I recently embarked upon what many consider to be one of the most trying years of my life. One that is said to be marked with stress and exhaustion. One that is said to crush hopes and dreams in an avalanche of projects, tests and quizzes.
Seeing as I’m only three weeks into the school year, the full effects of junior year haven’t yet materialized in my life. But already the implications of having just begun my penultimate year of secondary education are lurking behind the scenes. I’ve seen them in the tension in my parents’ voices when they talk about college, I’ve seen them in the weary faces of my friends when we are confronted with essays and tests and I’ve seen them in the steady decline in the hours of free time in my schedule.
I will readily admit that I have had problems with procrastination. Back in middle school, and even as recently as last year, I have been guilty of spending my afternoons on social media, watching YouTube, or just chatting with friends. I’ve wasted my fair share of time, relying on last-minute efforts to finish English papers and science projects.
I resolved over the summer to quit procrastinating and get everything done first – something I’ve had a fair amount of success with. But between schoolwork, sports, and my extracurriculars, I’ve had very little free time.
I recently had a conversation with my dad about the college process and about what I had to do in order to prepare for my applications – which, he never fails to remind me, are fast approaching. PSATs, SATs, ACTs, the list goes on. Have you begun studying yet? When are you taking the test? Do you have a plan for how you’re going to study? There are so many questions and not nearly enough answers.
Yes, we are only three weeks in, and I am yet to experience the full wrath of junior year. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from this journey so far, it’s that this is all wrong. Not only is the environment of constant stress and pressure detrimental to the kids, but it is also inherently against the purpose of going to school.
These days, we go to school with the ever-present clouds of college applications and standardized testing looming over our heads. The school year has just begun, and yet I already have friends that are trembling at the proximity of the dreaded “junior spring” and “senior fall.” And this phenomenon is not limited to Wayland. Neighboring school districts, especially those with high academic achievements such as Newton South and Lexington, have seen an increase in suicide attempts. Just last year, a survey found that 55 students at Lexington High School had attempted suicide, and that same survey revealed that 15% of Lexington High School students had considered suicide over the previous year.
This is not how school should be. The purpose of getting an education is to learn, develop and grow as individuals and members of society. Why should we care about grade-point averages when we should be focusing on satisfying our intellectual curiosities? Why are we poring over SAT prep books for hours instead of reading books that can teach us more than just how to get a good score on a standardized test?
There is so much more to life than college. We should cherish our junior and senior years. The last two years of high school should be a time of celebration and anticipation – a celebration of the long way we’ve come and an anticipation of how far we still have to go. These final years shouldn’t be anticipated as some of the worst of our lives; instead, they ought to be recognized as a high point, as they mark the beginning of our transition into adulthood.
I recently spoke with a teacher about the whole college application process and the stress surrounding it. He had one piece of advice: to try and forget about the stress and focus instead of enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime experience of high school. I think that’s something many of us should do. After all, it can be easy to get caught up in the details and forget to see the big picture. I think we all ought to take a step back and think for a moment about what’s truly important in life. I’m sure the future is a lot brighter than a lot of us might think.
Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.