By Mikayla Carroll
All throughout elementary school, I was told I was considered to be among the best and brightest. This was only encouraged through the reinforcements of my teachers, parents, and classmates. I recall having quite the reputation for racking up Reading Counts points and having some of the best creative writing stories. I even remember my kindergarten teacher requesting that I dedicate my first book to her.
Looking back, I might consider this one of those big fish in a small pond situations. Only as I got older would I begin to see that the halls of my elementary school were not the limits of the competition.
Some would say seeing education as a competition is missing the point of education in general. After all, your path and someone else’s path of learning could be completely different, whether it is the courses you take or the pace at which you move along. And this is perfectly understandable. I, for one, am always striving to better myself and be better than I was before. We should always be in competition with our former selves, not anyone else.
But the game of college makes my outlook a whole lot different. I find myself asking recent high school graduates that are college bound what their secret to success is. I’m eager to find out what their grades were like, what activities they were involved in, how many community service hours they had. I wonder if they started their own club, or won first place at the science fair, or founded a non-profit. I immediately begin to compare my own achievements to theirs, and this is how I know that education has become more and more of a competition.
Take something like class ranks, or running for officer positions in a club. Oftentimes, these present cutthroat competition, for a title that may not even matter after the very day you graduate high school. Even so, the competition can be anything but friendly, and it becomes a race to the top, to see who can outdo each other, all with the goal of getting into their dream university.
This also presents situations where students participate in some activity simply because it can boost their resume or make them more appealing to an admissions officer. At this point, it becomes impossible not to compare yourself to your peers.
Even the most ambitious student gets rejected from their dream school. Even the valedictorian gets deferred from their number one choice. Even the president of seemingly every club may not end up where they thought they once would. This only proves that this game of trying to fill your resume for the purpose of making it better than the next person’s is a dangerous one to play.
I don’t plan on setting my heart on one school. I have to trust that I can make the best of wherever I end up. And this doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to achieve more or that I won’t go for a position that I want, because competition can be one of the greatest, most effective motivators. However, I won’t let comparison influence where I choose to dedicate my time. I don’t believe in doing something just for the sake of having a long list of accomplishments. For me, I want to only devote my energy to what I am most passionate about, and if it helps my resume, then that’s an added bonus. Hopefully this mentality shows on paper to whoever stumbles upon my resume in the near future.