The College Conundrum

The Stack!

The Stack!

My mother’s enormous pile of library books slammed onto the table with a deafening smack. I looked up from my skimming of the Sunday funnies page to stare up the towering monolith of dense treatises on college advice that cast a looming shadow over my cowering frame. The volumes ranged from a delightfully colorful self-helper called How to choose a College Major to a particularly imposing publication on SAT preparedness that brought my previously ignorantly blissful, or at least, desperately evasive psyche back to the sudden reality that that the imminent storm of my junior year was brewing in the sky ahead and with it would bring the intimidating trials of my ever impending growing-up.

College is a cheeky little shadowbeast that hides in your closet for most of your childhood and only occasionally emerges from its hiding place in the distant future when particularly forward-minded adults decide to quiz uninformed children and laugh at the impossible and illogical answers (like mine when I was 7 was to go to Harvard School of Law to major in princess studies with a minor in unicorn mechanics). The sneaky secondary education shadowbeast stays in the darkness of destiny for a while, before pouncing on unsuspecting middle schoolers when they take their first PSAT’s. Then everything you learn in school, every test, every grade, every extracurricular becomes irrevocably linked in the minds of once euphorically unaware twelve year olds to the ominous college transcripts.

When I’m in school, every test result below an 89 becomes my life sentence to eternal hobo-dom. I remember coming home one night in tears like it was the end of the world when I got a 60 on a Geometry test. “Why?” I sobbed into my mother’s arms with not a small helping of melodrama, “Why did God not give me the natural ability to understand cosines?”

“Well…” My eternally patient parents said slowly, “God gave you other gifts. You just need to pray for His lead and talk to your math teacher.”

I did, of course, manage to pull through Standard Geometry 1 with an 88, after many wooden-headed questions about basic I-should-of-learned-this-in-5th-grade math to my long-suffering teacher and a heaping pile of prayer (I definitely don’t think I could have done anything without massive help from God).

But the point is, the weight of getting into college and how to pay the rising tuition costs really weighs down heavily on many students. At my school, my fellow academics (of which many are much smarter, skilled, and driven than I) must claw their way to a very exclusive top 10%, which is where most of the scholarships are to be fought for like an educational Hunger Games. It is a very foreboding process for a young person barely out of puberty to process. We feel like we have an expectation to decide what the rest of our lives will be like, what major to choose, what path we’ll be set on all before the tender age of 18. I have seen freshmen only 14 years old fret about how they’ll pay for college and weeping when their SAT scores are too low. I have witnessed kids my age (and sometimes even myself) obsessing themselves neurotic over 0.25 points on their GPA, thinking that a 3.75 is going to make every employer scoff in disdain when they come in to ask for a job when it says right there on their college transcript that you got a B in 10th grade Biology.

Well… I don’t want to be scared anymore. I have made a resolution that for my junior year, I am going to try my best in my studies, but I’m not going to be consumed by them. I will be the best student I can be by respecting my teachers, listening intently in class, and doing my homework, but in the end, I think my main job right now is not schoolwork, though it will be very important, but my central priorities this year and for the rest of my life will be furthering my relationship with God, serving my family, friends, authorities, and community, and of course, finding my gifts. I think if I put God first in my life and obey what I am being taught, He will take care of me, and my future career if He allows me to have one. I’ll be looking forward to how He leads me!  And now, back to the books…

Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions


A.C.T. Test

Pencil and calculator in hand...

Pencil and calculator in hand…

I had ACT’s this morning, which those who had driven past Granny White this morning would know by the hundreds of cars in the parking lot which would be amiss any other Saturday in summer. As the hundreds of students funneled through the only entrance in the entire school that was “ACT kosher” we were directed down the long, dusty halls to our testing proctor who scrutinized our identification papers with more rigorous inspection than the Soviets guarding the Berlin Wall.

We were hustled down the long A hall and corralled into classroom by alphabetical order. The proctors rechecked our ID’s and testing tickets again, just in case one of us had magically teleported into the classroom, then sat us down in rows of desks.
“Please surrender electronic devices to the proctor,” The teacher in the front read curtly from the front of the room. “Any students found possessing any of the following devises: cell phones, pagers, stopwatches, timers, or will be dismissed from the testing area and their testing materials will be destroyed.”

A wave of students pulled out their dozens of cell phones and iPods and sat them on the teacher’s desk. I saw her eyes widen a bit at the sheer number of electronics before she directed the students to remove the batteries from their gadgets (because all of us apparently know how to remotely activate our cellphone spider robots to google answers for use then transmit information via Morse code…).
We all sat down and after half an hour more of hearing the numerous ways our behavior would have us excommunicated and our precious tests incinerated, we were given our testing booklet. I opened the book with trepidation, seeing the columns of tiny writing and questions purposely designed to trick feckless students. I prayed a bit, got out my lucky pencil, and began marking the bubbles. As I came close to the end of the Reading Comprehension, I made a horrifying discovery. I had accidentally skipped question 3 and all my bubbles were one wrong on my Scantron.
“Oh Sweet Strawberry Crêpes!” I whispered in horror as I saw the five minute mark rapidly slip towards me. I gazed in dismay at my test sheet as I frantically erased all my marks.
“You have five minutes left.” The proctor announced unhelpfully.
I gnashed my teeth and feverishly bubbled in haphazard smudgy dots, only glancing at the smeared marks I left in my wake.
“One minute left.” The proctor declared.
“Geuh!” I silently screamed, 20 questions left!
I scribbled in marks, almost blind to their placement in my frenzied terror. “Must finish test!!” My mind cried!
“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…” The proctor counted down.
My pencil flew to the last five question, marking desperately with graphite the final bubbles.
“TIME!” The teacher called, “Put down your pencils and close the test booklet!”
“YES!” I crowed in my mind, doing a small fist-pump. All 70 of the questions filled out and corrected. I breathed a sigh of relief and closed my eyes. So much drama and terror in a moment was physically and psychologically draining, but I had a victorious, abet somewhat exhausted grin on my face.
“I see you’ve all finished Test 1,” The proctor chirped cheerfully, “Only four more to go!”