As application season draws to a close, many seniors who chose to apply to college now draw a sigh of relief and wait with bated breath for their college admissions results to come. The frenzied bustle of balancing class work and supplemental essays, deciding whether or not vacation is actually vacation or just an opportunity to knock out three more applications, and asking friends “what’s your favorite word and why” in an attempt to find inspiration is but a haunting memory. The challenge no longer lies in writing brilliant essays with beautiful words, but sitting patiently, ignoring the burning anxiety at the forefront of every thought.

For some, however, this process is bygone.They already know where they will be spending the next four years of their lives. Instead of suffering through stress, they stand at the finish line, cheering for those still running the collegiate race. All the work they have done in high school has paid off. Their goal of getting into college is complete… So why continue working? The dream has been achieved. They can scribble a checkmark down next to the “College” line on their bucket list. Maybe buy a shirt to show everyone that, “yep, I got in.” And, of course, they exhale deeply, lounge in their chairs, and they slump.

This hypothetical doesn’t apply to everyone, but based on what I’ve heard and seen from others, I know it applies to some people. And from personal experience, I know it applies to me. Let me begin by defining the slump. It doesn’t need to be lowering your average by three letter grades; it can simply be letting an assignment go past due that you would have been on top of otherwise. Or being content with a B when any other year only a B+ would have sufficed. Unfortunately, I have slumped in this sense. Since I was in fifth grade, getting into a good college had been my motivation for doing well in school. The better I do now, the better I’ll get later. The better I do now, the better I’ll get later. That primitive thought had echoed throughout my head for eight years like a distant taunt to do my best. And a month ago it vanished.

I realize now the reason I slumped is because my belief had always been that middle school and high school exist only to get into college. My focus wasn’t on learning, it was on succeeding. And with that mindset, now that I am accepted to college, my motivation has left me. It is as if my life is a road trip across the country, but only planned to get as far as Illinois. And now that I’m there, I’m out of gas and have no idea where I should go. So my slump isn’t really laziness, and it isn’t that I don’t want to continue to do well. I slump because I’m still finding another goal to work towards.

Curing the slump takes time. You just have to trust that some new objective will pop up for you to achieve. But I wonder if it could be entirely prevented. Starting in third grade I had always been told that “This year is getting you ready for the difficulty level of next year.” And so my education was a never-ending track of preparing for the challenges of the following year, which all ultimately lead up to preparing me for college.

Maybe if, rather than being taught to look to our future, we are told to focus on the value of the present our goals would be different. Out of high school some people go to college, some take gap years, some join the military, and some find jobs, so starting a post-high school plan as a fifth grader might be a bit early. I know that I have a lot to look forward to in college next year, but for now, I think I will take advantage of where I already am and stop slumping.


Tor Aronson is a senior in high school. He shares this column with five classmates.