I hated high school. I try not to use the word hate often because I believe that hatred is a very strong emotion that shouldn’t be thrown around recklessly. However, I can say with the utmost confidence that I hated high school. I feel like my school had one job and that was to prepare me and my peers for life after high school. For most of us, life after high school entailed four years of college. My school had one job and they couldn’t even do that right.
My high school did very little to prepare us for the next step in our life. There was never any assemblies or informational visits from counselors about the college application process. I was blissfully unaware of what the SAT was or how to sign up for it until the middle of my junior year. Teachers would always stress the importance of doing homework and studying and practicing good habits now because college would be much harder. The “C” word. A very vague concept, often alluded to but never discussed in detail.
College to me was this magical place that I would probably end up at. How I would get there was beyond me. I had no idea that the applications differed based on whether the school was public or private. I was unaware what a supplement was and why I didn’t need one for one school but I had to write three for another. I didn’t know I would need recommendation letters from teachers nor did I know who or how I would ask. I was confident all my teachers hated me so I was positive that I was screwed.
When I say my school did not provide us information about college or the application process, I’m not exaggerating. I had to learn about the process along the way. Thankfully, I’m a fast learner and it wasn’t difficult for me to understand what was required of me in my applications. Still, it was extremely frustrating. I was fortunate enough that, during my junior year, my AP English teacher had a panel of previous students and current seniors come in and speak about their experiences with applying to college.
Because I was a student in AP classes, I had access to tools and resources (such as the panel) that other students did not. My school focused a lot of attention on AP students, which alienated other students from the very few resources that I was given. This was another issue I had with the education system. My school wanted to be rid of all regular classes and make everything advanced, honors, or AP. Even in theory this was a bad idea.
My school was concerned with making itself look better in terms of Grade Point Averages and testing averages, but there was no consideration as to why some students chose not to take AP classes and there was no explanation really at all as to why you should take them. I don’t think this was done to help us. In the end, it all came down to the amount of money the school was making and saving and the reputation it built for itself through its students’ test performances. Since the main focus of my school seemed to be financial rather than the well-being of the students, it didn’t seem to matter whether we knew how to prepare ourselves for college as long as there was profit being made.
What I think really would have helped is if we had been given more information our freshman year. I wish I had known how much weight my grades had in the process earlier in high school. It would have been beneficial to familiarize ourselves with the application then so we wouldn’t be scrambling our junior and senior years trying to understand, as our time was running out.
I think communicating with freshmen as soon as they enter high school is crucial because there is still time for them to start good study and testing habits that will help them later in their academic career. Waiting until junior year to begin preparing is too late in many cases.
In addition, more counselor discussions would be beneficial because it allows for a one-on-one conversation focused on a single student and his or her plans for college. Hearing from other students makes the process seem doable, although not any less scary. It is comforting hearing from peers whom you can relate and also seek guidance in.
Colleges are becoming more selective with their application process and the competition is intensifying. Preparing early is the best way to gain a surer sense of what needs to be done in order to make oneself as appealing as possible to the application readers. I only hope that as the difficulty of getting accepted into college becomes more evident, schools will see the importance of preparing their students as best they can.