School Doesn’t Matter…That Much

Several times this past summer, I have had the same conversation. Someone would ask me;

  “What grade are you going to be in?” 

Merrily, I would reply; “I’m going into my junior year.” 

At this, their eyes would flash at me with alarm, as if seeing some unscathed innocence in me that hadn’t been there before. A fresh piece of meat. 

“Junior year, huh? Are you nervous?” 

“Not really, should I be?” 

“Oh yeah, with grades and college and AP tests and the ACT and everything, it’s a tough year.” 


“But you’ll be fine.” 

As the weeks went on, my ‘not really, should I be?’ became a ‘yes.’ 

My first week of school, plagued with feverish anxiety, already yielded almost 3 hours of homework a night. 

I’ve always been a high achiever and the kid who knew what they wanted to do in life, I’ve always been able to survive intense situations. However, as I drift along the bottom of the pressure-cooker, I can’t help but stare at the metallic lid and wonder what it’s all for. 

I’ve taken on sleepless nights, several standardized test booklets, two AP classes, and for what?  Does the college I go to even matter? Who guarantees that it’s all even worth it? 

I’ve spent many hours pondering my fate, and here’s what I’ve concluded — life gives you multiple chances. You could be a stellar student and go to Harvard, only to drop out, only to invent Microsoft (true story). 

You could be a terrible test taker and barely get into college, then write a best-selling novel. With only 13-19 years under our belts, we have yet to appreciate how vast life is. 

We’ve been limited to our experiences in suburbia and the circles we run in, and our metric for what matters and doesn’t matter is terrible. 

Every year I’m alive, what I think is important completely changes. In a matter of years, what might’ve made me cry now will slide off my shoulders, what used to not worry me will cloud my mind. I’ll remember the most stressful nights of high school with amusement, and I’ll probably regret some of my juvenile oversights. I have a feeling that I’m not alone in this, and that’s okay. That’s simply what it means to grow up. 

What some have defined as “New Trier culture” teaches us that this is not the case. It tells us that we live in a privileged area with privileged expectations and if we don’t get into an Ivy league school we have failed ourselves. 

It says if you don’t get an A on this test, then you won’t go to your top school, and you’ll never succeed in your career. If you don’t get the lead role in the play or you miss a goal or have a bad tournament, if you are anything less than perfect, there’s something wrong with you.  

It feeds on our youthful ignorance and pushes us further, taking advantage of our skewed perception of life. Sure, this produces many individuals who go on to do great things, but it’s a miserable way to live. Sometimes during finals season, I look at the pale faces that walk by me and it’s almost like they blend in with the monochrome walls, like they’ve become a part of the cold, clinical machine. 

The best piece of advice my older brother has given me is to take advantage of my youth and do what I love when I am unburdened by work and responsibility. 

Thus, reader, I implore you; hijack your misunderstanding of priorities; dedicate yourself to the pursuit of what you love instead of focusing on academic perfection, and next time you feel stressed, give yourself a pass to reduce the importance of your worries and force yourself to say “this doesn’t matter nearly as much as I think it does.” 

Of course, work hard and perform to the best of your ability, but it shouldn’t be for college. It should be to best prepare yourself for world domination, for a life as an active member of humanity, for whatever it is you decide to do. 

Wherever you end up will be where you go, but if you are there on account of an all-encompassing pursuit of what you love, your GPA doesn’t matter. You’re in the right place.