Finding a Passion: The Pressure is not on


I, just like most seniors at this time of year, am stressing out about my future. What college should I go to? Can I get into the college that I want?

These questions have been plaguing all of us as soon as we entered high school, and especially when we speak to family friends or relatives who were simply looking to start a conversation. To those who ask the unanswerable questions about college, please stop. These questions are simply adding on to the stress from schoolwork, which only gets worse as we progress through the labyrinth that is high school.

In regards to getting into the desired college, when you go on a college tour, the people there will tell you one of two things: that we either have to be “well-rounded” or we have to have a passion. Being “well-rounded” is often defined as being involved in many different sports, organizations, volunteer programs, clubs, and so much more that the student does not even have time to eat, sleep, or breathe. Finding a passion tends to stress students and parents even more. The student’s family often feels as if by the time their child enters high school, he/she should have strong interests in particular areas and pursue them. I find myself jealous of my classmates who have already found their passion. It has been drilled into my brain over the past three years that these types of people have the advantage when it comes to college applications.

But ever since I read a New York Times article that addresses the problems of the quest for a passion before students reach college, I realized that finding said passion is being emphasized way too early in life. Before I read the article, I was panicking about how I would not be able to get in to my dream school, all because I quit horseback riding after being committed to the sport for over 11 years. I quit because I wanted to be able to explore my options in sports offered at my school while I was able to without having previous experience in the sport.

Horseback riding was all I ever knew how to do until I entered high school. My geometry teacher is our school’s girls’ cross country coach and was trying to get some of the girls in our class to join the team.

“You do not have to be good at running” she said. “All it requires is a good attitude and the willingness to put out the effort to succeed.”

So that day, I went home to my mom, who is a riding instructor (and has been in the horse business for over forty years), and asked her if I could join the team. I was going to cut back on my time spent riding so I could see what cross country was like. I was so grateful that my mom was happy that I wanted to become involved in my new school.

Turns out, I loved it so much that I’ve been on the team for four years. On the team, I experienced a new type of sport that has everyone practicing together, but it was just you against yourself. Even though riding is based on self-improvement like cross country, I found myself able to make new friends at my school in every grade. I also realized that I did not miss riding as much as I should have, especially for doing the sport for so long. But I continued to both ride and run cross country for another year after that.

But then came lacrosse. Freshman year I was interested in joining the team, but I decided to focus on my grades that semester and figured that I could always join next year. Lacrosse was not extremely competitive to join the team at the time. So the month before lacrosse started, I had a long talk with my mom about my commitment to riding. I tried to ride and play lacrosse all second semester, but it just was not working well. I was not providing my horse with the amount of attention that he needed, and my riding skills were all but improving. It took me the rest of the year to come to the conclusion that I needed to give something up, because you can not do everything well if you are doing too much. I could only do one sport at a time, and I chose lacrosse. I faced the fact that I was losing interest in riding. In the end I finally accepted that it was the right thing to do. Now and then I will regret my decision, but then I remember how much stress has been removed now that I do not have a horse to take care of.

As I began to tour colleges, I heard from the schools that they really value applicants who have stuck with the same passion their entire lives, because it shows dedication and that they know their interests for the future. This was a major factor in why I delayed quitting riding. What if I didn’t get into college because I quit the sport that I had been doing for almost 11 years? Was choosing to do school sports a mistake?

It took me too long, but I finally realized that the answer is no. Finding a passion should not be required before you enter high school. High school gives teenagers the opportunity to see what they are interested in. Maybe you never knew that you wanted to be a photographer until sophomore year? What if you find out that you want to be a doctor after taking an AP Biology class? What if joining the lacrosse team unearthed the idea that you want to play that sport in college?

High school is just the first small step before you find your true calling in life. I am not saying that if you have loved soccer all your life that you should quit once you enter high school to pursue other interests. I’m saying that you should be open to trying new things, taking fun classes, or joining clubs. You cannot enter high school close-minded with your eyes on just getting into the best colleges.

I want every high school student to be able to leave high school as a changed person. Don’t stress about being in the popular group of people, losing a student government election (or more), or especially not having a passion. College is supposed to be about finding yourself. Do you know how many college students change their majors? A lot. It is okay to love school but not be in the National Honor Society. It is okay to love running cross country and never make it on the varsity team or be the captain. As long as you are having fun and making the best of your last four years at home, where your parents take care of you every day, that is all that matters.

After three years in high school, I can say that I have completely changed from the person I was in middle school. I play sports that involve a lot of running (which I stated in eighth grade that I hated), I am considering continuing taking French all through college, I have learned to not give up when you lose a student government election (three times), and I have made many friends from different grades that I would not have without the changes I have gone through.

In my college application essays this fall, I am not going to make up a passion that I have had my entire life. I want to be proud of these changes that made me the person I am today. I learned leadership from my summer camp that tested my courage and willingness to try new things. I learned that I feel so much joy when I help younger kids with anything from sports, to homework, to anxiety, and so much more. I can channel my experiences to a good purpose, which made me realize that I want to work with kids when I grow up. Have I wanted to do this since before high school? Absolutely not. 

So, my fellow high-schoolers, please do not stress upon the fact that you have not had a passion that you want to pursue for the rest of your life since you were eight. As I stated before, college is where you can truly find yourself and where you belong, and high school is just one small step towards the rest of your life.