East London, Eastern Cape, SOUTH AFRICA – There are some differences between high schools in South Africa and high schools in America, the United Kingdom or Australia.
For one, our school year starts in January.
For another, almost everybody wears a school uniform.
The schools here are often in ruins – a sad reminder of our past. My school has electricity, computers, clean running water, security and spacious classrooms. I am one of the lucky few.
We also have probably THE laziest and most inefficient Department of Education in the world!
Besides that? We also have those little cliquey groups – jocks, plastics, ghettos, nerds, music boffs. We have parties that we wish we never went to, we have students in drunken driving accidents, and we have break-time brawls and girls who cry in the bathrooms over their last heartbreak.
The fact is, while school systems, morals and personalities vary the world over, the psyche of high school students remain pretty much the same.
They wake up in the mornings and smash the alarm clock (or cell phone, if that’s what you use) against the wall, groaning, “Just five more minutes!” They spend their high school years wishing to be anywhere but in school, they procrastinate on that darn math homework and they drool over some good-looking guy or girl that is definitely not worth their effort.
You get where I’m going, right?
To tell you the (to some, sad) truth, high school is important.
NOW DON’T SHUT DOWN! Stay with me here … I want to study medicine next year and sure, I’ve often wondered, “Right, so how many cosecs and tangents are there in a patient’s body?” or, “When is understanding Shakespearean English going to benefit me?” or, “Is understanding momentum in 2D going to enable me to operate with more precision?”
Maybe it won’t, but in order to do the great things for which you are destined, you need to start with the mundane.
You want to go to Julliard? Start practicing those scales and do those voice exercises. Want to compete in the Olympics? Here’s a hint: start by warming up.
Want to write a bestseller? Start by writing something that’s going to earn you NOTHING but experience.
In the past decade, many schools ceased teaching children how to write in cursive as they considered it obsolete. Recent studies, however, have shown that learning to write in cursive is essential for the development of fine motor skills and creative thought patterns.
My point? Sometimes we need to do things that seem rather pointless to get to a higher goal.
Let one thing come to mind: “We do what we have to do in order to do what we want to do.” [James Farmer Jr., The Great Debaters].
So you want to get your behind out of high school and into the Ivy League?
1. Scrap the negative attitude
Moaning and groaning from the time you wake up in the morning until you drag yourself to bed at night will get you nowhere. In fact, it will just cause you to hate your day even more, which prevents your brain from soaking up all those facts (and you will need them for that pop quiz) making you a pretty nasty person to be around.
2. Do the darn homework
Yeah, I’m sure hanging with the girls all afternoon or playing Wii is way more attractive, but when you get your grades at the end of the semester, you’re writing an all-important exam or perhaps sitting those pesky SATs, you’ll be wishing you did!
3. Be involved and informed
Simply studying for six hours a day is not going to get you into Harvard or Cambridge. Admissions offices want students with diverse lives. They want to see that you can balance sports, cultural activities and still get good marks.
They want to see that the kid who wants to become a lawyer has been involved in debating or the UN-models. They want to see that the kid who wants to study medicine has volunteered at the downtown hospital – even if it is only to clean bedpans. They want to see that you have insight, experience and time management, so get involved!
Join the debating club, tutor little kiddies, try out for an exchange program or even just participate in social sports.
4. Live well
You need to relax as well. Keep school nights open for sleep and homework, but enjoy your weekends. Find friends who enjoy the things you enjoy and take a break from stressing about your future. You are, after all, not going to be a teenager forever. Whatever you do, be responsible about it. Follow your gut, listen to your parents (believe it or not, they aren’t actually that stupid) and live in such a way that you survive long and well enough to either save the world, sit in that comfy leather swivel chair, or both.
So you want to get your behind into the Ivy League?
Here’s a hint: start with high school!
Mariechen Puchert is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.