For years, I had this mindset that I needed to get into a “good” college. It was my goal throughout everything. As I took my 6th grade math test, I stared at the Stanford poster on the wall, thinking that doing well on this exam would determine my entire future.
Sacrificing their mental health, sleep, and social lives, high school students work tirelessly to ensure that they get into a “good” college. 11-year-olds spend 7 years studying for the SATs, 15-year-olds cram their schedules full of AP classes, and 17-year-olds conspire against their peers when applying to the same universities.
Living in the Bay Area, students focused on STEM-related fields constantly compete as the pressure of getting into the best school seemingly overwhelms them. “Women in STEM” and “Coding clubs” dominate club fairs as arts programs struggle for funding. We are taught that if you go to a good school, you get a good job, and you have a good life. Students try to outperform each other, because we are taught that we will be competing against each other for spots in the top universities. Students fall victim to a mindset of, “If I’m not the best, I’m the worst,” as they struggle to deal with failure in a healthy way.
With the backdrop of companies like Facebook and Google and schools like Stanford and UC Berkeley, students feel immense pressure to succeed. Students compete for toxic academic achievements, and as college acceptance rates drop, we only feel more pressure to perform even better.
While GPA, extracurriculars, and coursework matter, it is important to disable this vague goal of getting into a “good” college. Getting a bachelor’s degree, no matter the school, will set you up for success. You can create and join your own opportunities no matter the school, and make memories that will last a lifetime.
However, appreciate high school while you can, without getting too caught up in the competition of it all. Do your best, and be gentle with yourself. In the end, you will be fine. That test you took sophomore year that you thought would alter the course of your life? Barely impacted your grade. Everything will be fine. It was never that serious.