Ponderings: personal challenges of academically selective institutions

**** I am by no means an educative expert, and would like people to let me know what they think about what I’ve written ****

End of Year exams around the corner at my school, got me thinking about the nature of attending a selective school. More specifically the interesting playoff between self-demeaning and self-empowering mindsets that being surrounded with extremely smart people in which you are a small fish in a sea of marine organisms with very high intelligence and perseverance. Sailing through secondary school helped me in no manner for the challenges I face at my selective sixth form. Being good at everything did nothing productive for my ego and set me up ,essentially, for heartbreak when a pivotal aspect of my personality – my intelligence- was put into perspective with others.

Comparing yourself to others has long been established as an unproductive way to spend your time. At institutions like mine, the value of that maxim comes into its element. Yet one can’t help look at the person next to them who gets 98% on a test compared to, what now seems, your measly 82%. Different people, different circumstances. There are those that spend an incomphrensible amount of time studying the course, compared to those to whom it naturally clicks and you the average student. But grades differentiate and you want to be back on top like you always have been. And so begins the self deprecating cycle of a selective school.

I mentioned the notion of ‘my intelligence’ at the beginning. It seems like lower grades are an attack on the quality of your knowledge; you haven’t met the epitome of self discipline and genuine interest in a subject area without the percentage to back it up. Whilst they do exhibit both characteristics and hold massive gravitus in university applications, grades as the be all and end all is unhealthy. Shock horror. Yet in many academically challenging environments this can often come across as the contrary. Accumulating a deeper breadth of knowledge is an effect of repeated exam questions and application excercises. It could be argued that a wider range of knowledge results from curiosity and not the desire to raise a percentage mark.

However, don’t get me wrong. I believe there are also many benefits to such environments. The resilience and humility that results work in your favour when you leave the pond to enter the world. In my school specifically, they endorse supercurriclular activities condeming the heretical exam focused CGP guides and promoting regular library visitations. For anyone who needs to here this, exams don’t make you, just relish the academic rigour rather than becoming swamped by them.

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