time—the time every adolescent dreads. The time that lower school, middle school, upper school—basically life for the last 17 years—has prepared us for. The time that is something of an initiation rite, an obstacle we must jump over in order to be deemed “ready” for the real world.
The mere thought of college applications stresses out any high school senior, as we constantly work towards excellence and perfection. All the deadlines and requirements of each college to which we apply for are very intimidating and overwhelming, especially since we’re all fond of procrastination.
It is a time over which some students spend their entire life obsessing, making sure everything they do positively affects their application—so much so that they become blinded to the happenings that supposedly shape the teen years: falling in love, having fun with friends and basically feeling infinite.
The amount of pressure put on us all today is immense. We must not only exceed our peers academically, but also be the leader or founder of many things, both inside and outside the school setting.
On top of this, we must have a passion which we chase after, seeing it through over the years and honing the necessary skills. The word “holistic” seems to have been taken to a whole other level, as we must constantly be doing something worthwhile.
I cannot stress enough how much time we spend prepping for a few applications, and being accepted or rejected ultimately becomes the thought that hounds us each day, haunting us and making us question not only our intelligence, but also our self-worth.
We become the colleges where we want to go. We live by their standards and expectations, and shape ourselves to fit the mold that they have created, a mold so big that some of us get lost in its midst. Every single thing done in our lives has been for the approval of the admissions officers.
So, is it all worth it? Is obsessing over SAT or ACT scores worth it, to the point that the numbers become an indicator of our self-worth, what we essentially use to define ourselves? Does an acceptance letter to one of the most prestigious schools trump the fact that we are only 17 once?
I don’t have an answer to that, though some days I feel like I do. To an extent, I do feel like I have lost a significant part of my adolescence to studying, being indoors, being assertive, trying to get ahead. However, I cannot say that it has been for naught.
I value my education highly, and I am grateful to have been given the privilege to apply to such prestigious schools. But I can’t help but look at others my age and envy them. It makes me feel as though I’ve aged immensely compared to the people around me.
I mean, where are my blurry photos from that night I don’t remember? Where are my girls, the ones to call to take me out for a drive when I’m feeling down? Where is my boyfriend with whom I can feel invincible? They have all been lost to what I’ve shaped myself into.
It’s hard enough that we deal with identity crises and social issues. Yet on top of that, we are shadowed by a colossal umbrella of expectations.
However, in a different light, does being able to find a cure to a fatal disease undermine the fact that we are only 17 once? Does getting the chance to eradicate poverty and corruption mean that we would gladly give up any form of a social life for the betterment of society?
We are prepping for the rigors of the real world. Thus, being well-educated and brought up with the mentality that we have to excel in everything we do can be extremely rewarding. Such esteemed universities exist solely for our development and growth, allowing us to go forth into the world with not only confidence, but also the intelligence and ambition to find solutions.
I’ve realized that it is perfectly all right to crave for normalcy within the chaos, but I have also forgotten what a regular “chill” day is like. Academic institutions instill in their students the fundamental education needed to be working members of society. We are, after all, the next leaders of our generation’s world.
Shouldn’t we then strive only for perfection? Yes, we are only 17 once, but we also only get one chance to make this world—a world of corruption, poverty and environmental issues—a utopia.