With finals approaching and hanging over my head, I find myself stuck in an existential crisis. I know finals are important. Got it. The issue here is that I can’t always completely understand why. The cyclical, and often unfruitful, road of education irritates me more every year. And this is why:

I was always a hardworking student. I labored over my college apps and eventually ended up at Binghamton University. I was happy with that: BU is a good, affordable school. But when I looked at the other kids in my grade going here, I felt a sense of uneasiness. Out of the 20-something kids in my grade admitted into BU, there were a few who probably had better grades and SAT scores than I did and were harder workers. There were a lot who were quite similar to me and some who had worse grades and did close to nothing in high school. I understand that college apps are holistic and not just grade-based, but the point I’m making is even if I worked harder than the person next to me, we both ended up in the same place at BU. I’m not complaining about this, but merely giving an example where going the extra mile for grades didn’t exactly put me ahead.

We are placed in a rat race as soon as we enter the school system. We are told that if you work hard, you will get good grades and good grades will get you into a good college. Once you’re at college, if you do the same thing again, you’ll get a good job and so the never-ending cycle continues into your career. We are always running, pushing our competitors out the way, scrambling, focused on that perfect goal. But what is that goal? When do we achieve it? And when we do, is it even worth all we missed out on to get it? We are working toward something impossible. We will never be able to stop and appreciate where we are because there is always something better and higher to grasp for. At this point in our lives, we are told that grades are the key to get us up to the next step on the employment ladder or graduate education. What I want to know is if it’s even worth it.

There truly is a lot more to life than grades. Grades are important in the sense that maybe they make it easier to get into graduate school or get an internship. But when you apply for a job, chances are they’ll be looking at the fact that you have a college degree and not whether you got an A or a B in Hist 103. Is it really going to matter 10 years down the line if you’re in a steady job with a loving family? When you look back on Binghamton, will you remember that Tuesday you shouldn’t have gone out but spent all night dancing to Miley at Tom & Marty’s? Or are you more likely to remember that time you got a C on that quiz in some class? And do you really think you’re guaranteed a better quality of life because you slaved away on your paper and pulled an all-nighter studying?

The system is inherently flawed, and we are constantly placed under intense amounts of stress working toward grades that don’t always result in something tangible. We lose sight of what is really valuable in life and are left with baggy eyes, stress and frustration. I’m a victim of the rat race as much as anyone else. I get stressed over my grades and anxious over my future. It’s not a bad thing to have goals and want to be successful in school. The key is to keep perspective. College is a brief period in your life. Be balanced, and enjoy every moment you get to have with your friends. Be involved in things that give your life meaning. I’m willing to bet for most of you that this doesn’t mean a letter on a piece of paper.