The Contest for College

When college pressure turns nasty

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The Contest for College

photo by Kendel Barber

photo by Kendel Barber

photo by Kendel Barber

Kendel Barber, Reporter

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As my junior year wraps up, I have started to look back on what I have done in high school and how it will affect my future. I think about all the clubs I joined, the grades I got, and the effort I put into these past three years of my life. It seems as though the purpose of high school has become fuzzy in recent years, one but thing is for certain: high school has become a game to get into college.

The second we set foot into NAI, we are heavily pressured to “start thinking about college,” to “find out what we want to do in life,” to “join clubs,” and so on. It puts us in the mindset to start doing everything in life for college, one that I feel is relatively new. It was not something our parents or grandparents thought about, and although preparation for college may have popped up in their later high school years, it was not a penetrating thought that completely took over their lives. This is something new about our generation — not only the high expectations set for us to get into college, but also how college seems to be the only option for us once we graduate.

I think this is especially evident at such a competitive school like NA. Student here feel so pressured to go to an Ivy League college or another top-ranking university, and the thought of ending up at a “low level safety school” scares them. People forget that even going to college in itself is an accomplishment, and all colleges are great schools that attract different types of students who will thrive at each one.

Everything people do right now seems to be dedicated to having the “perfect” college app. I hear students saying all the time, “Can I put this on my college app?” or “I’m only doing this for college,” or “What will look better on my application?” I am not trying to find fault with these people, as I am definitely guilty myself of saying all of these phrases on occasion. I am simply saying that this should not be the sole purpose of high school. Too many of the students who sign up for clubs are only participating and trying to become the president of every club they know of just so that they can get into college. Instead of participating in activities that they are actually passionate about and potentially want to continue with in their future, my peers just pick the most highly sought out clubs for college.

Instead of the most intelligent and motivated students getting into prestigious colleges, it ends up just being the people who can manipulate their way through high school the best. People can cheat their way through any test or assignment and sweet talk their way into any position in clubs or activities, and somehow they end up getting into the same school as someone who actually tries hard.

There are countless examples of this: students who take every AP class possible and are not able to handle all of them. Instead of respecting their abilities and limits, we ignore warnings and continue to take the hardest classes in the district, even though they are not even slightly interested in what they are learning. People who loathe reading and writing take AP English and Sparknotes all of the books to get good grades on the test and keep up their GPA. These people are not especially intelligent or in any way the most deserving for a spot at a prestigious college, yet their cheating ends up rewarding them and encourages others to do the same.

It seems as though parents and the administration in some ways support this. Of course, most parents or the school will never explicitly say they condone cheating or participating in clubs their kids do not care for.  However, some people put so much pressure on students to succeed far beyond their abilities, and it gives kids no other choice.

Of course, high school is supposed to prep us for college, but it should also be a period to enjoy our high school lives.  That way, we end up where we truly belong.