I often strive for perfection. Who doesn’t? After all, getting a 100% on a test is always a heartwarming experience. Yet that last 5% is often the hardest to achieve. Studying all night for a test is one thing; removing all human error from an equation is another completely different obstacle. We aren’t built for perfection. Evolution is not goal orientated. In business, there is a saying: “80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.” Similarly, 80% of your grade comes from 20% of your effort. The last 20% of your grade will take the remaining 80% of your effort. And more often than not, it just isn’t worth it. Colleges today are adopting a more holistic review. You can dedicate a lifetime to getting that elusive 20%, but with nothing else to show, that 100% may as well be an 80%. And to think of all the time you spent chasing a mirage. But fear not, as there are plenty of other ways to spend that 80%. (Side note: check out one of our most popular articles regarding the 80/20% rule when it comes to finding time for your passions and interest.)
A prime example of the 80/20 rule is the SAT–the dreaded test that almost everyone takes (unless you choose to take the ACT). The entire world knows what a 2400 is: a perfect score. For many, it seems like an off-handed joke. For some, a stretch goal. For the few, a number they need to have. But too often, it’s the students who are capable of scoring the perfect score that end up worse off than the rest of the test takers. When something like a 2400 is possible, often it seems like the best option is to try to get it.
A student may spend hours upon hours groveling over the infamous blue practice book, memorizing vocab, drilling themselves on math problems, completely detaching themselves from the world around them. They drop everything to pursue a number that is only a part of a greater picture. But when the time finally comes, they take the test, and get a 2290. They invest so much and come so close, only to fall a tiny bit short. And for colleges, once you hit the upper end of the spectrum, the actual scores start to not matter. Instead of pushing for a perfect score, students should spend time elsewhere. Even flying a kite might be better.
Grades are one thing, but making the most of one’s high school career is another. Spending every waking minute trying to pursue a bunch of A+’s on a report card might be an interest for some, but many students are simply doing well to try to get into college. An A+ next to an A is a very nice-looking accolade, but the painting above the mantelpiece is also very nice looking. Students need to stand out, not deserve a pat on the back. As a result, spending a little less time working on the last 20% and spending a little more time working on community projects might be good for you, both for your college prospects and as a individual. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new hobby.
An important part about spending your time is figuring out where you fit in. Sure, the homework might be heavy today, but when you have a free moment, take some stress off. Watch a movie, eat something you like, binge watch House of Cards. Too often, looking for success means losing yourself in your work. And often when you lose yourself, it takes a long time to find yourself again.
Lastly, if you truly want that 100%, try to dedicate your efforts to a something you have an interest in. If you invest hours upon hours into a subject you despise, the odds are, you will adopt an everlasting animosity toward the subject. I learned that first hand when I had to write a paper on The Stranger. You only have so much time in a day. Try to make the most of it.