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What Did You Do This Summer?

By: Krystal Yang

Summer. The days spent out in the golden sun, ocean waves reflected in aviator lenses and midnight Netflix binges with popcorn. Summer, when students can finally let go of last school year’s struggles and welcome freedom with open arms. Some prefer to spend summer outside all day, hiking up golden hills or screaming on roller coasters. Others consider summer the time to catch up on sleep, to wake up at three in the afternoon with sunlight streaming through their windows, only to grab their laptop and continue scrolling through their Instagrams.

But of course, in this era of academic competition, many students prefer to spend summer at their desks, noses buried in piles of work as they review for the SAT or study for next year’s courses. After spending an entire summer behind textbooks, they gleefully boast at Back-to-School Night that they “took advantage of their free time” to complete “extra work,” leaving students, who spent their summer relaxing and traveling, feeling guilty and unmotivated, as if they wasted their summer being unproductive. While there is no wrong or right way to spend summer, students today are putting too much stress on their academics, which leads them to study and read all day, even during summer.

The thought that success always come from this hardcore behavior is a misconception. In fact, many colleges are no longer looking for hardcore, study-all-day students anymore. They want to see high-schoolers with colorful applications, who have a life beyond school. They want to see high-schoolers who spend the summer doing things they love, discovering hobbies and developing a real personality; because ultimately, when teenagers grow up into adults, their GPA in high school will not determine the success of their careers. A recent applicant to Stanford University was accepted for spending his summers traveling the world, and the fact that he visited 60 countries before graduation greatly appealed to many admission offices. Colleges don’t want to see the same bookworms every year—they want to see people who are special, cultured, optimistic, and have a unique perspective on life. These aspects cannot be developed in a classroom or from reading textbooks.

Reviewing school material or looking ahead over the summer is beneficial, yes. However, an entire summer spent doing nothing but taking notes and writing essays is unfortunate. Productivity over the summer is not measured in the number of completed ACT practice questions; productivity over the summer is measured in the activities you do to further develop yourself as a person, which is ultimately better than any grade or score.

So travel with family to a country you have never visited before. Pursue a hobby you’ve left behind in the midst of high-school studying and drama. Get together with your friends and do community service for your neighborhood. Next school year, while other students are boasting about completing college-level courses over the summer, or spending 8 hours a day on SAT Prep, hold your head high and know that you spent your summer developing a personal identity, which cannot be earned through paper and pen.

About Katherine Han

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