It is college acceptance season. Seniors all around the country are eagerly awaiting their acceptance letters. Or, more appropriately, their acceptance emails. Families gather around the computer, waiting in anticipation for that email. Families and seniors alike, filled with anticipation, hoping all their hard work has paid off. A culmination of four years of blood, sweat, and tears. Anxiety. Stress. Pressure. It all comes down to this moment: Will I get into the school of my choice?
I will experience this next year as my son is currently a junior. Since he is my oldest, it is unchartered territory for us. Sure, I went to college. There was a process to follow. Specific criteria. Guidelines. But, it is different today, than it was many moons ago. It is absurd the amount of pressure today’s teenagers are under. Is it too much?
My senior year was a fun-filled year. I didn’t take ALL electives, but I didn’t have to take all AP classes either to get into my school of choice. College admissions are tougher today. They’ve raised their minimum achievement test scores. I assure you, I never would’ve gotten into my school today with the scores I had back then. Some schools require a minimum of 1300 to be accepted. 1300! And that’s for in state schools. Forget about out of state.
Colleges want to see GPA’s of 4.5 or higher. They want well rounded students. Young adults who have contributed to the community. To society. Well rounded teenagers who play sports. Who work. Who belong to club after club. It’s a lot. It really is. I’m not saying we need slackers, but I think the minimum requirements are nuts. And I know not ALL colleges are the same and demand such standards, but a lot of them do.
Personally, I think it’s too much pressure on these young adults. I’m 50 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. How can we expect incoming, high school freshmen to declare a major? That’s right. They need to be thinking and deciding as high school freshmen so they can take appropriate classes to prep them for appropriate classes in college. They are 14 years old. 14! How can we expect them to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at the young age of 14?
And forget about the pressure to take AP classes. If you don’t take AP classes, then you’re told you’re not serious about your studies. At my son’s high school orientation, we were told, “If you don’t take AP classes, then you won’t get into college”. Period. No if’s or but’s. Total intimidation. “You have to be a part of the IB program. The Cambridge Program.” It’s overwhelming. And it’s too much.
When do these kids get to be kids? We are adults far longer than we are kids, and today’s kids are having to grow up too fast. Too much pressure is put on them at too early of an age. They are expected to achieve high levels of excellence at all times. It’s unsustainable. It’s adding to our youth’s anxiety and depression. It’s not the only thing, but it is a contributing factor. We need to ease up just a little. Let teenagers have a social life. Let teenagers be teenagers. Don’t bog them down with hours and hours of homework every night so they can’t do sports or work or volunteer. Don’t make the finish line so far away that they don’t have the endurance to cross it.
Yes, I think teenagers need to learn time management. I think they need to learn how to balance it all. These are life skills and they need to practice them at an early age so they can be successful in the real world. I think they need to be challenged. I think they need to work hard. I am not suggesting we coddle them and give everyone a medal for participating. I am saying we need to provide them with the right balance. We need to give them downtime. We need to provide that balance for them because from what I’ve seen and heard, it no longer exists.
Sprinkle in a pandemic, and forget about it. It’s all that much worse…But what do I know? I’m just a mom to a teenager.