I’m just starting to come to terms with how much pressure I felt in my teen years to dedicate all of my available effort to getting into college, and how unreasonable it all was?
Like the main thing I remember from being a teenager was being so stressed out that on any given day I felt on the verge of tears? Anything could - and frequently did - trigger me into sobbing. At all times - for years?
My junior year of high school I tracked my sleep and one week I averaged something between 1-2 hours of sleep per night? (8 classes, I think 4 AP, varsity swim practice 5-6am and 3-5pm, robotics team..) — that average each day for an entire WEEK not much unlike the others.
In another century this level of effort would have resulted in something like, idk, conquering Macedonia? And I poured it into .. what? Why did getting into college seem like an absolute life-and-death battle?
For TEN years I thought of nothing besides whether my thoughts and activities at any given moment were advancing me towards my chosen goal (yes starting when I was 8 years old) … and I thought this was just how things were / what all my peers were also doing?
And you don’t realize you are never going to get any kind of refund on how you use those years.

None of what I did was related to ‘what I wanted to be doing’, because that wasn’t a question I felt free to ask, much less answer.

Why do we do this?
Then I compared notes with peers in Europe. College is kind of casual? Costs around a grand per semester, pretty manageable while you figure out “life” as well? The US version of this enterprise seems SO broken.
Note: I am not addressing loans or debt in this thread, but the sheer misery of spending every waking moment attempting to live a life leading to creating the perfectly-structured application form. I say this as someone who “won” (achieved my goal) - it was hell.
I remember, at 16, staring at the mirror and thinking “this is literally taking years off my life” … then “but it’s worth it,”

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Interesting thread. I think trying to get into a good college would be more bearable if the admissions process were less arbitrary. It would be like trying to be good at sports. What makes the current system demoralizing is that you have to try really hard to do random things.