07/31/2012 09:17 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2012

College on the Brain

When I was a high school freshman last year, I got my hands on the mega-thick Fiske Guide To Colleges -- a sobering yet exciting look into a world of acceptance rates, Ivy League prestige and everything in between. I was convinced that after perusing Fiske's I would have a better picture of potential colleges that might be a good fit, as well as what my high school experience would have to look like to lead me in the right direction. Granted, some people thought it was too early to start down this road, but in today's teenage world of test preps, AP classes, sports, community service and well, you know the drill, is it ever too early? Truth be told, probably not.

Now, with summer quickly disappearing and my sophomore year getting closer, I am asking myself serious questions regarding college and taking a step back from it all. School is my utmost priority, yet I believe there is such a thing as going overboard. Students across the nation take cutthroat classes (AP or honors everything) and work tirelessly to become a golden student in order to be accepted into the elite universities that have their pick of the best and the brightest. These teens not only excel in academics, but aspire to be star athletes, participate in volunteer work, play an important role in the student body, and do almost anything to get a leg up on the competition. Basically, these high school kids work until their brains have a mental meltdown. Of course, some kids go completely off the grid; remember the cheating scandal that rocked Long Island last year when 15 high school students paid between $500 and $3,600 each for other people to take the SAT or ACT for them?

Even though being motivated for school is an admirable quality, the pressure to be accepted into the school of your dreams can prove to be too overwhelming -- I have experienced this firsthand with a close friend who breaks down when she receives anything below an A. Students like my friend are so driven to get into a certain college that it gets the better of them at times. Trying your best in school and pushing yourself to succeed is always positive, but teens must beware the dangers of going in too deep. There is absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to attend Harvard, but be sure not to pull all your hair out getting there, and keep in mind that there is a college that's just right for your goals and dreams. I plan to take my fair share of AP classes over the next three years and continue my extra-curricular activities, but I also intend to enjoy my high school experience and graduate with a full head of hair.

How do you cope with the pressure and demands of high school? Sound off in the comments below!

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