As I contemplated whether or not to attend a boarding school my freshman year, I was constantly told that here at Deerfield, everyone is unique. Deerfield prepares you to present your individual talents to others. I was told that, at a school like Deerfield, we could strive to reach beyond the norm. Yet, as soon as I began signing up for my courses, I found myself lost in guidelines and requirements.
I had the choice between two sciences courses, and had no flexibility in my English classes. Red error signs told me that I was not allowed to take my band class as a graded course. “Example” schedules gently reminded me that I had to get to a third-level language course, take two different history classes and four English classes, get through one term of philosophy and two of the arts— all within my four years at this school.
Students here at Deerfield are posed a dilemma as soon as they enter its doors: to stand out or fit in. They do not have the time to continue developing their passions, their talents that truly made them unique and stand out amongst other applicants.
However, with Deerfield’s culture pushing them to juggle rigorous academics, athletics, and extracurriculars all at once, many find themselves unable to find the time and flexibility to pursue their fields of interest.
With burdens from their families, peers, and social media, it’s clear that students find themselves under more pressure than ever before to attend top universities. Along with applicant pools skyrocketing in recent years, media and social stigmas have exacerbated the desire of an Ivy League diploma, forcing students to strive for competition and merit to an unhealthy extent.
By extension, these students are pressured to achieve that perfect 1600, all the while maintaining their GPAs, artistic and athletic endeavors, and leadership roles. Moreover, students are pressured into pursuing a narrow path of opportunities, pushed to put a halt on their academic and extracurricular passions to reach this singular goal.
As stories made front headlines across the nation, the recent college admissions scandal has highlighted the issues and adversities students face today. With parents allegedly pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain advantages for their children on standardized tests and admissions processes.
For many of us, these recent scandals struck on a personal level. These students were experiencing the same adversities, the same pressures, that many of us find ourselves under here at Deerfield. They, too, were trying to fit into the rigid ideal of a perfect candidate, though in a misguided way.
With the attempted adherence to this ideal comes an inability to express interest and to find the understanding and appreciation for education that is critical in discerning a good student from a great one.
So how can we ensure that we, as a community, provide students with the opportunity to find this passion not for an ideal, but for learning? It is critical to acknowledge the lack of time and individuality students currently face at Deerfield.
By implementing a more flexible course system, in which students can choose to pursue more specific areas of study, students can obtain greater opportunities to expand their interests in a diverse range of fields. In providing this platform to all students, regardless of previous academic experience or grade level, students can begin to pursue the steps necessary to “stand out” in the community.
Rather than forcing them into a strict box where their academic and extracurricular careers are predetermined when they apply to Deerfield, we need to push students to express their individuality as a student.
Deerfield is built upon its diverse range of students and talents, and it is our responsibility to present that to the greater community.