Take a Minute
To be done with school. Isnít that what every high school senior dreams of? At George Mason that thought is supremely misleading to say the least. Next year, probably 90% or more of us will still be in school, working hard, slacking off, or perhaps breaking down.
Many colleges and universities, including Harvard, advise students to take a year off before continuing your education. Take a trip, get a job, read some of the books youíve always wanted to, but never had the chance to during the grueling last few years.
The expression "senior slump" is often used and I would say often applicable. However, Iíve found senior year much harder than the supposedly crucial junior year, not only in course load but also in sheer volume of work. A typical senior this year most likely has six or seven classes, at least one or two after-school activities, a part-time job, sports, in or out of school, plus homework. How much free time does that leave? While mentally seniors may feel like slumping, in order to graduate itís simply not possible.
Now while it may feel that when July rolls around the hard part is over, thatís not true. Although having the IB diploma and IB classes available gives students a competitive advantage, it doesnít mean that college will be a snap. Professors are not there to coddle you. In fact, many professors spend the first few weeks trying to wean out the weak students, because smaller classes make for a better learning environment, and fewer papers to grade. George Mason, while certainly challenging, is rife with over-enthusiastic parents, who while not quite ready to threaten suit, would protest quite strongly should any teacher dare to criticize in an overly harsh manner, or, heaven forbid, fail their babies.
At college those well-meaning parents are dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of miles away, and those professors honestly donít care about who your parents are or how they think the class should be taught. In college you succeed or fail on your own merits and by your own motivation.
While it may seem that the push is to do as much as you can, to get out and make something of yourself as early as possible, itís important to stop and make sure that thatís really what you want, not simply what youíve been doing.
Take a moment out. Before you even apply to college, think about what you want. Not what you want to do with your life, but what you want, for the now, the present. In the past it was true that you chose one field, one profession, and stuck with it your entire life. Thatís an anachronism. Today itís more common to be constantly in transit, usually staying within a field but not always, and moving from job to job.
Our own Mr. Scharff was a lawyer before becoming a teacher. Mr. Marino worked with theatre companies. Iím sure there are teachers here who have and will always be teachers, but I would bet the vast majority has done other things and held other jobs during their lives.
"Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret" ~Benjamin Disraeli.
Taking a year off doesnít preclude any job possibilities; in fact it probably opens them up. As mature and experienced as we all are, weíre not worldly. How many of us have had to manage our own lives, really manage them? Pay rent, car insurance, and credit card bills, worked because we needed to, not because we wanted to? In this school I would venture to say very few of us could say yes to any of those questions. A year off is a chance to learn how to do that, before you have to, before you have no other choice. Itís a chance to be an adult.
In no way am I advocating not going to college. By all accounts college is a wonderful, life-changing experience, and in todayís economy absolutely necessary. Some people graduate from high school and are absolutely ready for university and all it entails. There is no stigma to taking a step back though. Pausing between one stage of life and the next makes sense. No one wants to regret their youth when they grow old. How many times have you heard people speak of things they wish they did when they were young? Youth is great and you only have it for so long, and not enough people take advantage of it. You can work and go to school whenever and wherever you want. However by going the traditional route; college, job, family it becomes more and more difficult to get away, especially if you have people depending on you for financial support.
So take a minute. Before blindly continuing forth on a predetermined path; ask yourself: Is there anything that I would like to do before college? Is there anything that I have the opportunity to do, that I would regret not doing? Talk to your parents, see if they would support, encourage, or perhaps fund such a choice. Perhaps you do want to do something different next year, but you know definitely where you want to go to college. Investigate the possibility of deferring for a year.
Most of all, just take some time out and think. What would be the best thing for me? What decision would make me the happiest, and leave me with the least regrets? Then go and do that. George Mason produces a remarkable caliber of students, and everyone in this yearís senior class is definitely capable of doing whatever they want, and succeeding brilliantly at that. However, take the time to decide what that is, before you end up in the wrong place.
"Regret is an odd emotion because
it comes only upon reflection. Regret lacks immediacy, and so its power
seldom influences events when it could do some good." ~William OíRourke