[Q&A] ‘Value your passion over a 5.0 GPA’

Seniors share regrets as their high school years come to an end

With graduation on the horizon, seniors look back on their time spent in high school. Seniors Nadra-Claire Assad and Scarlet Thomas share their regrets, memories, experiences and advice.

A senior holds a list of their high school regrets. (Graphic by Marina Martinez)

What regrets do you have as a senior?

Assad: Not doing things I enjoyed. In freshman and sophomore year, I was so hyper focused on my GPA. I stopped doing choir and orchestra; I’ve been in the music realm since I was 6 years old, and quitting was one of the worst decisions I have ever made. I quit solely on the basis that I wanted a high GPA. I focused more on what I loved in junior year. I also regret not experimenting enough with clubs. There are hundreds of clubs at Bellaire, but in my freshman year I felt intimidated by all of them and decided to join only two of them rather than go around and try new things.

Thomas: I regret not studying for the SAT sooner. I feel like if I knew more tips and got more practice, I could’ve done better. I also regret slacking on my school work during COVID.

If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently during COVID-19?

Assad: Before COVID, I wasn’t outgoing enough in my freshman year. I knew I wasn’t going to stay with my friend group from middle school, but I didn’t make enough of an effort to meet people outside of it. When COVID hit, it became nearly impossible to make new friends.
Thomas: I would’ve tried to be more motivated in general and maybe take my classes in-person for the second semester.

What’s something that surprised you about high school in general?

Assad: How flexible teachers can be and how easy it is to improve your grades. In middle school, we were scared into thinking that high school would be a “zero-tolerance zone,” and then I got here, and teachers just want to see you succeed and help you in any way they can. I struggled during my sophomore year because it was completely remote, and I had teachers reach out to help me and get me back on my feet. I think that was a shock because I just didn’t expect them to care, since middle school told me they wouldn’t.

Thomas: How big the difference between workloads in AP and college prep classes is. Although college prep is supposed to be a middle ground between AP and regular classes, they aren’t exactly in the middle. AP classes are important because you can get college credit, and it looks good for college applications, but the workload is so much that I personally cannot take as many [AP classes] as I want – not because I find it too challenging but because there isn’t enough time for me to keep up with that much work. Also as a senior, there’s not even a college prep option, and you pretty much have either AP or regular for your core classes. I felt that AP Macroeconomics would be too much, but regular economics feels too easy; I think there should be more middle options.

Knowing what you know now, what are some advice you would give to underclassmen?

Assad: Value your passion over a 5.0 GPA. A 5.0 means nothing if you have nothing you genuinely care about. You can get amazing grades and a perfect SAT score, but that means nothing if you don’t find happiness in small hobbies and make time to make yourself happy. Don’t stress over one bad grade. Don’t linger over your past mistakes. Learn from it and move on. Always be willing to learn.
Thomas: I recommend not losing motivation, especially in your first two years, because those years affect your GPA the most. However, your GPA isn’t the most important thing for college applications, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself and participating in the extracurriculars you want because those matter too.

Was there ever a time when you regret something and was able to overcome or make up for it later?

Assad: I surrounded myself with people who weren’t “good” for me or who didn’t push me enough to be the best version of myself. It was only in my junior year that I found a group of friends who were willing to sit me down and tell me: “Hey you need to do better,” and then they’d help me. We learned to lean on each other when we needed support, advice or just real constructive criticism. If I had had a group like that earlier on, I think I could have found my passions by sophomore year.
Thomas: My grades sophomore year were very bad (I failed a few classes) due to many reasons, but I overcame that and did well in my classes junior and senior year and was still accepted to multiple good colleges.

What is a misconception people have about high school?

Assad: Caring too much about GPAs. The only thing that matters is how much you love what you want to do. Also, making too big of a deal about college in general. I cared too much about college to the point where I stopped doing stuff I loved, like biology and computer science.