Competition dominates over learning

Last Saturday, many Ames High students took their SATs for the first, second, or even third time. One thought flowed through almost all the students’ minds during those critical four and a half hours: to score as well as possible, not only for personal satisfaction, but also for college admission. The SAT and ACT no longer simply stand as a factor of admission when applying to college in the eyes of students; they now seem to be the only factor of admission. Although this is not true, it is certainly clear that students with higher standardized test scores seem to get into better colleges, upon appropriate evaluation of grades and activities, and this concept seems to have brought about immense competition among the millions of other students across the nation in the form of a national percentile rating. Seniors have already gone through the college admissions process. Some of them are probably thrilled with the envelopes they’ve received in the mail. Others perhaps aren’t as happy. Either way, next fall, this will all seem like a nightmare from which they will have thankfully awakened. Juniors have just begun to receive the full blast of college information. Campus visits have begun; SATs or ACTs have been taken or are being taken in the near future, and the stress of junior year grades alone are enough to keep anyone a little more than merely preoccupied. Sophomores may have already started taking standardized tests and looking into college requirements. All these students can probably name a few things they wish they could have done, or things that would have looked better on a resume. But the fact is, each student has done something a little out of the ordinary. Every student has a unique experience that separates him or her from others. Why, then, do we continue to worry about who has come out on top? I’m not saying that wanting to rise to the top of the academic ladder is a bad thing. A competitive edge is somewhat of a necessity when applying to selective schools, and it is quite understandable why this is true. There are limited spots available to entering freshmen, and every college admission committee strives to take in the brightest students of the class. But instead of exploring interests and enjoying the last of our years at home, it seems as though cramming AP classes into schedules and getting into college is the only reason to be in high school. Wanting to do well in school is not something to be ashamed of, but only focusing on classes and activities for the sake of having an ideal resume greatly detracts from this goal. We are privileged enough to attend a school that offers classes in a wide array of subjects, with new clubs and activities being created as quickly as we can say “sandwich.” Ames High is known for its output of remarkably talented and gifted students that go on to succeed at the best colleges and universities in the United States. Maybe it is this reputation that has students feeling as though they need to do more than they can handle in order to become the “perfect all-rounded applicant” on college applications. Although college preparation is necessary, stressing over a few points and killing yourself to earn them back is not the best way to go about it. Trying to be the best at everything is an impossible feat, no matter how determined a student may be. Competitiveness may spark ambition, but it alone cannot carry a student through four challenging years. Focus on classes that interest you, and the desire to learn will naturally bring rewards.