Thoughts on better responses to questionable advice

When I was a kid, my mom would give me lots of well meant but misinformed or harmful advice (some advice was good, but others not so much).

For instance, one thing she said was that “to get into a good college, you have to play some sort of college admissions game”

This included:

“being anti-stereotypically asian – don’t just be good at academics, also be good at leader ship, do community service, etc”

play some sort of GPA maximizing game

While some of this was true and and it was all well intentioned, it was actually very harmful to me.

It made me feel like I had to be very different persons to achieve all these things, which I was not and am not. Yet I tried anyways, on things I didn’t care about – Boy Scout Leadership (I didn’t care about being an Eagle Scout), student council positions – I didn’t care about being popular.

A better response to this well-meaning but misinformed advice would have been for me to say ” thanks for the information, but I choose not to act on this advice. I don’t want a non-meritocratic/flawed system I dislike to dictate what I do – then I lose control over my life.

I’m not really interested in picking classes that maximize my GPA. I don’t care about GPA much, I’d rather pick classes I’m interested in.

I’m not interested in doing community service just for the show of it – maybe I’ll do community service later in something I actually care about.

I’m not interested in becoming a leader, I don’t want to be forced into a leadership position against my will.

All these things colleges look for is too much for me – I can’t be a super human

I was pretty overwhelmed in 9th grade – I was playing 1 hour of piano a day, taking 8 academic classes at school, doing track/cross country, being senior patrol leader in my Boy scout troop, in the student government. It was WAY TOO much.

While I do enjoy being productive, it would have been better if I just did what I wanted. – Piano was fine. Track was fine, but I wasn’t interested in Boy Scouts or student gov.

Also, the GPA maximizing game was stupid, and still is stupid. I had no desire to take certain classes, like AP Human Geography in 9th grade, and be separated from the rest of my friends in terms of classes we were in and teachers we had.

I also had no interest in doing IB at my school. While The IB program was fine if you wanted to do some critical thinking in the humanities, it wasn’t what I was interested in, and I preferred having freedom of choice in what classes I did the advanced version of.

I also didn’t like the advice that you should take a lot of AP’s in 11th and 12th grade (or IB”s). If you’re not interested in a subject, why take a harder version of it? (unless your friends are doing it)

I also didn’t think it was worthwhile to study for the SAT nor the ACT, and still think that today. It’s a bad test, and not indicative of future success.

Now that I think about it, there is so much encouragement to do counterproductive, unproductive things, for high schoolers, that it makes more people very cynical of any college who admissions seems to prefer “well rounded-ness” and BS like that.

I may write on this more later, but I feel it’s important that I write this down so that I can sort through past unhappy moments in my life with better balance and less bias.

One other things I didn’t like about my mom was that she seemed to take me not taking her advice as offense. I mean her no offense, but not everything she reads and hears are true. One has to be very skeptical of what you read and hear these days, since much of it simply is not true.

Also, let’s say you want to be a mathematician, teacher or educator. What does doing community service, leadership, sports, music, have to do with any of that? Well rounded ness is overrated. While I have nothing against people who want to be more well rounded, it just seems very weird to ask a younger 15-18 year old to do random stuff he/she isn’t interested in just to get into a slightly better college. It isn’t worth the time and effort to do things one isn’t interested in, and creates lots of resentment if it is forced or pushed on you.

All that’s important is that you are a decent human being, act naturally as yourself, be kind to others, and pursue your interests an passion, (and hopefully make the world a better place.)

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