How Soon is too Soon?


By Sonja Hutson

I remember the first time I started to think seriously about college. I was visiting my cousin the summer before my freshman year, and he asked me where I wanted to go to school. Not having thought about it, I spit out the first college that came to mind: UC Berkeley. “If you want to go there, you have to commit right now to getting a 4.1 [GPA] by the time you leave high school,” he told me. At the time, it seemed ridiculous to even be considering college admissions. I had always just worked my hardest because I wanted to.

However, I was about to get a wake-up call: every assignment I did or didn’t do counted towards my future. The first week of freshman year, a counselor made a presentation about graduation requirements and warned us that colleges do indeed look at our grades from the first year of high school.

My anxiety only got worse when the college hype increased sophomore year. PSAT order forms were sent home, and in May I went to a college fair crowded with confused sophomores like myself, not understanding how on earth they were going to choose a college.

Why do we have to start thinking about college so far away from graduation? I think it’s sad that we spend the duration of our high school years stressing about where we’re going to end up, because that’s a waste of time. When you’re constantly thinking of the future, you don’t get to appreciate the present. Thinking of the past two years I have spent at Tam, it all seems to add up to the fact that I need to put everything I have into performing as a junior. I can’t let that hard work go to waste by slacking off and letting GPA and standardized test scores drop. I owe it to myself to get into a good school. This type of thinking doesn’t allow students to take risks and make mistakes: a vital component of intellectual growth.

It’s quite likely that this pattern will continue. Throughout college one takes the courses that will lead to a good job, and all through one’s professional career one has to think two steps ahead to obtain a promotion and make more money you probably don’t need. If this is unavoidable, why can’t we enjoy being young?

The disheartening part of this situation is that if you want to be competitive in this society, you have to start thinking about college during freshman year of high school. Not only does society impose these ways of life on us, the administration contributes as well. These opportunities to explore college options (the PSAT/PLAN and college fair) are presented are in a very matter-of-fact way. When I read the informative letters sent home, it seemed like I had to take part in the PSAT and college fair, and if I didn’t I would be at a huge disadvantage. After being presented with all this information about college, many feel as though they need to start thinking seriously about the future, even if college is many years away.

It puts us on this one-track life, and everyone is in on it. We start talking about this plan that “we” have created to our friends and to our parents. And once we start planning our one-track life (choosing colleges and areas of study), it seems to me that we lose much of the ability to change our minds and explore other options. If you’ve put all this time, energy, and stress into one career path, odds are you’re not going to change your course and start from scratch.

That’s sad. No one wants to wake up one morning and wish they had done something else with their life. And no one wants to wish they had enjoyed life instead of watching it pass by with standardized tests and college tours.