To this day, I can still hear my father’s words of advice: “you can play now and pay later or you can pay now and play later.” Those words drove me forward to practice three and four hours a day, as I worked to make the state soccer team; and, more importantly, those words echoed in my head reminding me never to take the easy way out in my studies. It would have been so easy to blame the time spent on sports as the cause for not doing as well in school, but I never gave myself that excuse. I was intrinsically motivated to do my best in everything I did- the truth is that I am still not satisfied with second best.
A lot has changed since I was in high school, but my father’s words are as true today as they were then. Unfortunately, many of the students I have worked with over the years failed to grasp the significance of hard work. All of this might sound like a bunch of tired old clichés, but clichés become clichés for a reason. I deal with so many students who are more concerned with padding their GPA’s than they are with truly challenging themselves to be the best they can be. Sure, it might be easier to take that College Prep class or dual credit course to protect your class rank; but, what you have to ask yourself is not only what these actions say about you, but how they will be interpreted by Admissions Officers.
The simple truth is that colleges are looking for rigor in the curriculum of a prospective student. School officials want to find students who have made the most of their high school experience, and side-stepping AP Literature or AP Calculus because you are afraid that it might eat into your social time does not meet this expectation. While there certainly needs to be a balance between academic and social considerations in high school, you cannot forget that every choice you make will be examined by potential suitors when it comes time to throw your hat in the college ring.
The good news for high school students today is that colleges are much more likely to overlook a B or even a C on a transcript if it results from a more rigorous class schedule. Please don’t see this as a license to underachieve in your classes. Schools also have access to your test scores, and if those scores do not line up with your grades then you run the risk of receiving the dreaded “underachiever” label. In the end, only you know if you are doing all you can to make the most of your high school experience. It is easy to rationalize making things easier on yourself sometimes; however, if your aspirations extend beyond merely qualifying for the basic state-funded scholarship, then it might be time to, as my father used to say, “Pay a little more now” because, to borrow one more tried and true cliché, “nothing good comes easy!”