How much should one expect from a seventeen-year-old? According to universities, a great deal. Expectations for the youth are rising as the competitiveness of universities becomes tight. Massachusetts Institute for Technology, MIT, is an example of this as their acceptance rate has dropped from 24.3% in 2000 to 7.3% by 2020. Only the successful are accepted is the thought process of many, understandably so, and so the responsibility of becoming successful falls onto the shoulders of the young teen barely discovering reality. The burden one must carry coming into this new world only doubles with the pressure of meeting the expectations of their mentors and the society around them. Given all of this, it is understandable to state that the college admissions pool has become too saturated - too demanding - in recent years.
Too little? Too Much?
We are told high school should be enjoyed and used to explore our interests. Take that psychology class if you wish, challenge yourself with an AP (advanced placement) course, join the robotics team, try out for the basketball team, etc. Join one or join all. Drop one or drop all. It is, after all, up to you. Understand, however, that the decision to add one more extracurricular or challenging class may make you seem desperate, yet dropping one may make you seem unable to handle your own choices. How should one know that it is too little or that it is too much? Why should one care about which side of the spectrum it falls on? Simple: Universities. It is a commonly held belief that top colleges select students based on the number of advanced courses they take and extracurriculars they can stuff into their schedule. The more the better. Yet, it has also been stated that too much can be seen as a lack of dedication to one thing. A lack of commitment and a demonstration that one did not fully learn the topic. Or as is better expressed in this Prep Scholar article titled How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League, by a Harvard Alum,
“Jack of all trades, master of none.”
Students are now challenged to find the right balance as they go through high school. Their gears must turn and keep turning even when they begin to rust. With this type of pressure, teens have no time to clean it off; if they do, they tend to suffer the consequences of falling behind. Every decision students make in their own academic life is scrutinized. Choices, if they can be called that, become that much more difficult.
The trouble with success
Who defines success? When it comes to our daily lives, we do. The day was a success because you had a good day at work, you turned in your assignment on time, or you and your friends had a night out. When it comes to anything outside of our personal lives, the definition of success is altered. Success becomes dependent on society’s accepted version of it. Students, now, are expected to not only meet but exceed this definition of it. However, I’d like to state that higher expectations and definitions of success aren’t necessarily harmful to the young mind. It sets up goals and a strong belief that others believe in us. However, the message from many universities is that if one cannot reach these standards, they have failed. They have failed to reach their standards, so they have failed in the world. The pressure to be something is significantly turned up in their young minds and that in itself causes a whole other slew of problems. The trouble with success is that others' definitions are presumed to be our own and we presume ours to be theirs.
Adolescents and the future
How much should be expected from an adolescent? A lot? A little? Maybe somewhere in between? I believe expectations should be set within the adolescents’ minds, not in the institutions surrounding them. Yet, these particular institutions have the influence and power and hold the hope of thousands of young teens across the globe.
What happened to just being adolescents?
To be frank, nothing. One can still follow their own set of choices. The consequences of those actions have simply become heavier and placed in front of any person, the choice is obvious. Pick success over failure, no matter the cost.