Having a well-rounded and motivated mentality in seeking education is what makes us open to other perspectives. As traditional schooling is compulsory, students today face disengagement in their educational pursuits. With AP overload, SAT stress, ACT anxiety, and college confusion, students today are constantly on edge. With all of this prevalent in society, evolving and gaining new viewpoints definitely characterizes an educated individual.
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On the other hand, recent generations have experienced a “race” to become
valedictorian. When education is solely viewed as the framework to build a successful college application, the traditional ideology of education slowly fades away. No grade, test score, or level of class can define an educated person; that individual dictates what they can contribute to the world by adapting to new environments. It is because of the drastic approach students today are facing that internships are as in demand as they currently are. Immersing oneself in a particular field allows one to first-hand experience the environment they may be committing to in the future.
Titles like class valedictorian and Harvard graduate have absolutely no importance if the individual is not perceptive of global issues or not inclined to constantly seek improvements. One can be at the top of their class and still get rejected from a top-tier university because they lacked the ability to enforce a positive change in their community, due to hitting the books too hard. Being consistent with grades and involvement can actually work out in your favor more so than being the brightest in the pack. As a high school student myself, I see students stress at every angle about class ranks, GPA, test scores, and balancing the “perfect” extracurricular activities to appeal to their top-ranked university. I have always been engaged in community leadership and taking the initiative to gather a collective effort for a greater good. However, far too many students feel that if they do not enroll at an Ivy League university, they will not become successful. That is absolutely not the case. Some of the most intellectual and driven people I know made their marks at community colleges that they felt were the perfect fit for them. The environment a student grows in plays a major role, yet it is up to the individual to play a much larger role in achieving their long-time goals.
High school especially is a four-year period of rapid educational competition among peers. Students are constantly trying to one-up the next with a better grade, a better leadership title, or a better opportunity. We need to redefine education. Someone who is educated ignites the spark to want to learn to make a difference, regardless of the final grade. Someone who is so passionate about the topic of discussion that they flee to class without a second thought. Someone who is deeply enriched with their community environment and wants to improve it. That is an educated individual. Something worth doing is worth doing well, and that applies to starting a club, leading a team, or even helping a peer with an assignment.
Taking initiative to use academic institutions to one’s advantage is something students fail to recognize. Some of the most successful individuals, such as Apple founder Steve Jobs, motivational speaker Oprah Winfrey, and entrepreneur Bill Gates never experienced what it was like to hold a diploma with a college degree. Having intrinsic motivation and being able to present yourself- unlike any other- are qualities which truly embody the educated individual.
As education may have different meanings as years progress, the word itself is symbolic of the perception to learn, the ability to seek new heights, and the confidence to allow others to flourish. Education is the emblem of success, and passions and experiences will lead society down the right path.
Victoria Giardina is a 17 year old incoming senior at Manalapan High School in Manalapan, NJ. Planning to double major in broadcast journalism and political science, she hopes to pursue a career at a news network in New York City. She is the founder of the nonprofit organization Kick It Cancer, president of her class, and a former local titleholder for the Miss America Organization.