By TIMOTHY CHUMAN
During my freshman year on my school’s frosh basketball team, we had lost a preseason game and our assistant coach gave us a speech after the game, telling us not to take any game for granted because the next four years were going to fly by. In retrospect, it’s pretty ironic that this piece of advice has stuck with me considering the fact that I quit the team at the end of the year, but the truth that it revealed was one that extended beyond the basketball court. These past four years have indeed flown by, and as I stand at the crossroads between high school and college, I appreciate the adventurous and unexpected journey that high school has been.
As a recent high school graduate, I can honestly say that the college application “game” can be overwhelming. It is true that high school should be a time where individuals prepare themselves for postsecondary education, and it is reasonable for students to push themselves academically through high school. However, the unfortunate reality is that in many ways, what colleges demand of students overshadows the high school experience, preventing high school students from truly making the most of their last four years of K-12 education.
Colleges place such a heavy emphasis on GPA and SAT/ACT scores that students often become fixated on their GPAs and standardized test scores to an unhealthy extent. Studying often comes at the expense of sleep or social events, taking a toll both on students’ health and social life. More importantly, students no longer learn for the sake of learning; rather, they try to cram in as many advanced classes as possible over their four years in an attempt to live up to the standard that colleges have created.
Sadly, students find themselves doing the same thing for extracurricular activities. As part of my school newspaper, we wrote an article about why students join clubs, and all of the students interviewed mentioned college applications as a significant reason why they believe their peers participate in extracurricular activities. Many students’ commitment to activities is minimal at best because they are just trying to make themselves look good for their college applications, rather than because they have a genuine desire to participate in the activity. This disengagement is the reason why many schools, like mine, lack school spirit, thus making the high school experience less enjoyable for everyone.
In both aspects, this may be a hasty generalization. My school may simply prove to be an outlier, and in all honesty, individuals should do all that they can to give themselves the best shot at reaching the school of their choice. However, I believe there has to be a balance; preparing for college should not come at the expense of embracing the precious and short four years of high school.
I came to realize the importance of this when I started receiving responses from my college applications. After being rejected from some of my top choices, it caused me to stop and reflect. I wasn’t necessarily the Albert Einstein of my class, but I was solid academically and very involved in extracurriculars in both my school and the community. I began to wonder why I did all these things in the first place.
As I reflected more on my high school years, I realized the growth that I underwent as an individual through my various experiences. As the co-editor-in-chief of my newspaper, I learned how to lead courageously in the midst of adversity. Despite having a staff of only 15 students, our efficiency and quality did not waver, a testament to the success of our program. I also learned that I can write with the best of them, winning first place in sports writing at the Journalism Education Association State Writeoff. As the senior class vice president, I learned that I have the ability and energy to motivate and mobilize my class to show more spirit than they had in their previous three years at our school. And although I was never the best baseball player, my three years on varsity taught me the importance of perseverance, something I never really had to rely on until the mental struggle of the game began to take its toll.
Moreover, I’ve learned the importance of enjoying the journey. Three of my baseball teammates and I became known for an act where we dressed up in suits and pretended we were ESPN commentators at our school’s basketball games. With a hand-painted ESPN sign and headsets that were plugged into nothing, we did our best to get students to cheer with us by taunting the other teams and supporting our teams in an exuberant manner. The satisfaction that came with losing my voice alongside other students who were as passionate about our school as I was helped provide a sense of fulfillment that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I am by no means the perfect role model, but if I had any advice for incoming high school students or underclassmen, it would be to not take high school for granted and to make sure that your intentions are correct. Participate in activities for the sake of participating, learn for the sake of learning, and the maturity and memories that you will develop will go with you for the rest of your life. High school will pass by in the blink of an eye; it’s up to you to make the most of your time.
I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if it weren’t for the support from all of the following people, so to all of my family, friends, and everyone at Kizuna, Yonsei, Rising Stars and The Rafu Shimpo, thank you from the bottom of my heart.