Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It's Going To Be OK

I feel less and less competent every day when I read the paper. 

As I eat my Frosted Flakes every morning and skim through the local schools section in The Enquirer, I see countless articles about the amazing things Mason High School students are doing. 

Aditya Jog, a sophomore in my Spanish class,  won the THINK contest at MIT and received funding for his project to create a more efficient way to convert solar power into usable energy. Bluye Demessie, a senior taking all honors and AP classes, won the opportunity to present his science fair experiment to President Obama in the White House. Freshman Natasha Saputra will be returning to Carnegie Hall this summer for the 6th time to showcase her legendary piano skills.

It's not even these stories that sometimes cause me to wonder why I'm not playing at one of the most famous arts stages in world. I can trace most of my self doubt to schedule planning week, where most of my friends are signed up for 5 or more AP classes. I'm taking 3, but I guess compared to the general population that's not good enough. We're all competing with each other for the better grade in AP Chemistry. We all are competing with each other for a spot on an Ivy League's admission list.

I was reading the New York Times and stumbled across an article that greatly relieved my academic stress. The article was written by Frank Bruni, and was published a few weeks ago during the chaos that comes with college admissions. The article outlined two stories of recent college graduates. One story struck me in particular. 

Peter Hart went to New Trier High School, a school very much like Mason. It has the same number of students and a similar academic rigor. Hart's best friend had her heart set on Yale, and she was admitted that spring. Hart was in the top third of his class and set his sights for the University of Michigan or the University of Illinois. Both rejected him. Instead, Hart applied for Indiana University and made it in. Hart noticed that "the students in his freshman classes weren’t as showily gifted as the New Trier kids had been", and Hart felt very competent in his new environment.  He took up a job at the Boston Consulting Group after graduation and upon the new hires was his friend that went to Yale. Hart is now getting a master's degree in business administration... at Harvard. 

I feel so much like Peter Hart, and can only pray that I have the same success story. So many of the students around us, our best friends even, have set their bar higher than I could imagine. I am a good student- don't get me wrong- I have above a 4.0 GPA and have taken my fair share of honors and AP classes. However, the constant need for Mason students to one-up each other and push themselves to their absolute academic limit rubs off eventually on all of us. I feel ignorant when the seventh grader next to me gets a better grade on an honors math test. I feel nervous when the seniors of the tennis team leave - half of them going to a premier college. I want to be performing at Carnegie Hall like Natasha or receive a perfect ACT score like so many upperclassman on my Speech and Debate Team do. We all feel this pressure at times.  Whenever I am panicking to do as well on a test as my friend did, I remember Peter Hart's story. For many students and their parents, taking every AP or being accepted into an elite college is not another challenge. It's simply another goal.

Success isn't measured by how hectic and rigorous a schedule is. So many people walking the halls of MHS forget this. When it comes to taking a class or applying for college, keep Peter Hart's story in the back of your mind. Who knows where any of us will end up, but to me Indiana University seems like a fine place to start.

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