Does college ruin high school?

Students in Library
Students Riley Grossnickle, Matt Newberry and Om Sakhalkar study diligently in the library. (Photo by CARLY WANNA, Gazebo Editor.)

In 1960, the University of California System began to require SAT scores for admission. Other universities quickly adopted the exam, making standardized testing an inevitability.  

Carly Wanna
Carly Wanna

This, like Hades’s first step into the Underworld, was just the beginning.

From there, the college application process evolved rapidly into a nationalized ordeal that requires far more than test scores, creating the cutthroat ecosystem we live in today – one in which high school teachers tailor lessons to an impractical test and students invest countless hours (and dollars) into making themselves look perfect on paper.  

Students like me know exactly what a college resume should look like, so instead of dreaming, we’re doing everything we can to refine the coals of our aspirations into the diamonds of tomorrow. The idea of competing against ourselves evaporated over the 36-year span it took for UGA’s average SAT score to increase from a 1026 (1980) to a 1385 (2016).

Nowadays, teenagers invent GMO’s, write novels, and win Nobel Peace Prizes (thanks for raising the bar, Malala). While some students are well-intentioned, all too many strive at the will of stuffy college admissions officers who sit behind mahogany desks and peruse transcripts with their bifocals.  We’re not working towards self-betterment nor are we trying to make the world a better place.  We’re trying to get into college.

Our ambition borders on dishonesty, but, more importantly, our perfectionism comes at a cost.  According to The New York Times article, “Today’s Exhausted Superkids,” about 55 percent of teenagers don’t get enough sleep, clocking in less than seven hours each night as opposed to the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep.  

Additionally, the National Institute of Mental Health cites 25.1 percent of teens as having experienced an anxiety disorder.  Ask the average teen what they’re most stressed about, and the answer is school (which now includes SAT, ACT, extracurriculars, actual school, community service, etc. etc.)  

My friends and I discuss the future just as much as the present.  I don’t blame high schoolers for our newest marketing techniques.  Good advertisements are a basic proponent of success, and we’re catching on earlier than ever.

However, colleges must slash the unhealthy consequences that come with such anxious ambition. Universities should provide a more personalized application process through less emphasis on standardized testing scores balanced with greater stress on essays and interviews (which easily distinguish true passion from obligatory success).

Colleges must fix the system, fix us, and fix a damaged education opportunity.