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The Transcript Mentality
I've never really understood the “it'll look good on my transcript” mentality in other high school students, whether it's loading up their schedules with Honors and AP classes or joining practically every extracurricular activity the school has to offer.
Okay, I will admit that taking advanced classes makes some sense. After all, it's refreshing to be challenged in school sometimes, and they prepare you a bit better for the looming fog known as college. If you plan to take every single AP class, more power to you. I hope you get into a great college, become a doctor and have a great life. But what about your sanity and your general mental health? What about the other things you want to do with your life? I've seen people in all CP classes (who are smart enough to be in Honors, mind you) who stress out big time – how can anyone taking more than one AP class possibly be functioning well enough to lead a comfortable life?
Perhaps it's just what they like to do. That's great for them. So what happens when you add on all the extracurricular activities and sports? I know several people who have activities spanning all three of these categories. As far as I can see, there are a few possibilities here:
A) They are stressed beyond belief.
B) They are performing terribly in most of their activities and classes.
C) They are time-managing wizards.
D) Some combination of the above.
So basically, you are either insane, less than mediocre, or you have a Time Turner.
I really find it hard to believe that an average human being could schedule more than a few different challenging courses and demanding clubs and sports into their lives and put enough effort into them all so that they can improve in every area. This is where the “transcript mentality” rears its ugly head.
If someone joins a club or sport or sign up for a difficult class, the assumption is that they are interested in participating in it and working at it until, by the end of the year, they have improved at it. How can anyone do that without a certain amount of passion for the activity they've signed up for? “It'll look good on my transcript” is not a good reason to take a high-level course or sign up for any extracurricular activities – especially not when used by itself. I suppose it makes a decent ulterior motive, but the initial force driving people to do these things should be a genuine interest and devotion to the subject matter at hand. If someone doesn't have this passion, what makes them think they'll have enough motivation to make it through the year, or through high school?
It infuriates me when people walk into an elective class or club complaining about having to be there. They shouldn't have signed up in the first place if they weren't going to enjoy being there the vast majority of the time. So in this case, they have two options:
1.Quit the club/sport/class.
2.Find the motivation to do better.
In other words, don't join band unless you're willing to practice until you can play your part well. Don't join the Debate Team unless you're willing to take an active part in the discussions. Don't sign up for the level IV and V language classes unless you're willing to immerse yourself in the language every day. Don't join a sports team unless you're willing to stay in shape and go to practices. Don't join your class Executive Board unless you're willing to be responsible, mature, and hard-working.
If you find yourself unable to meet the minimum requirements to get any profit out of a class or activity, or if you find yourself dreading it every day/week/month, chances are you have spread yourself too thin. There's only so much one person can handle, even with super time-management skills. Dropping a single activity can have a surprisingly positive effect on a person's mind and schedule, no matter how important that activity may seem. It will snap everything into perspective and suddenly, “it'll look good on my transcript” doesn't seem to matter so much. It's better to put more energy into life and have a simpler schedule than to have a busy schedule and thus have less energy.
Ditch the college transcript mentality, or, failing that, at least put it on the back burner. This is your life. Work hard, because that does indeed pay off in the long run, but don't work so hard that you find yourself slowing to a standstill in progress, with no energy and possibly no sanity left. More importantly, work most at the things that are one hundred percent mandatory, and at the things you are truly passionate about.
Think of it this way: The person who lets the “it'll look good on my transcript” mentality take over them may very well go to a super-special-awesome college – but then will probably have little clue what to major in or what they want to do with their life, because they did so many things and never took the time to look into what they really wanted to do. Meanwhile, the person who didn't crowd up their schedule too much, only concentrating on what they sincerely wanted to work at, may have gotten into a decent or half-decent college, know exactly what they want to do, and have the skills to excel at that field, thanks to all their dedication to their passions.
Don't let the transcript mentality stop you from being you.