Senior Column: Racing to Nowhere

Senior Column: Racing to Nowhere

Why do we go to school? Is it to make us richer as people, to train us for society, to train us for the workforce? What are we supposed to get out of an education? New perspectives, a “good” grade, an assigned worth? For a long time, I thought I had the answer.

Rewind to day one of my junior year. Going through those doors, I thought I was pretty smart. I knew what I wanted out of high school: an “impressive” resume and a pathway to a “top” college. Since high school began, I was told that this is what I wanted. It seemed like everyone from my parents to my teachers to my peers to even the media had drilled it into my head that this was a recipe for success.

Then something changed.

I began the IB Diploma program in August of my junior year. If I wanted to get far in life, I felt that I had to “challenge myself.” For me, that meant taking on a rigorous workload in school as well as being committed to many things outside of school. But none of this was actually making me happy. I was stressed out all the time. I felt pressure to spend lots of time on school work and lots of time on extracurricular activities. This made me  feel like I wasn’t giving enough attention to any one thing. Suffice to say: I wasn’t happy with my plan.

I made the choice to leave the Diploma program. It was one of the best decisions I made in high school. This column isn’t about IB, AP or any activities. This column isn’t trying to tell you what you should do with your time in high school. This column is asking where we are as a culture and how we got here.

We have become obsessed with competition. Everyone is focused on being the best. The best student, the best athlete, having the best resume. Being the best for ourselves is always something we should strive for. The problem comes when we are told that there is an identical “best” for every student. It seems that everything underclassmen are told is about how to be more competitive.

I’m a debater, so I’m used to healthy competition. Are college admissions competitive? Sure. Does that mean everything before college should be a race? No. If my original plan is what works for someone, they should do it. That’s the beauty of having choices. Like I said, I take issue with the notion that we should all strive for the same goal. Being hyper-competitive just doesn’t work for everyone. But that’s the direction high school is moving. Students are being told they need to race for the same goal, but for many, this means racing to nowhere.

You’ll have to do things in life you don’t like. Stress is unavoidable. But you don’t have to put yourself in these situations. I did that for too long. My decision to change my plans to focus more on my passions like debate and journalism was a great one. I’m much happier than I was during my first 2 ½ years of high school. The whole point is that the choice I made worked for me. High school is a time to learn about who you are and what you want.

Next time you’re worried about how competitive of a student you are, stop and think. Take some time to figure out what YOU want and do it. Don’t spend your time in high school racing to nowhere just to do what convention dictates. Decide what you want and make it happen.