Graphite Marathon

This month I ran my first marathon. I have been training for about nine months by now, but who's counting? In the last week before I didn't carbo-load, but instead clutched a Princeton Review book for last-minute reinforcement. No running shoes needed, just my pencil case with 10 sword-sharp number two pencils and an iced coffee for fuel. On your mark, get set... 180-minute AP Chemistry exam. The spring of junior year is an infinite marathon of standardized tests. Between SATs, SATIIs and AP exams I feel like a racehorse pushing through a mountain of exams.

In the past two weeks alone, I will have taken four AP exams and two SAT II Subject Tests. Coupled with the general stresses of junior year, the period is overwhelming to say the least. Roaming through the hallways I watch students carrying mountains of Barrons books, crash course review guides and enormous cups of iced coffee.

We live in a one-exam-fits-all world, where test scores are viewed as the end all and be all of intellectual determination. The culture for AP exams at my school has become "5 or die." Standardized test prep has taken on a new set of extremes in today's society.

College has become the end all and be all of most teenagers every decision once they enter high school. Many conversations go something like this: "Are you joining *insert club here*?" "Of course I am -- it looks good for college!" Responses of this nature can be applied to situations of many types including but not limited to: honor societies, sports teams, course selections, standardized tests, summer programs and extracurricular activities.

As junior year comes to a close, I am beginning to reflect on all the choices I have made in high school. I live with no regrets, even after the most challenging year of my life. Going into junior year my workload seemed daunting, but I feel that it pushed me to keep challenging myself. This year I have enjoyed being a leader as the forensics president, continuing to engage in journalism through various avenues (The Lance, HuffPost Teen and the Smart Girls Group), taking the most rigorous courses I have ever taken and studying for a myriad of standardized tests.

Every time I request a letter of recommendation, compile a list of colleges to apply to or tour a college it begins to hit me: senior year is almost here. Before I know it, I will be applying to college and going to college. It's time. While I am frightened by this possibility, I also welcome the challenges to come. I look forward to my college days, the academics, the new friends, the opportunities, the complete lifestyle change and the independence.

As my graphite marathon continues, I have a tiger's eye pushing me through. Before I know it I will be done, the pencil will stop racing across the page.

On your mark, get set, senior year here I come.