For the past few months, the only topic that has been dominating my life is applying to university. Considering the fact that this is a process that is undergone by the entire collection of students of my age at my school, I was anticipating there to be slightly more support from my peers than there actually turned out to be. Instead, the environment came across as cut-throat and harsh.
Applying to a university in South Africa requires a different mindset than applying to a university in the U.S., for the mere fact that the only aspect of your life that matters here is your ability to get good grades in school. A student's personality, dedication, potential or other interests are all substituted with numbers. If the grade 11 school exams that you took at the end of the previous year did not go as well as planned, or even if exams are simply something that you struggle with and do not generally do well in, your chances of getting into one of the good universities are reduced to less than slim. As a person who, for some undetermined and frustrating reason, can simply not get a good foot forward when it comes to writing a 3 hour exam on physical sciences, I would like to argue against the use of a set of 14 exams to determine the entire aptitude and potential of an individual.
Since a young age I have worked to become a (hopefully) intelligent and generally well-rounded person. I spent my childhood not watching tv or playing whatever Nintendo device was popular at the time, but reading. I remember at one stage when I was about 10 or 11 years old I took all of the books I had from the past 2 years off my book shelves and piled them together in the living room. The sum of all these pages made 3 towering piles, all on the brink of tipping over. All other free time I had was taken up either in practicing my cello or tennis, both hobbies of which I have been developing since the age of about 5 or 6. Can all of these aspects of my life, my passion to learn knew things and my drive to better myself in both life and in study (something that I feel strongly every day), be summed up in a sequence of 3-hour long exams? My struggle to concentrate, unmoving on a hard chair for several hours, has provided me with academic results that are somewhat disheartening and give me a pessimistic view of my future.
This still affects me even though I know that I will only be applying to schools in the U.S. and not South Africa. It has been difficult to separate what I am surrounded by and what is really what I will be facing in my personal endeavors, which could be a reason why I am not as motivated for the future as I should be. The idea that I will have the opportunity to show who I am as a full person through essays and contact with those working in the admissions office does make a difference. Even if a certain school that I aspire to does not accept me when the time comes, I will know that I had been given thought and consideration and not just discarded as a number that did not quite make the cut.
This should be something to think about for anyone who is applying to university in the U.S.. Appreciate the opportunity to express who you are and take advantage of it. Put effort into every university you apply to because each university will also put effort into you. If you have the passion to go forward with your education and do something more with your life in terms of a tertiary institution, show it and someone will recognize it. This is treatment, I now realize, that not everyone has the chance to receive.