What follows is a lot of personal analysis and discussion of my high school - feel free to read, but I’ll spare the space on your dashboards.
When I was first accepted into TJHSST, I didn’t realize how much it was going to change my life. I was definitely more naive and cocky as a middle school student - for instance, I remember being shocked that I didn’t score within the top 90th percentile on the admissions test in certain subjects. Also, I didn’t even worry about getting in until I got the acceptance letter. In one sense, I think I didn’t see how important it was to get in, and in another, I think I sort of took it for granted.
I clearly don’t take the opportunities I am given for granted anymore. In a lot of ways, I realize how much I am a product of luck and circumstances - getting the educational and research opportunities that I did at TJ have been self-reinforcing for further opportunities in college. I had proven myself once in middle school in some capacity, and since then, it’s opened doors for me. As a result, I sometimes feel that I don’t deserve as much credit as I have been given.
For instance, consider the following: what if I hadn’t been identified and supported in middle school by a few teachers (including my Spectrum Teacher, Ms. Cornett)? What if I hadn’t been challenged in my classes like I was at TJ and exposed to not only great science classes but also things like AP Spanish Literature? What if I hadn’t done research at the NIH by virtue of a connection through my DNA Science teacher?
Would I have developed the same kind of thinking skills independently at some point without the push? Would I have been able to prove myself at another point? If so, then would I have been evaluated the same way? I have no idea.
It was clear that I had an advantage coming into college, but it was quickly balanced by students just as smart and smarter than I am. Also, I realized how some students had that internal drive and passion that led them to develop their faculties even at average or subpar schools. That’s something that I fear I would not have been able to do on my own at that age, and in some ways, I don’t know how I’ll measure up to some other people as I head off to graduate school.
One last hypothetical: what if I were born a few years later and were now applying to TJ? Would I get in? With the new ideology, standards, and competition, I don’t think I would have. Plus, I don’t know if I would fit into the new TJ environment, and even if I did fit in, my other interests in non-science fields might have been suppressed or not even realized.
What made my high school experience were not just the teachers and resources but also the students that made up the school. I made many close friends at TJ that are so complex - they have many interests, passions, and talents in both the sciences and non-sciences. Also, many students I know quickly realized at TJ that they had no intention of continuing with the sciences post-graduation. However, by being there, they really enhanced the diversity of the student body. If those kinds of people are being excluded for the sake of more focused, inordinately talented mathematicians and scientists who lack other skills, then I think the TJ is really lacking something.
It’s just frightening how precarious all of these factors are, especially considering how much they have impacted me.