Reporting the news since 1914

The Blue & Gold

Reporting the news since 1914

The Blue & Gold

Reporting the news since 1914

The Blue & Gold

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An Open Letter to All High School Seniors


Dear High School Seniors Everywhere, 

Our generation currently faces a terrifying trend. As a high school senior myself this year, I have watched it grow within my class over the last several months. In the simplest terms, high school seniors today are not allowing themselves to truly live out their senior year.

As we apply to college or look for a job after high school, we are developing an obsession with controlling the future that is prohibiting us from enjoying the growing independence, enjoyment, and freedom that we have worked so hard to achieve since we started elementary school.

Despite the importance of looking to the future to help us guide our choices in life, today’s seniors are far too obsessed with finding the perfect path to life and desperately need to allow themselves to appreciate the present.

This year’s Halloween proved that fact to me. I went with a few friends to see the new Five Nights at Freddie’s movie that night, and during the previews, I received a call from one of my close friends. He was calling me with his mom, asking for help in filling out an application to college.

Both he and his mom were obviously stressed, with scratchy voices and some quick outbursts towards each other. I helped them, but the conversation bugged me all night long. Instead of celebrating the holiday, my friend was sitting at home stressing over his college applications.

His situation was not unique either. I talked to several of my friends that day, almost all of whom said they were going to do homework and college applications instead of celebrating Halloween. We as a class of seniors are so stressed about our future after high school that we cannot take one day — one HOLIDAY — of the year off from working on college applications!

Our community is facing a dire issue of post-high school stress. Over several years, colleges from Auburn to Notre Dame have become increasingly competitive as applicant resumés become increasingly honed to the desires of a college education.

Gone are the days of playing a sport for fun. Most of my fellow wrestlers would say that they are staying with the sport in order to look good for college. Gone are the days of a “C” meaning average. Many of the students at my high school get upset with an eighty on a quiz! Gone are the days of hanging out with friends on school nights. Instead, we do homework and work on sharpening our resumés into perfect gems for a college admissions team.

The fun in our teenage lives has been swapped with a hunt for perfection that will guarantee our future success.

Our culture today places an intense focus on success as being the defining factor of a person’s life. The rise of social media culture has facilitated the diffusion of the belief that wealth creates happiness. Influencers on sites from TikTok and Youtube to Instagram post pictures or videos of them posing with Bugattis or touring mega-mansions around the world.

Social media generates a false cultural belief that making as much money as possible is the road to happiness, but studies demonstrate that this belief is not at all based in reality. Popular theories in economics describe the intersection between earnings and happiness as being very insignificant after a person can afford the basic necessities of life.

A study in the 1970s by the economist Richard Easterlin displayed this relationship between income and happiness. As he surveyed populations, he concluded that after a certain threshold of income was met, further increases in income had an increasingly negligible impact on people’s happiness. This finding became known as the Easterlin Paradox.

And yet, almost any current high school senior will tell you that they would be happier the more money they can make out of college or high school. Our entire desire to find happiness in monetary gain is completely delusional.

We all understand that we need to think through our decisions and consider their repercussions before we act on them, but today’s obsession with a perfect path is not healthy. Social forces that create this desire to appear perfect for colleges argue that thinking about our future will help us make better decisions in the present; and sure, keeping our eyes on our goals can help us make the right choices.

The amount of pressure that we put on ourselves to live up to our own ideas of a perfect life path, however, is preventing us from actually participating in life. Life is not merely a hunt for monetary gain.

What matters more in life is the relationships we create, the memories we find, and the fulfillment that we achieve just by having fun. In the end, there is no such thing as a perfect path of life. Our hyperfocus on finding perfection is completely unhealthy, not just because it is misguided, but because it is impossible.

Ultimately, as a community, we desperately need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to find a perfect path through life. We need to realize that the perfection we seek is unattainable and unhealthy. We need to allow ourselves to trust in the course of life. If we dedicate ourselves to enjoying life and to finding fulfillment in what we are, we can begin to truly live.