Maverick Notes

Editor’s Note: This is Riverdale High School junior Patricia Torvalds’ first column for the Review, and she will be a regular columnist for the 2013-14 school year.Patricia Torvalds

Once, summer was a time of freedom for high school students everywhere.

Eight weeks of free time meant tanning every day, going out with friends every night and a blatant, gleeful ignorance of what day of the week it was. Slowly but surely, those days have become nothing more than a fanciful daydream for ambitious high schoolers looking to get ahead.

A couple of days at an art camp won’t cut it for colleges that seem to be looking for superhuman applicants. Instead, summer just means more work while our endless search for our passion drags on.

At times it’s impossible not to wonder why we feel compelled to do these things. The workload seems insurmountable and all in exchange for results — acceptances, scores, and validation — that aren’t guaranteed in the slightest. Is that why we do these things, though? It’s not too hard to believe that motivated high school kids have an ulterior motive, but deciding what that motive is can be a challenge.

Many of my peers are perfect examples of overachieving, dedicated teens. Two were attending a prestigious summer program at Cambridge, taking classes on everything from ethology to criminal law. Another was balancing intensive SAT study with internships at Nike and a political activist group.

One friend of mine was working with a chemistry professor from OSU all summer. A devoted dancer spent her summer in China with her ballet company.

From environmentally conscious backpacking in Canada, to Eagle Scout training, to working on computer servers, the teens I know seem to do it all. I was working at the VA Medical Center, shadowing doctors and nurses as well as setting up a website.

At times my friends and I bemoan our proactive ways. The expectations seem endless and the bar too high. The price is obvious, but the reward can be less so.

Teens and adults alike often label the entire process as pointless and futile. The admission rate of some schools hovers around a jaw-dropping 5 to 10 percent, meaning even most of the very best won’t be accepted. But is college acceptance really the reason we’re doing this?

Is our generation, so often described as shallow and narcissistic, so wrapped up in itself that even the most meaningful work is just a means to another self-glorifying end?

At first glance, yes. My peers and I have our goals in mind. However, the final payoff comes in the form of more than a coveted admissions letter from a top college. The difficult jobs and goals completed today are what best prepare us for tomorrow.

The valuable lessons learned and experience gained is what will propel us forward as individuals and collectively. We may be giving up our summers, but we’re trading them for the future.

Patricia Torvalds is a junior at Riverdale High School, and she writes a monthly column for the Review. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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