In the years approaching college, the weight of the world is on us teens. Our stress is magnified as the expectations for college readiness intensifies. Our days grow longer and our nights shorten as we return home from a seven hour day of school only to spend additional hours studying and completing homework for multiple AP and honors classes. We wake up early the next morning to repeat the cycle. Work-free weekends are infrequent when they have become filled with youth leadership group gatherings, club meetings, community service, and SAT/ACT prep. The talk of scholarships is a daily thing, and application websites are bookmarked on our laptops. Finding leisure time is rare and exhaustion becomes normal since getting enough sleep is a rare occasion. As I live through this, trying my hardest to do everything I can to attend a top-rated college, it makes me wonder, “Is it worth it?”
College readiness begins early. Ever since I was young, my parents made sure to keep me involved in a variety of activities. My parents signed me up for dance, gymnastics, tumbling, cheer, computer classes and more, making the first step to helping me find my interests and talents. Even my passion for music was found by my mother driving 7-year-old me to a house of a piano instructor one random morning and saying, “You’re starting piano lessons today.” I was not very fond of the idea at the time, but later on, playing piano became a love of mine. Little did I know this was just the beginning of the college readiness process. My passion for music drove me to become alto section leader for the Select Women’s Choir and Top 40 Concert Choir at Dutchtown High School.
Gifted programs, student government, social studies fairs, spelling bees…I did it all throughout elementary and middle school, and I made sure that I did it extremely well. I won the spelling bees, earned first place in social studies fairs, was accepted in the Junior Beta Club and the National Junior Honor Society, and made straight A’s. Not getting on the all “A” honor roll was not an option. Even when I was younger, I never looked at high school as the end of education. My parents always encouraged me to surpass their accomplishments. By the time I got to high school, I knew it was time to be serious. The pressure to be great amplified, and I pushed myself even harder. By the end of my 10th grade year, I was looking forward to a summer break, and the fact that my mother urged me to do two classes at Clayton State University over the summer while volunteering at a music camp exasperated me. No one else is doing this, I thought. Everyone else was hanging with their friends over the summer and enjoying their break before the very important junior year. Still pushed to do more, an ACT prep class and two clubs were added to the mix. While tiring and very demanding, this strenuous path to success has gotten me into the National Society for High School Scholars, invitations for camps at Ivy League schools, a rank of top 2 percent in a class of 380, enough credits to graduate from high school at the end of my junior year, and the list of rewarding accolades goes on.
From a high school teen’s perspective, again I ask the question, “Is it worth it?” Are the gifted programs worth it? Are the spelling bees, social studies fairs and science fairs worth it? Are the countless music lessons worth it? Is losing much-needed sleep worth it? Is sacrificing leisure time or being looked at as boring because you focus on your school work more than hanging out with friends worth it? Are the clubs, leadership groups, ACT/SAT preparatory classes worth it? Because of my parents’ and my sacrifices for education, I am ahead of the game in college preparation. I meet the acceptance requirements for all of my college choices. So again, is it worth it? Though it is a lot, no doubt, the big picture says, “Yes, it is indeed worth it!” “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Jordyn J. Williams is a junior at Dutchtown High School. She is in the top 2 percent of her class and maintains a weighted GPA of 4.44. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.