Be Competitive, They Said

By Kyana Early

“Colleges will be looking through all you’ve done throughout high school, from your transcript to extracurricular activities. My best advice—Be competitive.”

This was instilled in my mind since I was in middle school. Teachers and counselors constantly reminded me that high school is no joke—at least if you aim to be competitive. In 8th grade, I was taking high school level classes. Since freshman year, I’ve been taking college level classes. I’ve had to cancel many plans and devour piles of assignments.

“It’s not that stressful.” “You have it so good compared to when I was your age.” I don’t consider it good to sit behind a screen from dusk to dawn, having eye strain, back pain, and pushing aside responsibilities outside of school. All while teachers and educational standards are breathing down my neck pounding me to just get it done. 

“Take Advanced Placement classes, they look better and competitive on college applications. BUT, colleges will look at the classes your highschool offered, and will question, why do this and not that?” So we apply for AP courses, and show how competitive we are. “BUT we don’t recommend taking too many AP classes, students tend to report lack of sleep, little to no social life, and high levels of stress.” The problem is, if we don’t, they will question, why not?  

“You are expected to take the AP exam while taking AP courses. That’s the whole point.” So we mark it in our calendars. “BUT, students will be charged $90 to take the tests.” So we grow hesitant, maybe pay for a test or two, or even back out. The problem is, if we back out, they will question, why not? What was the point?

We’re only teenagers, too young to be stressed, facing unrealistic educational expectations. Test scores and grade scales seem to matter the most, at least that’s what they hammer into our minds, while saying “No, we understand”. Except they don’t understand how unrealistic it is to live up to these expectations and look flawless on an application, when we aren’t flawless people. Isn’t taking a gamble, seeing how far we can push ourselves, and putting our own sanity on the line competitive enough?