As I enter the second semester of my senior year, and final semester of high school, I’ve come to realize that too much time is spent dwelling on the future. The four years of my high school life will soon culminate when I graduate in May. It seems that this whole year and in fact, all of high school, is spent focused on the next chapter of life — college. In this past holiday season, almost every conversation I’ve had with family members and friends would inevitably end up grazing the topic of college. They would ask questions like, “Where did you apply?” and “What’s your top choice?”
Similarly at school, I’ve noticed that many of my fellow seniors dedicate a significant portion of time lamenting to one another about the difficulties of the college application process. While I completely recognize that applying to college is a trying task that tests even the most patient individuals, I think our time as high schoolers can be spent better.
We have been primed by our culture, teachers, school, parents and peers to value college. Each year at Aragon High School, the counselors come into our classrooms at least once a semester to remind us of the number of courses we must take to be a competitive applicant at four-year universities. Similarly, College Board sends an incessant amount of emails reminding me that “There is still time to take the SAT,” and that “Your scores can still be improved!” Not to be outshone by College Board, countless universities bombard high schoolers with emails starting in their sophomore year about how “You are the student our college needs!” We are constantly reminded of the value of a college education. While investing time and thought to our future is a positive thing, too much focus on what’s to come definitely has its drawbacks.
This focus on college has almost become an unhealthy obsession of sorts. People will pay thousands of dollars to hire college consultants to help them navigate the college admissions process even when they are just starting off high school as freshmen. I’ve been asked by an underclassman if I joined newspaper at school because I thought it would look good on my college application. It should go without saying that my three years of involvement in journalism is not because I was hoping to bolster my college application or resume. Rather, I chose to join, and continue writing for, newspaper because of the genuine interest I have in the evolving field of journalism. Several years ago, no one would have ever questioned an individual about their motivation to participate in an extracurricular activity. However, the changing landscape of college admissions has prompted some to engage in activities and pursue leadership positions in which they would otherwise be uninterested. This is the result of our college-centric society.
It is a shame people begin preparing for college admissions earlier and earlier. Mind you, I’m not undermining the value of a quality college education; I just think we need to reconsider how much focus we are giving to four years of our lives. The average American is expected to live for 79 years. College only constitutes four of them (which amounts to 5 percent of one’s life). Instead of worrying about tomorrow or concerning ourselves with admission to the best university, we should treasure the time that we have as high schoolers. Rather than having conversations that only fixate on the four years to come, we should be having conversations that we will remember four years from now.
Jacqueline Tang is a senior at Aragon High School in San Mateo. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at firstname.lastname@example.org.