As a high school senior, college application deadlines have been inching closer and closer. And with each one I fill out, my spirits drop more and more. Laid out in front of me on a small bulleted list for “Extracurricular Activities & Community Service,” my past four years of triumphs, stress and excruciating personal growth seem so insufficient, and I find myself wondering how I’ll ever get into a college.
I am a 4.0 student in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and for the past month I have been at school for approximately 13 hours daily, going from a 7 a.m. class to a seventh-period jazz choir class to a four-hour rehearsal. I have served in several leadership positions, and throughout high school have explored the arts outside of school, from dance to theater to music. I’ve done several community service activities, grappled with the process of being a high school student, and have grown exhausted until it literally feels like I will break down underneath the smallest pressure. And yet I’m painfully aware that I will most likely never get into the highest universities.
Of course, with thousands of people with stats just like mine who are applying to these schools, it’s understandable that it takes incredible acts in order to catch the eye of an admissions officer. However, that doesn’t stop the process of college admissions from becoming toxic for students.
Someone could spend all their afternoons after school working on their academics — studying so they can get to bed early and get the amount of sleep they need and still be ready for school the next day — and yet they’d be passed over for someone who did more extracurriculars or community service. My teachers often talk about how if a student is struggling in class or failing to get the necessary amount of sleep, he or she needs to cut down on extracurriculars. But if that occurs, what will happen to the ever-important college resumé?
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey, teen stress levels during the school year are higher than the stress levels of adults. Teens reported a score of 5.8 on a 10-point scale, versus a 5.1 score for adults. Both scores are higher than what is deemed to be a healthy level of stress: 3.6. Not only that, but nearly a third of teen participants in the study reported feeling overwhelmed or depressed and sad as a result of their stress.
This necessity to live and breathe activity is damaging to students. A cycle of waking up, going to school, having extracurriculars, doing homework and sleeping (if sleep is an option at that point) is all that many high school students’ lives are comprised of. Hours for “resumé building” slowly take chunks of time from sleep and personal time to rest and heal. In addition, there are family issues, work and other problems of daily life that all humans must face.
I’ve tried to enjoy my last years as a teenager this year. I skipped on studying for a few hours and attended parties with my friends, went on walks or simply spent time with my family. The sad thing is that my grades on assignments and tests started to drop. The smaller amounts of work I did daily were not nearly enough to get my projects done without me rushing the day before it was due.
I don’t want this for the younger generations. I don’t want them to have anxiety attacks in the hallways, to forever have dark circles under their eyes, to feel so desperate to do the most and be the best student, and to feel guilty for taking time to lie in bed or spend time with friends and family. Something needs to change.