Saturday, January 17, 2015

Under Pressure

This past week Teddy and I had a conversation about college sparked by recent placement testing.  He was online researching what it takes to get into a "good" college.  There were 9 important things that colleges are looking for that he identified.  One of them is honors classes and another overall GPA.  He was trying to decide whether he should take as many honors classes as he is eligible for or cherry pick.  He was weighing the likelihood of a higher GPA in non honors classes against the benefit of accepting the challenges of tougher classes.  He wanted to know what I did.

When I was in 8th grade, college prep wasn't even on my radar.  I expected that I'd go to college because I was a good student and it was expected of me, but I wasn't concerned with GPAs, ACTs or SATs.  I was concerned with what I was going to do over the weekend not in 4 1/2 years.  My high school didn't have "honors" classes.  Some people took Algebra Freshman year and others took Algebra II.  I took them both twice and still was on the National Honor Society and somehow managed to get into my first choice school.  I didn't know it was my first choice school until late in the application process so I am to this day eternally grateful for my Mom for filling out and sending in the application sans essay or glut of referrals.  Somehow she knew that I wasn't going to be happy at Connecticut College or any of the other small faraway colleges I was focusing on.

On one hand, I think this early preparation and awareness is a good thing.  It puts kids in the position to know what they are working so hard for.  It gives them goals and incentives.  It sets them up to be active participants in their education and futures, which is highly motivating.  They are invested whether they like it or not. On the other hand, it stresses them out and ekes a little bit of the fun and freedom of being a teenager right out from under them. Every decision is calculated and with consequence.  Every class, sport, activity, relationship becomes a means to an end and not an experience in and of itself.  They are forced to grow up faster as they internalize the magnitude of every decision they make.

I wonder how my college experience would have been different if I had more of an awareness about myself and the experience.  There are few things I would change, but one that I would is a biggie.  As big as my major.  I think I would've majored in education instead of English, and I would've focused on Spanish instead of Women's Studies.  I think if I had been looking further ahead, I would have made more precise and practical decisions.

Gone are the days where T. Bone dreams of being drafted into the MLB.  He talks a lot about business these days.  He's interested in architecture and making a lot of money so he can own fabulous homes in all the places he loves.  He's 14 after all.  I'd be worried about him if his dreams weren't lofty or if they were too whittled down.  He's still got a whole lot of growing up and learning to do, but the countdown has begun.  Tick tock.