High school is a black hole. It sucks the life out of me every single day. There’s so much to stress about—homework, exams, SATs, grades, friends and the opinions of others. There’s no time to take a breath. I’m always running from one class to the next, trying to balance after school activities with homework and failing at allotting a few hours a week for fun. The hallways are filled with demonic pre-Madonna’s trying to slit each other’s throats, meat-head jocks that are only interested in the score of the latest NFL game and then everyone else trying to avoid high school obscurity. Sometimes everyday teenage life gets in the way. But one thing we all have in common—no matter what we’re like—is college.
College—the “C” word of the twenty-first century. It’s what drives us to be perfect—ace every test, get a 4.0 GPA (even though for most of us, that’s impossible), pack in more extracurricular than humanly possible and sacrifice everything including sleep. The competition’s brutal and the pressure’s high in the all or nothing race to the acceptance letters.
No longer is it enough to just graduate high school. That ship has sailed my friend. But is the pressure facing modern day teens too much? Is society setting us up to fail? Honestly, it feels that way sometimes. So when someone gets to their junior year, they’re done. They can’t wait to get out. But is that right?
Something I’ve observed in talking to my friends is that parents almost put more pressure on their children than their teachers because it’s all about not disappointing them. Who cares if you don’t become Homecoming Queen or King, or get to play soccer on your school’s team? Who cares if you never get to do anything fun or if your social life tanks? It’s all about impressing and not disappointing parents. Does that seem fair?
My mom tells me frequently about her high school days—stories about boys, drill team, but most of all getting through the homework bit. Not once has she mentioned pulling an all-nighter, having difficulty getting her homework done because there’s not enough hours between the time she got home and the time she had to leave for school the next day. One generation ago, there didn’t seem to be such a struggle. One could still succeed in life without torturing themselves to step out of the adolescent world. They could take it at their own pace and make the right choices for them.
There used to be such a thing as choosing one’s high school classes. Now with all the state graduation requirements, and expectations set by the College Board, there’s no freedom to explore one’s options. We’re told what we are allowed to take and in my case, my entire schedule has been regulated—except for one class. However, if I don’t take that one class all four years of my high school career, I won’t get a Liberal Arts credit—one of the state graduation requirements—so therefore, my academic freedom has been stripped away from me.
I was told by a counselor on the second day of my sophomore year that if I didn’t get good high school grades, I wouldn’t get into a good college and if I didn’t get into a good college, I wouldn’t get a good job. Do they really hear what they’re saying? For many they crush the hopes and dreams of getting a good education because they know they’re not straight A students.
So now I speak to all the moms out there. Take a step back and get a new perspective. It seems to me that many parents don’t see the full picture of the “college demon” per say. College is a nightmare that haunts each and every one of us. We take a beating to get there and even then our futures aren’t certain. It’s scary. So I implore you to step into your son’s or daughter’s shoes and observe how hard they work and how much they want to please you. Let them know how proud of them you are and how much you want to support them. Honestly, the knowledge that someone is proud of you is the best study break in the world.