Why I can’t say ‘Stoga is great

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Paige Sredenschek/The SPOKE

By Brooke Deasy, Managing Editor

“So, Conestoga huh? How do you like it?”

A few weeks ago, a college interviewer asked me that very question. The poor woman likely expected a simple remark. Perhaps along the lines of “Oh it’s a great school. The teachers are great, lots of opportunity.” Or, if one was feeling bold, “It’s school, you know, the norm.” But, no. For the first time in my life, I gave the full answer. I made clear that ‘Stoga has faults too.

Of course, I first covered the positives.

I can comfortably say that almost, if not all, Conestoga students feel blessed by the opportunities they have here. From a plethora of classes to choose from to hundreds of clubs to partake in and the means to create new ones, from the field trips offered to the equipment and technology used, we are lucky. The teachers here are exceptional, and I feel confident that I am ready for college, both personally and academically. This is in large part thanks to ’Stoga.

However, this isn’t the whole picture.

Due to the competitive atmosphere and emphasis on getting involved in school and extracurricular activities as much as possible, I, among other students, have overextended myself. Being a member of The Spoke and a competitive dance team is enough to pack one’s schedule. But, I also decided to create my own club, join three or four others, and participate in a community service organization outside of school. Then, there’s the honors and AP courses I enrolled in which consumed hours of my time in work on a nightly basis. I’m not saying this is true for everyone, but I certainly experienced a high dose of stress during my Conestoga years. While some of this comes from personal ambition, I contribute a lot of it to the high-strung ’Stoga atmosphere: This type of schedule is applauded. Students categorize individuals with this type of ambition as hard workers, guidance counselors commend this academic and extracurricular success, and the underlying idea holds that colleges want students who are “involved,” and therefore it is desirable to fill one’s transcript with responsibility and activity.

There’s also the issue of mental health. Five of my close friends have experienced mental health issues during their time at ’Stoga. I’m not saying all are directly related to the school, but three certainly have to do with academics and taking on more than they can handle. Staying up past 12 a.m. is unfortunately the norm for many, especially those who are involved in afterschool activities. And some people pull all nighters left and right. This is clearly unhealthy. A high grade in Schoology makes the student feel that their lack of sleep was worth it and their relationship with that teacher is preserved.

And finally, there is too much pressure on getting into a top-notch school (one of high rank that often sports comparatively low acceptance rates). Or, really, college in general. Students constantly feel the “college heat” breathing down their necks. If they do poorly on an exam—no matter how much they studied—they automatically fear it will jeopardize their placement at a “good” university. I can’t say this is true for everyone, but from experience it is a viable reality for many.  

It all starts with the type of student Conestoga breeds, and the area in which it is situated. The average ‘Stoga student does well academically, especially when placed on a national scale, and wants, even expects, to attend a highly-regarded university. Although it may be stereotypical, it’s largely true: the Main Line is a wealthy area, and parents are willing to pull out their checkbooks to send their children to the “school of their dreams.” It then becomes a matter of getting the grades and doing the activities that meet the college’s expectations.

Sure, high school is a time for academic growth and an extension of responsibility, providing much needed maturity. But students shouldn’t sacrifice personal and social development. High school should, and can, be a source of fun. Enforcing a limit on the number of AP courses students can take would certainly be a step in the right direction.

More can be done to shift the “norms” of the student body and alleviate student stress. Conestoga isn’t perfect. It shows.

Paige Sredenschek/The SPOKE