To Young Students | Teen Ink

To Young Students

August 25, 2023
By jennychip PLATINUM, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
jennychip PLATINUM, Buffalo Grove, Illinois
25 articles 13 photos 0 comments

To young students, 

What do your grades look like in school? Do you take classes out of school to boost your grades? What extracurricular activities are you pursuing right now? Were these chosen by you or your parents? Do you enjoy the activities you participate in or do you continue because you’re forced into it? Do you have a dream college? If so, is that school one of the best in the country or a legacy from your parents? 

I, like many students around the country, have reached for perfect grades and stellar extracurriculars pushed on me by my parents. Ever since I was a child, I’ve held aspirations of future colleges with ambitions that more reflected the expectations from my family and less of my own desires. The only school that dared meet my lofty dreams was Stanford University, or in my eyes, the epitome of intellect. I didn’t know their alumni, didn’t know their programs, and likely had no idea what their mascot was. Yet I knew it was world-renowned, a cesspool of brilliance, and only invited the best-of-the-best. 


Being a naive overachiever, I believed I was one of them. I believed I could be accepted to go to the top university. At the beginning of my freshman year during an online advisory meeting, my counselor said the highest GPA she’s ever seen in a student was a weighted 4.83. From that moment on I knew where my ambitions lie: in an arbitrary number that would end up defining my intellect. The higher my GPA the smarter I was. I took 4 AP courses in my sophomore year, 7 AP courses in my junior year, and likely just as many in my senior year. I have taken as many AP classes I could get my hands on and signed GPA waivers to make my weighted GPA as high as possible. I have been led to believe that my grades in school determine my worthiness for prestige. 

Not only is this true in school but also in my athletic career. I have swam since I was 4 years old and competitively since I was 9. I’ve wanted to swim in college since I was 11. In the midst of Covid during my Freshman season, though state was canceled, I broke a school record and held the third fastest 100 backstroke time in school history. I relentlessly pursued my goals yet never felt short of feeling lackluster and unaccomplished. I never felt like I was doing enough; never fast enough or smart enough or doing enough extracurricular activities or attending different meetings or going to enough clubs. Every time I reached a bar my mind would raise it again, never once grazing it, let alone hold a firm hand over it.

In the following sophomore season, I felt nothing less than a disappointment. Not only had I not beaten my previous year’s times, but I also fell short of my goals. Disappointment seeped through every crevice of my mind, bleeding into my thoughts and self-worth. During this time, many athletes can begin to look at universities and contact coaches in hopes of developing a relationship into a potential offer. I had lost hope in any elite institution. Why should my dreams stand so tall when I always fell so short?

Junior year blessed me in a way that overcompensated for the losses I experienced the year earlier. I broke three school records, becoming the fastest backstroker in my school’s history, and ranking sixtieth in the nation. However, these accomplishments are ideas I can barely recollect without weariness since I was seeded to win state, fated to be a state champion, yet not even making it to the top 3. Though I know wherever I go I will attend a university that makes me feel joy towards the prospect of my future, I still cannot help but feel a fear of disappointment. Disappointment from others that I won’t be going to an Ivy, Stanford, or MIT. 

Why are these values instilled in me where my perception of a “good” education can only come from one of the “elite?” Why do I believe my future is rooted in which university I attend? Why do I never feel adequate enough to attend any of these schools? Why do I feel inadequate when I don’t attend one of these schools?

My dad has always told me “It matters less of where you go and more of what you do there.” 

It’s easy for you to believe the name of your university will be a focal point of judgment. Finding your interests and developing your passions in high school is infinitely more important than trying to reach for the top of a list published by I say this even when I still struggle to believe it. The competitive environment I grew and thrived in molded me into believing reaching the pinnacle is the only embodiment of success. Even when I am in college I know my fear of disappointment will accompany me but it’s important to recognize that the need for perfection is ill-fated. You don’t need to worry yourself trying to become a perfect resume for an admission officer because your will be brought by your actions, not the decisions of others. In high school, try to explore new things, find your interests, and discover a few hobbies instead of trying to take the hardest classes possible to improve your GPA by 0.01.

All the best,

A regular high school senior. 

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