I am a sophomore, and still have two more years of school. Some days, it feels like I have two months, not two years. I feel like I’m the one applying to college, the one who is stressing about college letters and where I will spend my next four years.
My feelings are not out of the ordinary. My peers are already discussing what summer programs they want to attend and what internships they would like to complete, followed by the phrase “it will look so good on my college applications”.
I am no exception. I am also looking for a summer program that will allow me to explore my interests, and while doing so, “look good on my college application”. As I was exploring the possible programs that I could take part in over the summer, the amount of opportunities were endless, almost overwhelming. I started bookmarking multiple websites of places that I wanted to apply to and was shocked by the immense feelings of ambition and desire. Taking a step back, I asked myself: “Why do I want to apply to this program?”.
So much of what we decide to do – what classes we take and what extracurriculars we do are driven by a motive that usually comes back around to college. The pressures that society places upon high school students is immense, and many students get the notion that only goal in life is to be accepted into a top-ranked college. The type of world that we are brought up in, filled with pressure from parents, teachers, older students, and even yourself only further ingrains the belief that you will only have a successful future if you go to a good college. Fitting in the extra AP class, taking more honors classes than your classmates and having completed countless community service hours is an achievement that is praised and recognized. The intentions that drive these choices are concealed, and only the end outcome is looked at. These pressures not only affect our psychological health, but enforces the subconscious judgement that we make of someone’s value based on their accomplishments.
I’m not saying that going to a top college is a goal that we should reject, but rather see it as a light at the end of the tunnel where you can spend the next four years at a place that will allow you to channel your passions in a deeper manner. College should not be seen from the perspective of younger students as a dark time filled with stress and worry. It should be something that you look forward to so that you can explore your interests.
So, back to the question of “Why do I want to apply to this program?”. I was able to narrow down my choice to places that I truly wanted to be a part of, and this process also gave me valuable insight on the decisions I make. Fortunately, I have never been forced to take part in extracurriculars that I do not want to take. Nevertheless, the wave of desire and yearning to apply to as many programs as possible has given me a chance to step back, and think about my motives. Choosing what you do and what you take shouldn’t be based on how it will look on your applications, or how it will affect your future. Do something that you are passionate about and makes you happy.