With precisely three weeks left, my senior year will be coming to an end, marking four years at CCA. Every year I hear people give out some words of advice and encouragement for those who still have years of high school ahead, but it’s not until senior year where they finally make sense.
Before coming into CCA I always heard of its “competitive environment.” This phrase always confused me because of how utterly vague it is. I didn’t grasp how a school could be competitive. It wasn’t until my sophomore year where this was really answered. I was sitting in my English class, specifically around AP test season. People were talking about their stress left and right as if it were a sort of achievement. Kids talking about the five AP tests that they were taking and how they were planning on taking even more their junior year in hopes that colleges would notice. It was around this point where I started to see why people called it “competitive.” I found myself feeling the urge to take certain classes even though they had nothing to do with what I wanted to major in. To put it in perspective, I seriously contemplated taking AP Biology even though I knew I wanted to go into the journalism field. Surely enough, I never got to experience the highs and lows of AP Bio but the fact that I even considered it was enough to prove that the CCA mentality had gotten to me.
In one of my math classes there was an incredibly smart kid. I remember him being able to peruse through the class and pick up the concepts pretty easily and I really admired him. One day, when he was explaining an equation to me, I asked him why he was in regular math when he could be in honors or AP. He looked me in the eye and told me he didn’t plan on taking any of those classes. This concept was completely foreign to me; a kid at CCA wasn’t planning on taking any AP classes. His reasoning behind it was that he didn’t feel the need to take AP classes in the first place and didn’t think that they would help validate his intelligence, that at the end of the day he’d just pay money for something he already knew he was good at. I realized that I myself was feeding into this very mentality that was once so confusing to me. Needless to say that kid changed my perspective of everything. Shout out to that kid, seriously.
It’s dangerously easy to fall into the competitive environment that CCA has. I don’t blame anyone but the College Board really. I know that CCA’s founders did not intend the 4×4 to be used to take more APs but rather to give students the opportunity to experiment with a lot of classes in hopes that they find a passion. But I don’t blame the students either because everyone’s stress is valid — colleges nowadays are so unpredictable and value your life on paper so much that it’s so tempting to just take a bunch of APs and sacrifice our mental health in order to please them. CCA students unintentionally created a competitive environment – not out of self choice – but rather to please colleges. Why the need to please colleges? Because generation after generation we are told that going to college leads to getting a good job and getting a good job can make us money. Never taking into consideration any mental health nor genuine passion. The amount of times that Iheard fellow peers of mine say “Well I don’t really like *insert some sort of stem major* but it makes good money” is depressing.
Though it is said time and time again, I think it’s important to reassure people of these things, especially if you are an underclassmen. Take this as some pieces of advice from a senior.
- Please hold back on the APs if you know you don’t need them. Don’t feel pressed to take anything you know isn’t going to benefit you. I know way too many seniors whose AP credits aren’t going to transfer to their colleges. So be wise about what you take and resist giving money to College Board.
- Kind of in a similar boat as APs, for the love of god take classes that YOU like. If you don’t know what you want to do with your life yet there are plenty of electives and classes that you can choose from to test the waters. Don’t take that honors math class or that one AP class just because everyone else is taking it. Taking classes that you like are going to make high school worthwhile.
- Just as a form of reassurance — colleges do not define your worth. I feel like this one is one that is needed a lot for CCA kids. Colleges are foundationally all the same, just some are more expensive than others, so why let that determine your worth?
While I will forever long for the comfort of my teenage years, it’s time that this chapter in my life comes to an end. I will be moving out soon and bidding adieu to the campus that has made me the person that I am today. Farewell Panera and Trader Joes, farewell to my favorite teachers, and farewell to my beloved friends — I will wholeheartedly miss you all from the bottom of my heart. And to all of the other non senior students of CCA: hang in there, you’ll be okay, cherish your years left in high school, and don’t give in to the CCA mentality.