Note to the Underclassmen

Senior Reflection Editorial

Leticia Wood, Class of 2018

We all have regrets in our lives. Some may be from embarrassing situations, like pulling on a door that says push, or slipping in front of a crowd of people. Some come from personal failings, like not studying for a test, or not preparing for a presentation. As high school students, despite the brevity of our lives so far, we know to not let regrets best us because we know how short life can be. We try to avoid regrets and try to live our lives to the fullest in any way because time is so precious. This year, with the gun violence that has stolen the lives of students our age and younger, we all were forced to face this reality with a new tragic perspective. Under this new tumultuous political climate, we all had new realizations. For me, as a senior, I realized that, elite college acceptances were not the most important aspect of my high school experience. Getting an acceptance letter from an Ivy League, was not the highlight of my time at DMAE. Dare I say it, my obsession with getting into college, is one of the regrets that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Allow me to explain.

It is misinformation that has spread around and taken its hold on DMAE — the idea that high school’s sole purpose is to get you into an elite college. It has seemed that the only reason to get good grades, do a bunch of cool extracurriculars, or get great standardized testing scores is to be able to get into Princeton. Though this may come off as a bit (or rather extremely) hypocritical as someone who firmly believed this for the past three years, let me be the first to tell you that this is wrong.

The obsession of students of this school with the Ivy League is especially confusing, considering the fact that only 2 or 3 kids a year get into an Ivy from our school. Rather than joining clubs like Model UN because one has an actual interest in it, people join because “it looks good on a college application.” Rather than volunteering at soup kitchens or homeless shelters because one actually wants to help people, people join because “it looks good on a college application.” Why are people doing activities they don’t really want to do for the sake of an acceptance to an elite school? For the connections they can make at the school? For the resources they can have at the school? Or more so, for the bragging rights?

Over 20 seniors from our school applied to Cornell University, a school that saw over 50,000 applications this year alone. Only 2 were accepted, (one directly and one as a guaranteed transfer option). With this in mind, what’s the point of having 450+ volunteer hours when acceptance into your “dream school” is 100% not guaranteed? What’s the point of taking 4 APs when Johns Hopkins had an 11% acceptance rate this year? What’s the point of destroying yourself when acceptance into an elite school is 1000% just luck?

The answer is there really is no point. Take it from me, one of the three people going to an Ivy League from our school this year, college admissions are a game of chance and if you are lucky enough to get into one of those elite schools, congratulations, but if you aren’t, please do not break yourself over it. Instead, enjoy and cherish your time in high school. Though college admissions will become increasingly competitive each year, the main essence of college applications does not change. They will still be stressful, aggravating, and anxiety inducing, but what did change is the climate of the country we live in.

To seniors in particular, the violence that stemmed at schools very similar to DMAE made the hassle over acceptance into elite universities seem very trivial, at least it did for me. While at Brown University for their admitted student day, the Dean of the college said that this year’s admissions “was the most competitive in Brown’s history!” I was not shocked at the competitiveness of the school but I was shocked to return to DMAE the following day and see the lack of unity between students our school needs, especially as gun violence looms and threatens every school in America. The competition and fixation with elite colleges attacks the healthy community of our school like a virus and for no reason either. This competition will only get worse as each year, the misinformation about high school continues to spread and manifest.

I may have gotten into an Ivy, but that’s why I urge and even beg all underclassmen and rising seniors to have fun while in high school. Staying up to unearthly times of the night to finish an assignment, was not, as freshman-year-me thought, a rite of passage. Working myself to the point of mental anguish and breakdown over projects was not an absolute necessity. Losing friends and close relationships over petty competition was not worth it. Friendship and relationships, though it may seem like such a light trifle, are so immensely important, I regret not making time to see my friends in between classes. I regret not putting in more effort to make plans after school with my friends. I regret putting my academics over my social and emotional well being. As events like the Parkland, and Sante Fe shootings have shown us, everything we are used to can change so quickly.

I’ll say it again: Life is Short. I promise, I won’t destroy myself for the sake of acceptance into an elite school because it is important to live and thrive in the community of the now. And, I hope you make this promise with me.  Make jokes and pranks while recording your McGrath Odyssey Project. Hang out at the Ave while waiting to volunteer at Englewood Idol. Enjoy the musical talents of our peers at the Cabaret because you want to, not because of an honor society requirement. Be an active part of your community at DMAE, and the community of the world. Help build it so it can be as healthy and supportive as possible through your activism. Dedicate the same energy you use to be a successful student, to also be a successful citizen. It’s okay to work hard in high school but you don’t just have to work hard.

As seniors graduate and prepare to go off to college, as juniors rush to prepare to apply for college, and as freshmen and sophomores start wondering about what they have to do to get into college, realize that high school is only 4 years. And as we all learned this year, it can go by so quickly. Don’t graduate with any regrets.