I was invited to participate in my high school’s freshman orientation, where several alumni were brought in to answer questions about the school. Eventually the freshmen were told that they could ask questions of us that might not have been answered in the initial presentation. One girl raised her hand and asked, “What do you have to do to get into your first-pick college?” The moderator – one of my good friends – immediately shoved the microphone into my face so I could answer the question; she and I both had had experience with this sort of thing. The advice I gave that girl was this: Take whatever classes seem challenging to you as an individual, not what everyone else is taking. It was probably the best advice I could think to give her, after what I’d seen with my own peers.
Society today has developed what I have sarcastically termed the “A-Grade Culture." Paired with the absolute dire need for every student to graduate and go to college, this mindset was something I commonly saw and found myself following throughout the course of high school. It’s the idea that if you are not getting straight A's in your classes, that you will never be good enough to do what you want. In trying to cope with this mass panic, I think a lot of students – including myself at times, which I often regret – don’t focus on actually learning the material. They memorize it just long enough to pass a test or exam, and then it’s lost to them.
My AP biology class was where I realized that I needed to change my mindset about school. I loved learning, but what I was doing wasn’t actually learning. Rote memorization wasn’t going to do me any favors with later classes, and it wouldn’t prepare me for the self-study of college. So, having watched all my classmates and analyzed my own approach to school, I’ve come up with a few ideas that helped me overcome this mindset.