Straight Talk

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Straight Talk

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I’ve overheard conversations between students who don’t even want to talk about colleges or internships they’re applying to and extracurriculars they’re joining solely because they fear others’ awareness of these programs will either decrease their chances of being accepted or, if others do join as well, it will somehow devalue their own accomplishment.

Not only is that assumption about application processes flawed, but also it undermines the weight of such accomplishments when they are common among peers. Success is sweet, but it’s easy to forget that it’s often sweeter when shared.

There’s no denying that our school teems with competition, and it’s understandable. Given the pressure surrounding grades and college we all face, it makes sense that competition follows naturally.

How, then, do we draw the line between healthy competition and ridiculous, unnecessary competition? To avoid the latter, we can’t get caught up in the numbers because, at the end of the day, we should value our education over our achievement.

Most of us, myself included, have a natural tendency to want to know where we stand, so I understand why it’s hard to resist the urge to sneak peeks at others’ grades when a teacher hands back an assignment, but ultimately we only have control of our own efforts. How our classmates do on their assignments shouldn’t enhance or take away from our own work.

We should study well for our own benefit, not just to prove that we can get higher grades than our peers. After high school, no one is going to care, or even remember, how many times you had the highest test score in the class.

The summer before senior year may seem like a crucial extension to an already hectic junior year, but a prestigious internship, or lack thereof, will not make or break a college application.  For those who are applying, as deadlines approach, shouldn’t we be helping one another pick out programs that spark our individual passions, rather than hiding our top choices to possibly increase our chances of getting in or to ensure that they will make us one of a kind?

No two students are going to submit identical college applications and participating in the same summer program as a peer isn’t going to change that.

As a community, we should be supporting each other’s goals and aspirations, not trying to knock each other down just to get ahead.

I’d like to believe that I haven’t let competition get the best of me, but I can’t say it hasn’t affected me. I constantly find myself comparing myself to my peers as if I have to somehow prove that my accomplishments measure up to theirs. I will never have enough time, energy, or brain power to succeed in five AP classes at a given time, but as long as I know I’m doing my best, I’m okay with that. My high school experience is just that—mineand how others choose to spend their four years won’t change that.

I’m not saying competition is always bad—it’s not—and I’m sure exposure to it in high school will be beneficial at some points in my future, but it often becomes excessive and can take away from why we’re actually here: to learn.

We’re all different people with unique minds and interests, so getting wrapped up in competition won’t help anything because it’s not an equal fight. If we all play to our strengths and weaknesses, we should only have to compete against ourselves.

This piece was originally published in the pages of the Winged Post on Jan. 27, 2014.