Was It All Worth It?

Members of Arlington's Class of 2018 reflect on stress, ambition and burnout on the road to college.

Imani Clovis for Unsplash


In the end, all of the students I interviewed agreed that Arlington’s achievement culture has both benefits and consequences. When asked what advice they might impart to current high-schoolers, their comments ranged from the practical—Lehman recommends students take the ACT or SAT early so they have time to retake the tests if needed—to the introspective.

“Know your limits, and be ready to push your limits, but be willing to take a step back,” says Karlin. In retrospect, she recognizes that spreading herself too thin was a primary stressor.

Dodds offers similar assurances: “You’re going to end up where you’re meant to be. Go easy on yourself.”

Others advised making time to spend with family, learning how to take care of your mental health and nurturing healthy relationships.

Kang warns not to waste too much time worrying about trivialities. “Things are definitely going to go wrong, but just try to stay positive, and everything will work out,” she says. “Devote your time to the stuff that’s most important to you.”

My own personal conclusion? If we start allowing students to explore what they find important instead of only what makes them look good on a college application, they will grow up to be not only great students, but also great people. The world needs more of those right now.


Avery Erskine spent her “senior experience” as an intern for Arlington Magazine before graduating from W-L this month. She heads to the University of Virginia this fall.


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Categories: Education