The Reality of “Breaks”

find it humorous that embedded in the term “Spring Break” is the word “break,” which usually indicates a hiatus of some sort. Frankly, the same goes for every “break” Andover students are given, including the time we get off for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the coveted Summer Break. Sure, students are granted a brief escape from the classes and homework that secure Andover’s role as a premier academic institution — but the unspoken reality students face nowadays is one of constant academic rigor, whether inside or outside of the classroom.

Except for a one-week trip to Iceland with the Jazz Band, my break hardly deviated from my usual schedule, beginning with the 16 hour flight back to Hong Kong. After landing, I stopped by my house to drop off my stuff and chatted with my family for a bit; then, jet-lagged, groggy, and running solely on the frappe I bought hours earlier at the airport, I commuted to a nearby Standardized Testing “boot camp.” Here I completed the first of eight SAT mock tests that my parents had arranged for me to take over the course of my week back home.

To my fellow Asian sitting back in his chair and reading this article, nodding “Poor kid! Tiger parents, I can relate,” well, that’s actually where you’re wrong. My parents are very academically oriented, but not nearly to the point where they would force me to take eight SAT mock tests in seven days; I had requested to take the tests on my own initiative. Of course, this isn’t to say I wanted to spend my time in Hong Kong filling in small bubbles for hours on end – quite the contrary, in fact. I very much disliked the hours I spent in that little cubicle, craning my neck over the dentist-white desks to see whether A or B made the sentence more grammatically correct. But I knew that that elusive score of 1600 wasn’t going to spontaneously appear on my College Board profile without a sufficient, if not obscene, amount of work dedicated to studying.

With the increasingly competitive college admissions process, people are relying on a slew of factors to improve their chances. These strategies include earning perfect standardized testing scores, notching the coveted 6.0 GPA, becoming concertmaster of the symphony orchestra, and, most notably, earning a jacket with a tidy set of three Andover Varsity Letters on the chest. Now, Andover is a phenomenal school, and it provides opportunities for its students to pursue most of our passions – but extra, behind-the-scenes prep for the SAT and ACT is more than common.

I truly believe that college admission offices have this process wrong. When filling in bubbles becomes how you spend the majority of your free time, your brain feels fried, much more so than when writing that English essay or finishing up that Math homework. I know that for many students, myself included, these so called “breaks” are chock-full of studying for the SAT, ACT, APs, SAT IIs, you name it, and it’s armed and ready to ruin the rest of your free time in high school.

After two long weeks I’m back at Andover, and I feel an inexplicable sense of relief that school, with real classes, is finally starting again. I’m ready for a break!

Eliot Min is a two-year Lower from Hong Kong.