Contemplations: How Society Builds Us Up Just to Bring Us Down

I’m a senior in high school this year, so the hot topics right now are college, career, and future. I, like many students, are partaking in the rat-race that is college applications. In the few months between the end of my junior year, and beginning of my senior year, I went back and forth between a lot of schools. Some I really liked but didn't have any interesting programs, some just weren't my academic scene, and others were in a bad location for my tastes. Another factor that really influenced my decision of where to apply was how hard was it to get in? This topic makes me very upset, so allow me to explain.

For the most part, I am a really good student. I take challenging classes, I’m involved in extracurriculars, hold leadership positions, get good grades, and have good behavior. I’ll admit, my junior year was a little rough and by now I’ve stopped caring about nearly everything, but overall, I do pretty well. When looking at colleges, I would go between thinking, “I’m a good student, why couldn’t I get into this difficult school?” and “Wow, I don’t think I’’m as good as I come off.” So where did that leave me in the end? Applying to one reach school and two safety schools.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like all of the schools I applied to. It’s just, how can we look somewhere and say, okay, I could probably get in. As a personal choice, I don’t really do standardized testing, so I sent my ACT to one school and that was it. Since that is the best sign of whether or not I can get into a school, I was at a complete loss for what to do. In that moment I had to decide what kind of risk I was going to take; give into my ego and apply to schools I may not get into, or sell myself short and apply to more safety schools. I decided that I wasn’t good enough to get into a really good school, despite the four years of hard work I put in to high school. After thinking very hard about my decision, here’s why I think I made the decision that I did.

As we grow up, we are constantly told that we’re doing good and that we’re good kids (unless of course you are not a good kid). Someone who even does moderately well in school will be praised and told “good job.” There’s nothing wrong with this, don’t get me wrong! In my person experience, I was always told that I was a good student, and that I was smart, and that I have a “bright future.” Yet when it really came down to it, I was told to be realistic rather than riskful. My question is why would I want to go somewhere that I could have gotten into by doing half as much work? I know it sounds shallow but, really? I would hope that my hard work would pay off better than someone else’s mediocre work. But here’s how society works: they build up your confidence then throw around words like realistic, safety, and satisfied. I was more afraid of trying and failing because I know that would look worse than if I aimed low and won. When I told my dad about my revised application list he got quite upset. He told me that I’m smarter than that and that I shouldn’t sell myself short. I’ve work hard and that will pay off. My dad has a spirit than many people don’t have anymore. When having the same conversation with a teacher, who only a little while ago was praising my academic work, I was told that was probably the best choice- better safe than sorry.

Better safe than sorry

Better Safe Than Sorry.

I hate that phrase. I hate it with all of my being. I like it when I’m travelling or camping or driving or something like that, but in this situation, I hate it. Society tells us not to take risks and I don’t think that’s right. We’re young. We’re supposed to take risks and fuck up a few times before we learn our lesson. Making mistakes and failing is how we know we’re learning. Not many people, and especially the education system, see that. Failing is seen as weakness and unsatisfactory. I say fuck that. I’ve struggled in school, I’ve done poorly on tests and assignments. I’ve questioned whether I’d be able to pass a class or not. Yeah, at the time it sucked. It was the worst feeling ever. But I became a better person because of it. All success teaches you is that sometimes life works out. Failure, struggle, risk- they remind us that we’re human. They tell us to keep going, to appreciate our abilities, and to be humble. I’ll take that over false confidence any day.

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” — Denis Waitley

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