It’s Not About College

This is a very stressful time of our lives, but we can choose to affirm ourselves and find happiness.

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To My Fellow Seniors:

It feels strange to say that we all entered this school four years ago, took the same classes, and laughed at the same jokes, yet turned out to be so different. As I delve deeper into my interests in race, math and science, they are effectively being eliminated from my field of inquiry. Many of my classmates are doing the opposite as they choose to study subjects like genetics or philosophy.

While I know someone who chose to do all of her extracurriculars within Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant’s location in Tribeca allowed me to attend outside activist meetings pre-COVID.

What I have learned is that the world contains such a multitude of paths and so many different types of accomplishments that comparing yourself to others seems pointless. Yes, Jimmy might be taking AP Chemistry, but he wants to be a chemist, and that’s not what I want to do with my life.

With the vast variety of options at our fingertips (there are thousands of different types of jobs), I know I will be successful. Because success is not something that society thrusts upon us—rather, it’s something we oftentimes use to define ourselves.

So maybe I call myself successful because I am graduating high school. Maybe I call myself successful because I am pursuing my passions.

We are all just tiny specks in the world anyway. There are thousands of Ivy League graduates, and not all of them are super famous, rich, or even happy with their lives. But there’s only one of you, and you cannot rely on others to determine your self-worth. You are the only one who knows the depth of your accomplishments, of how hard you worked, and of what tangible differences you have had on others. An acceptance letter does not define you.

That is not to say that we can stay positive and happy all the time during this stressful time in our lives.

Sometimes, the worry about my future gets so overwhelming that I can’t get out of bed in the morning and I miss online school. My relationships with others have deteriorated, with friendship hangouts postponed for one week, two weeks, and, eventually, months.

The college process has caused me to reflect on my time here. I’m not proud of my 70 in Geometry. Or how I forgot that there was another supplemental due for one school three hours before the application deadline. Or the million absences I’ve had in school.

The regrets pile up in a jar. I could choose to lament them. Or I could choose to accept them because we all have a jar of our own, even if no one publicly admits it.

And maybe, after months of essay writing, I won’t get into the school of my dreams. And that’s okay. I believe in never looking back. Because while I am graduating this school with an 88 GPA, paltry by Stuyvesant standards, everything I did in these four years led me here—led me to write an opinion column for a newspaper that I love. It’s not something “elite,” but it doesn’t have to be; it just needs to bring me joy.

So, my fellow seniors, and hopeful underclassmen, I hope that you can find solace in my words. Because everything comes from within.