No Holiday from Reality

On Christmas Day I sat at a desk and took a four-hour SAT practice test. The evening before, I had been at a separate test center until 11 p.m. at night, solving SAT problems. Even on New Year’s Eve, I was barely able to stay awake for the countdown because I had spent the day taking another tiring practice test. Although it may sound crazy, I was not forced into any of this SAT madness. I decided to put myself through intense courses and work over winter break because it really seemed like a good idea. Instead of spending time with my family or trying to relieve a term’s worth of stress, I spent my winter break trying to “get ahead,” to make myself “more competitive” against Andover’s brilliant minds. Andover has turned me, as well as many other students, into stress machines who constantly worry about academic performance, competition and especially college admission. With almost all college applications submitted, the Class of ’09 can rest for a while until college decisions get back to students. Unfortunately for the Class of ’10 the college process is just getting started. Uppers already have an overwhelming list of things to do in the hope of going to college. Uppers worry about being assigned a good college counselor, meeting with that counselor, filling out the notoriously long Upper Questionnaire, choosing what SAT II’s and AP’s to take, deciding when to take them and then, of course, taking those chosen standardized tests, visiting colleges, making a list of preferred schools and filling out applications and supplements. With so many things to do on top of maintaining our GPAs, it’s obvious why Uppers seem miserable. Looking back on my Winter Break, I regret the choices I made. Instead of enjoying myself and spending the holidays with my family and friends, I caged myself in test centers and spent every free moment working on the next math problem or wondering how I could improve my essay score. But can you really blame me? Every Phillips Academy student knows the atmosphere of the school and just how competitive each of us can become. The stress can get to you, and I am no different than anybody else. To the Class of ’09: congratulations, you guys have made it so far and have achieved so much. To the Class of ’10, my class: we’re just getting started. Hopefully none of you feel the need to compensate for any “shortcomings” that you may or may not have. I tried to make up for my lack of knowledge and preparation. In doing so, I forgot what was most important: my family and loved ones. Andover may be where we live and learn, but once we leave campus many of us forget to leave behind the stress of Andover. Michael Yoon is a three-year Upper from Hong Kong, China and an Associate Commentary Editor.