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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

CHIN: Explore GU Beyond Resume-Fillers


In high school, every action I took weighed on me. Each small step seemed to have significant repercussions: picking the wrong classes, scoring too low on my tests, making a bad impression on teachers. All of these things determined what college I went to, which in turn determined the rest of my life. If I messed up now, I told myself, my future was ruined. Surrounded by people who were, for lack of a better word, better than me — smarter, more talented, more accomplished — I wondered how I was supposed to compete. And if these people could succeed — choosing the right classes, achieving higher grades, getting along with their teachers — why couldn’t I? 

I couldn’t blame the people around me for my shortcomings. Despite the support of my school and community, I still struggled. Most of my teachers only wanted the best for their students, even if their teaching method didn’t always align with this goal. My classmates, even as they struggled with similar challenges, were helpful and supportive. And of course, my family reassured me that academic success shouldn’t be my only priority.

“All that matters,” my mother frequently reminded me, “is that you try your best.”

Still, that never changed the fact that my high school was exhausting. My academic pursuits consumed every other aspect of myself. Between the hour-long commute to school, weekends filled with debate tournaments and late nights spent studying or finishing homework, I barely had time to myself. I couldn’t do what I really wanted as long as the endless stream of projects, essays and exams overwhelmed me. 

This realization truly hit me when I first sat down to write my college application essays. Many shared a common question, paraphrased in a variety of ways: “What are you passionate about?”

Once upon a time, the answer would have been clear to me. I used to love reading, especially fantasy and science fiction; though, by the time I got to high school, there was no longer time for that. I used to practice piano and attend biweekly classes at a nearby Aikido dojo, but once again I stopped as soon as I reached high school. Throughout middle school, I loved to write stories with my friends — yet that too quickly fizzled out as we spent more time talking about school and college instead.

This isn’t to say that I had no interests in high school. It’s true that I discovered new passions in high school, like debate. Still, it seemed that the interests that stuck around always served a future purpose. I was always thinking about how these clubs or teams would look on paper. I had to justify my interests in my supplementary essays, proving that they were worth spending time with. It wouldn’t be worth wasting my time on extracurriculars and interests that colleges didn’t care about.

Nowadays, I worry that my time at Georgetown will be no different. I came to college with the expectation of attending law school afterwards, meaning that the application cycle will begin again for me in just a few years. Here, I am once again surrounded by people who could be described as “better” than me. I find myself still wondering how I can stand out. 

Still, I’d like to think that I learned something from high school. Even though my grades weren’t perfect and even though I made mistakes, I still made it here. I wonder what high school would have been like if I was more willing to afford time to myself. How would I be different?

At Georgetown, I am afforded the opportunity to slow down. I am encouraged — required even — to explore classes that purposely push the bounds of my major. Recently, as I spoke to my suitemate about the classes she’s currently taking, I was reminded of the many new opportunities for exploration that Georgetown and Washington, D.C., provide. I hope that I can take this time to learn more about myself and truly understand where, what and who I’m meant to be.

Lauren Chin is a first-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences. This is the fourth installment of their column “What We Love and Lose.”

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