Well rounded applications pave way for college admissions

Hayden Dux, Sports Editor

When the Common Application essay prompts roll out every winter, high school juniors, transfer students and other aspiring college scholars face the fruition of four intense years of resumé building. As an incoming freshman during my days at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ), I was constantly peppered with questions from other like-minded, competitive students: How many APs will you take? What math are you in? When will you take the SAT?

For a wide-eyed ninth grader, the first child in his family to go through high school and think about college, I was appalled. How do you take an AP? Why are they laughing when I say ‘Algebra’? What’s an SAT?

While teachers, counselors and parents alike may attempt to soothe the anxieties associated with the college application process, its current state leaves many students, myself included, feeling caught in a rat race. The highly competitive nature of the process made it even harder for me to leave TJ when I found out that it was no longer supporting my needs as not only a student, but also an athlete, active community member and human being.

Moreover, it didn’t help that I was to be TJ’s first graduating legacy student. Instead of an enriching environment, the classroom became stifling. Hours upon hours spent without seeing the sun or in a cramped bus seat wore at my resolve and my mental health. The idea that a mid-high school transfer with deflated grades from TJ would impact my college prospects bound me to a lifestyle where I was constantly miserable.

Midway through my sophomore year, one of my best friends sat down to talk to me. After being my assigned mentor the previous school year, he could easily see the deterioration of the desire that once drove me into countless pursuits. As the son of U.S. diplomats and a future University of Chicago scholar, he made it clear to me that what mattered most wasn’t a jam-packed resumé or list of accolades. He reminded me that the only way to achieve your goals is when you are pursuing the interests and activities that drive you to get up every morning.

Two days later, I signed my transfer papers and bucked the shackles of peer pressure and intimidation. I became a Chantilly Charger, attending the longtime school and workplace of countless family members and dear friends.

Upon starting anew, I realized an immediate change in myself. I had more time to spend with loved ones. I was able to work more on my development as an athlete. I was a more active member of both my neighborhood and school communities, committing myself to honor societies, tutoring clubs and service organizations. I pursued internships in medicine and pediatric neurology that not only satiated my previously unquenched thirst for knowledge, but also piqued my interest in regards to potential career paths. These experiences that I obtained as well as the life lessons I learned at Chantilly cast a pallor upon the unsuitable atmosphere that I endured at Jefferson.

While I realize that countless adolescents (and a scant number of preteens) enjoy every second of their time at Jefferson, it was crucial for me to realize that it wasn’t the right place for me. It led me to dedicating my high school years to prioritizing the right things made me a more stable and higher achieving individual. Though I boasted a comparably difficult course load at Chantilly, studying passions over obsessing about a grade point average ironically led to a rise in my overall grades. Four years after my first day at TJ, I got into my dream school where I plan to study the very disciplines I discovered only upon extracurricular immersion.

If one succinct conclusion can be drawn from my words, it is this: it’s easy to be drawn into the rip current of extrinsically motivated students; however, dedicated individuality and an unbridled pursuit of one’s own passions is the best way to achieving any academic or personal goal.