The first time I thought about college was when I was eight years old, watching Gilmore Girls with my mom. Rory, the ever aspirational and rosy-cheeked prep-school student had her heart set on going to Harvard, so I decided that I did too.
Now, a junior in high school and nine years older, contrary to what my eight-year-old self wanted, I don’t have Harvard paraphernalia pinned all over my bedroom walls just like Rory always did, and I don’t think that the world will end if I graduate college from a school that’s not an Ivy. But in a lot of ways, the differences end there. I, and many of my peers, put a lot of stress onto ourselves about how good our grades are, how many extra curriculars we do, and ultimately, what college we’ll attend. The crazy thing, at least in my experience, is that this pressure doesn’t come from my parents, it doesn’t come from my teachers or my coaches, it comes from myself and the environment that I’m surrounded by. When you’re surrounded by so many high-achieving people, it’s easy for a competitive environment to push you to over schedule, and to over stress.
I’m an editor of my school paper, I spend three hours doing sports after school everyday, I do volunteer work, I’m involved in school clubs, I squeeze in time for doing enough homework and studying to keep a solid GPA, and in between all of that I factor in enough time to spend with friends and family. When I look at my life, I realize that in a lot of ways I’ve become the stereotypical girl who tries to do everything. Just like Rory, but without the actual Harvard poster glaring at me as I struggle through my Pre-Calculus homework at 11 p.m.
The fact is, high school should be a relatively easy time in our lives. It’s the last four years where in a lot of ways you still get to be a kid, and don’t have to worry about as many of those big, scary, adult problems that gave our parents frown lines. Wasting four years fixated on an APUSH grade, or exhausting yourself with too many sports and clubs, just so that at the end of it you can write a long list on an application, is not worth it. Do things that make you happy.
Things that you actually care about, and that go beyond trying to make yourself stand out to a competitive school, because where you go to college does not determine who you will become. No matter what college you get into, everyone can find a place and people that are the right fit for them, even if where that is surprises you. Ferris Bueller says it best: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
graphic by: Jared Rose-Kim
full graphic by: Jared Rose-Kim