Graduating as valedictorian of my high school was not all that it was cracked up to be. Due to my perfectionist mindset, I felt that it was vital to push myself as hard as I had to in order to be #1 in my class, but it didn't pay off like I thought it would. Last week, I was asked, "Was it worth it?" and I surprised the person asking me by responding with, "Honestly, no". Although I've worked extremely hard for four years to achieve this title, it hasn't been the gateway to success that I imagined it would be.
1. Missed opportunities.
Spending so much time studying led to having a minuscule amount of free time. Whenever I took time to watch a movie or read a book I felt as if I was wasting time that I could be using to study instead, so I rarely did. I can't even count the number of times I told my friends or family that I couldn't go out to dinner or see a movie with them because I was too busy studying.
2. A tremendous amount of stress constantly weighing me down.
Having to get perfect grades to maintain my GPA was incredibly stressful. If I missed a few points on homework or didn't do so well on one test, I freaked out for days to see if it would bring my overall grade down. Small mistakes could lead to dropping out of the top spot, so it was vital that I did well on everything. This was especially hard senior year because of the amount of AP's I had to take to boost my GPA. Trying to be perfect in a variety of challenging courses proved to be more than I could handle at times. Senior year included mental breakdowns and late nights filled with stress and anxiety.
3. Countless hours spent studying material that I would soon forget.
In many of my classes, as I studied I couldn't help but feel that it was pointless. Memorizing a series of answers or facts that didn't make any sense to me just didn't seem right, but that was how many of my classes were set up. Rather than focusing on learning the material, I was forced to focus on memorization without actually understanding. This made studying even harder because I felt that I wasn't bettering myself whatsoever.
4. Losing more sleep than I could ever catch up on.
My motto during high school was, "Sleep is for the weak". Although I was continuously told by parents and friends that what I was doing wasn't healthy, I had no choice. Going to school for eight hours a day, working a part-time job, then coming home and having to do hours of homework every night didn't leave me with any other options. Most nights, I considered myself extremely lucky if I was able to get to bed before midnight. Usually, it wasn't until two or three a.m. that I was able to finally sleep. A few times over the years, I accidentally fell asleep in the middle of studying for a test and woke up hours later in a panic. Sometimes my body just wouldn't allow me to stay up any later. During school, my lack of sleep caused me to fall asleep in class multiple times a day which made me stay up even later to catch up on whatever I had missed. It was an endless, vicious cycle.
5. The title of valedictorian isn't as prestigious as it used to be.
Although my school only had three, a vast number of schools have many more valedictorians than they used to. For example, a school 10 minutes away from mine had 35, which causes the word to be less synonymous with, "the best of the best." It's still an accomplishment, but it has become less significant now that the meaning has been altered to include more students. Since the race for valedictorian has become cutthroat and competitive, many schools have opted to have a set criteria rather than making their students compete against one another. Because schools are making it less competitive, achieving valedictorian is beginning to be seen as less of an accomplishment.
6. By the time I graduated, I had already been accepted to college and received my scholarship information.
In most cases, graduating as valedictorian will have absolutely no effect on your scholarship amount or admission status because they've both already been decided by this time. Most schools will base these decisions on the information you provide on your application rather than impending class rankings.
This combination made for an immensely challenging four years that seemed endless at times. Rather than a bittersweet final few months filled with celebrations, my last moments in high school were filled with all-nighters, studying for finals that would decide my class rank, and frantic calculations to see if I would maintain my GPA. Being able to speak at graduation was pretty cool, but if I were to do high school all over again, I would choose to take advantage of all of the opportunities available to me and take the time to enjoy myself rather than stress out so much over test scores and GPAs. These things are important, but they in no way define who you are. In college, I look forward to working hard while also making time for myself and making time to take advantage of the myriad of opportunities available to me.
Lead Image Credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
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