What is a break if you’re assigned a tedious amount of homework and have to prepare for the SAT, ACT and any other tests or activities that will hopefully guarantee you a spot in your dream school? Anything BUT that! Don’t enjoy your break, don’t enjoy Thanksgiving, forget about Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, don’t enjoy any holiday or any day; just do your homework. It’ll pay off right after you wrestle through the new superfluous common core standards and beat yourself up for not having the mental endurance to work even harder when college applications come.
This mindset seems so robotic and inactive. We don’t realize this and catch our regret until we actually receive our break, our resignation, our graduation. When we aren’t consumed in our studies or trying to pretentiously compete with one another to be the best. When we’re alleviated from stress, that’s when our thoughts and words actually start to mean something.
Before adding more bruises to your self-esteem, here a few things you should consider before stressing about where you land in your class rank.
1. It’s actually an impediment to your success.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to better your education. However, viewing education solely based on competition is equivalent to wishing failure upon those ahead of you. You are wishing for no improvement to those who are below you — in fear that they may surpass you. Setting a goal to eliminate those who are further up on the ranks than you can provide motivation, but guarantees failure. What happens if you don’t eliminate those above of you? What happens if your GPA is completely ruined by one or two B’s? You’re most likely going to feel inadequate and disregard all your hard work just because your ranking number didn’t rise. You’re going to feel as if you failed, when in reality you made a tremendous amount of progress. Progress is not a number or percentage; it is improvement from a previous standard. Someone else’s success should not hinder your ability to feel proud of your accomplishments.
2. You stress to impress everyone but yourself.
Yes, you do have to give your college application a mani-pedi for them to consider you, but is sprucing up your aura with impure interests such as volunteering purely for hours to put on your application or running for positions under false pretenses worth the points you can add to the righteous and caring character that you’re constructing? Does competition really outweigh the pure value and genuine qualities of someone? Why fake your interests for a position and take away somebody's chance who wants to actually better the organization, not their college application?
3. You take classes you don't actually want to take.
People will calculate which classes will give them an easy A, or simply avoid any course that has the word "regular" in front of it, despite how interesting it is. It's become common to sacrifice joy for education, but do you really have to sacrifice your fine art elective too? The one class that's supposed to be laid back? If you like creating, take ceramics. If you like taking pictures, take photography. If you like singing, take choir. If you like dancing, take dance. If you like drawing, take art. If you like creating, taking pictures, singing, dancing or drawing ... then don't take AP art history just for a GPA boost. It's okay to have a little fun in school! But if you genuinely do enjoy learning about the history of art, then take AP art history!
4. It creates an obsessive and cold community.
The point of having valedictorians and salutatorians is to acknowledge and congratulate their hard work. However, resentment from our peers is more prevalent than acknowledgment. Everyone finds petty ways to doubt and discredit somebody's achievements. I had an extremely competitive class that had a total of three salutatorians. Instead of congratulating each salutatorian for their success, everybody was obsessed with calculating GPAs and ranking the salutatorians from best to worst — which is not a fair comparison at all, considering that not all of their classes, extracurricular activities, and personal lives are identical. That goes for any comparison or ranking of any kind.
5. Once you get where you’re going, it doesn’t matter.
Depending on what workforce you decided to enter, once you’re there; you’ll realize that your co-workers will have come from different backgrounds, cities and schools. You’ll be working with people who came from community college, Cal States, universities, private schools, Ivy leagues — and you’ll all share this one thing in common — you’re all at the same place. The school you go to does not predetermine your success, only you can.
Although being a part of certain institutions grants more recognition and privileges, college is what you make of it. Having a high rank is definitely eye-catching in an application and something to be proud of, but it certainly doesn't define your skills. Colleges don't need you to prove to them how smart you are; they want to see that you're a hard-worker who will continue to overcome academic and personal struggles. Instead of viewing education as a competition, focus on bettering yourself and your interests — not the interests you feel obligated to take interest in. The largest factor that is considered by colleges is genuineness, which will either be demonstrated blatantly or poorly imitated in your personal essays. Which, by the way is another large factor for admissions. The only thing you need to get into college is to be a genuine passionate person and the rest will work out for you.
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