Column: What if?

What if? It’s a question I’ve often asked myself given not only my affection for history, but also my unique ability to over analyze anything. In the few days before I came back to GW, an odd and mildly embarrassing event led me again to wonder what if.

I was out on a couple of errands when, for the number time more than I care to mention, I locked my keys in the car. Unable to reach either mommy or daddy, I realized I was going to be stuck for a while. Mercifully, there was a bookstore not too far away. While serving as a pointed reminder that I hadn’t done nearly the amount of reading I had intended to do this summer, it also provided a refuge from the hot and sticky August air.

It didn’t take me long browsing through the many shelves of books before one caught my eye.

“School of Dreams,” written by journalist Edward Humes, relates the stories of the students, teachers and day-to-day events of California’s Whitney High School. Whitney High is often regarded as the best public high school in the nation. Parents literally move from overseas so their student can attend Whitney.

Reading through the book, I quickly noticed similarities between my old high school and Whitney. Both schools have an enviable level of student achievement. Yet they face many of the same problems: over-extended kids, academic dishonesty and ultra-ambitious, often meddlesome parents.

While writing his book, Humes also taught a seminar on college essay writing at Whitney. Much of the book focuses on the struggles and triumphs of Whitney’s seniors to get into the nation’s most prestigious colleges. These are the parts of the book that took me back the most to my experiences in high school.

Perhaps like some of you, I didn’t gain admission into every college to which I applied. This isn’t to say I am unhappy at GW. On the contrary, I cheerfully waited 10 minutes today in line to pay $500+ dollars for books. I must like it here. Or I’m nuts, possibly both. Still, I can’t help but wonder that if I had done some different things or made different choices, whether I would be typing this article while sitting in Foggy Bottom.

Of the many determinants of college admission the most noted, maybe dreaded, is the SAT. My score wasn’t bad. I won’t tell you exactly what it was, but I did significantly better than our current president. At Whitney high students study all night for the test and pay four figures for classes to help improve their scores.

I don’t think I spent more than two hours max studying for the SAT. Practice? I mean we’re talking about practice. For those of you who don’t follow the NBA, that was a reference to 76ers guard and Georgetown attendee Allen Iverson. He only stayed for his freshman year. During a press conference he gave a similar reply when asked about not showing up for Sixers’ scrimmages.

If I were to have asked my parents for the money for an SAT class, they wouldn’t have said “no” exactly. They would have said, “so you want us to pay $1,000 dollars so that we can send you to a school that will cost us $40,000?”

Not that I would have ever asked them for the money. Taking one of those classes seems like a baseball player in past years taking the now banned performance enhancer andro, not quite illegal, but still bending the integrity of the activity.

According to Humes, a constant activity is the all-nighter. This differs from my experiences in high school. I can’t remember once in high school staying up past 1:30 a.m. doing schoolwork. And it’s not that I’m a slacker. Some of these Whitney kids are taking enough advanced placement classes and in enough admissions-office-pleasing extracurriculars to keep two people busy. I know that no one on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time at the office. But looking back, I wonder what a few more hours each night would have done for my grades. I know by forfeiting the pillow at least a bit, I could have made my pre-calc grade more presentable.

I use my pre-calc grade as an example because that was the highest level of math I took. When big scary calculus came a rollin’ along, I deferred myself to statistics. See, I know that a room full of admissions people would have liked to have seen calculus, or for that matter, four years of science on my transcript, but I had a much more enjoyable time taking classes like AP government and Latin. Science, however, got the last laugh. I still need two more classes to satisfy my GCRs.

Poised to start my second year of college, it’s interesting to look back upon what I did – or didn’t do – to get myself here. Sometimes, even the smallest events, like locking keys in the car can have a big impact.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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