One of my high school classmates, a former basketball player who’s now an academic advisor at UNLV, celebrates his birthday every year with a new video—shared on social media—where he makes ten three-pointers in a row on a basketball court. I don’t know how many takes he needs to get ten in a row, but it can’t be that many considering that every year, he swishes them all from ten different spots like he’s prepping for an NBA tryout. He makes it look easy.
At the end of this year’s video—filmed on his 47th birthday—he jogged to the camera, out of breath, and joked, “This isn’t getting any easier.”
It’s was a perfectly timed, humorous way to end this year’s submission, but there’s some truth buried within it that high school students might consider.
First, if you’re embroiled in the academic arms race of college admissions, with APs, standardized tests, activities, tutors, overscheduling, lack of sleep, etc., all of which has sadly become so normalized in high school circles, you should know that it absolutely will get easier. I don’t know many adults who work the same number of hours most high school kids do these days. And unless you consciously choose a career that requires or even celebrates that imbalance, you’ll likely never have to sustain a workload like that for as long as you have in high school.
But it’s also not healthy to assume that life just coasts along once you get into college. And that feeling is especially prevalent among students who dream of attending a highly selective college. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard a student say something to the effect of, “Once an offer of admission arrives from Harvard/Duke/Northwestern, etc., I’ll be all set.”
Occasionally, you will fail. You will be disappointed. You’ll be frustrated. You’ll be passed over or otherwise denied something you worked hard to earn. In some cases, those disappointments might be actual miscarriages of justice. But in many others, it will just be life.
I’ve met plenty of adults who are happy and successful and fulfilled. But I’ve never met an adult who claimed, “Once that offer of admission from my dream college arrived, life has been a constant stream of unmitigated success and happiness.” Things don’t work out that way.
That’s why it’s so important that high school students be allowed to make mistakes, and that their parents not sweep away any semblance of obstacles or disappointment, not so that they can prepare for a cruel world, but so they can prepare for life.
Life can and should be fulfilling, enjoyable, even fun. Sometimes it might even be easy. But everything will happen in ebbs and flows. And it’s important to embrace both as part of the ride.
My buddy on the basketball court might not feel like it’s getting easier. But he can still hit his shots, and sure seems to be enjoying himself.