More than one path

Pursuing dreams over academic success should be normalized


Juli Mejia

Having a successful life shouldn’t require taking unnecessary measures to get there. Instead of wasting time on needless stressors, people should focus their attention on the things they’re passionate about.

Caroline Black, Staff Reporter

In order to get into a good college you must take as many AP classes as possible, especially the hard ones, join every club that you can fit into your schedule, be a part of a sport, do whatever you can to get a high ACT score, get as many community service hours as you can and most importantly, never get below an A or at worst a B. This was the mindset I had when I entered high school and carried with me up until the start of my senior year. If I had known earlier that all of this was so unbelievably unnecessary, I think that I would’ve had a way more enjoyable high school experience. All of the stress that I put myself through could’ve been avoided if I had just dug a little deeper beyond the stigma surrounding what success has to look like for not only college but also for life.

If an Ivy League university or a demanding and difficult career has always been your end goal, then my initial thoughts might be your best bet, however this doesn’t have to be the reality for the majority of high school students. Believe it or not, taking AP Chemistry won’t make or break the chance of being accepted into college. Believe it or not, a B will not ruin an application. What colleges want to see is that the student got involved in something they genuinely care about and simply did their best. What I failed to realize is that ‘your best’ is always changing and won’t always look the same as others.

Growing up, my parents never really pressured me into having perfect grades. All they wanted was for me to always do my best, which I did. In elementary and middle school I went above and beyond. I excelled, and therefore, I created this idea in my mind that ‘my best’ was being perfect. I don’t know if this is obvious to everyone else, but for me personally, I didn’t understand that my best won’t always be a busy schedule and A’s across the board. I was stuck in the mindset that since I had been perfect before, then I could do it again. What I failed to take into consideration was that as you get older, classes get harder and you take on additional stressors other than just academics, all of which can cause ‘your best’ to alter, and that’s okay. It’s actually normal. I learned that ‘my best’ and everyone else’s is subject to change. I wish I would’ve understood that when I was a freshman, but even more, I wish I would’ve known that there’s more than one route to success. I was so engulfed in the idea that college, and success in life, all started in high school with an impressive transcript that would lead to a four-year institution which would ultimately lead to a good-paying job. It was all about being able to financially support myself one day and to get to that point without judgment. But something that I think is so extremely overlooked is all of the options that lie outside of that typical route to success. For example, technical jobs are vital to our country, yet they are often seen as an inferior option. Another that seems to be surrounded by judgment is community college, yet the A Plus Program grants two years for absolutely no cost and rarely does this opportunity get taken. 

I know people that never even stepped foot in a college and are now owners of highly successful businesses that are well-known throughout the country. So, why are these options so looked down upon? Why are they surrounded by so much judgment and fear? I understand  some of these options are riskier and don’t guarantee success, but some degrees from four year universities don’t either.

— Caroline Black

Whether it’s fear of judgment or it’s just too out of the norm, all of these ‘what ifs’ scare people out of their ideas before they try. I believe that another major inhibitor is advice from others that encourages secureness. I think Will Smith said it best when he said, “I’ve learned over the years about advice is that no one can accurately predict the future, but we all think we can. So advice at its best is one person’s limited perspective of the infinite possibilities before you. People’s advice is based on their fears, their experiences, their prejudices, and at the end of the day, their advice is just that. It’s theirs, not yours.” Don’t get me wrong, advice can be beneficial, however there is a certain point at which one must draw the line and make their life their own, even if it contradicts the advice they’re given. 

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, less than 2% of the population has reached the highest level of need, self-actualization. People in this level are known as being spontaneous and creative, achieving their highest potential. I think the reason only 2% of the population has achieved this is obvious; people are too afraid of pursuing their desires if it means they must step into the unknown to do so. So many of us are wired to follow the stereotypical route in life, but I wonder what the world and its people would be like if that small percentage was raised. We are all so unique, so doesn’t it make sense for all of us to live unique lives? 

I wish someone would’ve told me this when I began high school because I think that the model route for life begins during that time. The pressures of the world start to creep up on students and they’re once bizarre dreams transform into what society deems as acceptable.  Students should be taught not to be perfectly well rounded, but rather to pursue their passion, even if that is outside of a university. Students should know that it’s okay to do something different. So if it’s either drowning in unwanted and unnecessary stressors or loosening up a bit and going after self-actualization, I choose the latter.