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Reevaluating Our Motivations Behind Summer Plans

Cartoon drawn by Lynne Xie

Cartoon drawn by Lynne Xie

By Lynne Xie

Summer is known as a season of many things. Sunburns and tan lines. Smoothies and ice cream. Sunshine and heat waves. But for students, summer is also known as a season of freedom from school. A paradise that falls between June and September, summer is a long-deserved break when students should relax and enjoy themselves. However, with nearly half of South’s 2015 graduates possessing GPAs of 90 and higher, it isn’t unreasonable to believe that some would prefer to spend their free days inside a classroom rather than outside in the sun in order to keep up with the competition.

In fact, one can go as far as to say that there is an academic plague spreading at South: a fever to pursue as many academic interests as possible over the summer. With science lab opportunities becoming more accessible, inexpensive prep schools opening up left and right, and internships being offered in a wide variety of professions, the academic possibilities for summer seem endless, if not overwhelming at times. However, in an environment where resumes are simply Christmas trees to adorn with as many ornaments as possible, South’s students persist in seeking trees that overflow with decorations and baubles.

But shouldn’t summer, our hard-earned break from school, be filled with joy and excitement? Shouldn’t we, as teens, be living out the fantasies Phineas and Ferb planted in us as children?

There are those students who argue that they would voluntarily do academic-based activities over the summer because they cherish them; to them, joy and excitement come from conducting experiments and interning at dream jobs rather than traveling the world or partying at the beach. Perhaps, the issue is not the activities we partake in but the mindset behind them.

Imagine the following scenario. Two girls are both eating apples. When asked why, one replies that she’s on a diet to lose weight while the other replies that she was craving an apple. While it is clear that both girls are eating an apple, their motivations vary.

Similarly, while many students pursue academic goals, their motivations can differ. Some really treasure what these experinces encompass—developing old interests, discovering new talents, accomplishing enduring dreams—but others eye the possibility of an extra ornament on their resume. These people are not necessarily motivated by their own interests and desires but by the interests and desires of colleges. Ultimately, these different motivations, one for self-enjoyment and the other for college, will produce very different results.

Take the girl who is eating the apple for a diet. In reality, she probably craves sweets and starchy foods, so a mere apple will not satisfy her. It may keep her temporarily full, but her true desires are always there, making the apple less appealing as time goes on.

Likewise, people who follow academic objectives for the purpose of getting into a better college won’t feel fully satisfied either.

Knowing that a psychology study looks good on resumes, students may attempt to take part in one over the summer. However, in reality, they like neither psychology nor science; they are participating in the study purely so their resumes are as decorated as their science research friends’. Yet, over time, their dissatisfaction with this study will rise, as they aren’t doing something that they really like. Perhaps they want to be at a piano camp or volunteering at a homeless shelter—perhaps their strengths lie outside the academic world.

In essence, by never subduing a craving for doing what they actually desire, students are ignoring what college epitomizes.

We go to college in order to pursue our interests, to become the people we’ve always dreamed of becoming, and to “discover who we truly are.” But if our original motivation for going to college was to pursue our dreams, shouldn’t how we get into college reflect that? Looking back on all your summers from freshman to senior year, wouldn’t you want them to be filled with excitement and gratification?

College can be a good motivation as it helps students maintain academic progress, but it should not be the main one. Summer is a hard-earned break; why clog it up with prep classes, internships, and labs if you don’t enjoy them? It’s unfulfilling and contradictory to what your ultimate goal, college­­, represents: the search to discover who you truly are.

Instead, we should be like the girl eating the apple solely for her personal enjoyment. Not only is this girl likely to feel completely satisfied, but she will also remember how it feels to fulfill her desires. Think about it. Just as we look back nostalgically on our carefree elementary years now, we will surely look back nostalgically on our high school years later in life. I challenge you to stand up to this academic plague of our school and not be sucked into the infectious idea that summers are only worthwhile if we further our studies in some way. Instead, go on that trip because you want to travel. Go volunteer at that shelter because you love dogs. Go help that non-profit cancer foundation because you enjoy helping others. When we are motivated by our own passions and interests, not only will we find it more rewarding and fulfilling, but we will also probably be more willing to learn from the experiences we encounter.

Since the academic plague isn’t dying down any time soon, we must be the antibiotic surge to combat it. With a change of our motivations, we can make summer plans that don’t revolve around college but rather our own enjoyment and satisfaction. There is no need to do two internships, attend four prep classes, and volunteer at a camp just because someone else does it. Regardless of the academic pressures pulling you down, remember that summer is a hard-earned break. Thus, break away from school and do something that excites you: go eat in the city, hang out on the beach, or travel around the world. Hopefully, with summer approaching, students will begin by asking themselves, “How will I enjoy my summer?” rather than, “How much work must I get done over the summer?” After all, summer is still just another season of sunburns and tan lines, smoothies and ice cream, and sunshine and heat.

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