Students should prioritize enjoying high school over achieving perfection

Alex Bussey, Opinion Editor

As sign-ups for next year’s classes approach, students are faced with a dilemma: do they take classes they are interested in or do they take classes they think will make the best impression on college admissions officers?  Unfortunately, many students choose the latter, prioritizing a distant future over an enjoyable high school experience.

Of course, many students strive to get into a good college the end-goal for most academically-focused high school students.  However, at a certain point, those looming applications and transcripts get in the way of students pursuing classes they are genuinely interested in.  Students load their schedules with resume-padding classes such as rigorous AP courses and student leadership classes that go above and beyond the school requirements not because they want to, but because they feel like they have to.  Students often become overwhelmed and unmotivated by these demanding classes, especially when they have no interest in the subject of the course.

This shouldn’t be the case.  High school should be the time for students to figure out what they want to do by taking classes that interest them instead of mindlessly focusing on achieving the perfect GPA.

Another factor that affects college decisions is sports.  Some students will stick to a certain sport for all four years to show colleges that they are committed, even though they might hate that sport and dread going to practice every day.

“But that’s just life; you have to make sacrifices to achieve your dreams,” people say.  But there’s a difference between working hard and making sacrifices for a dream and teens sacrificing their already fragile mental health in an attempt to do everything in the name of sucking up to colleges.

In some cases, additional stress from difficult classes can have a huge effect on students’ mental health.  When students spend all of their time at school, at practice, or doing homework, they are left with little time to relax and unwind.  Students need time to themselves and should be able to work hard to pursue their dreams without sacrificing their mental health and any activities they do for fun. 

But why do students do this? Why do they feel like they need to do everything there is to get into a good college?  Well, anyone who has looked at a college admissions website has probably seen colleges say that they look for students who are “well-rounded.”  This phrasing is so vague that many teens interpret it as “We don’t want you unless you were valedictorian, varsity team captain and president of two different clubs in addition to also being class president.”  

If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is.  Of course, this isn’t what colleges are asking for; plenty of students who don’t check all of those boxes still get into the college of their choice.  “Well-rounded” doesn’t necessarily describe someone who does it all with minimal effort. To be well-rounded simply means to have balance and variety and yes a balanced life does include free time.