Transfer Student Argues Selective Enrollment Schools Aren’t For Everyone

Rigorous road to success in selective schools commonly misunderstood

Beginning at a young age, Chicago public school children are taught and motivated to succeed at the elementary level to eventually land a seat at a selective enrollment school. We are told about the diversity, educational opportunities, competitive sports, and other extracurriculars that these schools offer. Teachers did not forget to mention the “convenient” locations of these institutions, that would provide us with access to all the resources needed for a higher education.

We get the idea molded in our heads that selective enrollment schools, like Jones, were ideal for us to spend our four years of high school. But what was not mentioned were the late nights, early mornings, studious weekends, and overall exhausting day to day routines.

Attending George Washington High School my freshman year, I was able to see how it felt to attend a neighborhood school. Being surrounded by lots of unmotivated students, at the school on Chicago’s southeast side, I too found it difficult to come to school every day eager to learn. I would go to school, wanting to excel in my classes not because I was thinking of college, but because I was thinking of transferring to Jones. I completely took for granted those ten minute walks to school, thirty minutes of homework, and 48 hour weekends to relax.

After being accepted to Jones, those ten minute walks turned into a thirty minute bus ride, followed by thirty-five minutes of waiting and riding the CTA redline. Arriving home at four o’clock after baseball practice became getting back between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. And those effortless thirty minutes of homework became mentally demanding three hour homework sessions.

This is not to say that those elementary school teachers were wrong for pushing us to perform at our highest potential. But the amount of stress endured really makes you question if it was really worth it. When I hear remarks from neighborhood school students about how, selective enrollment schools get all the funding, and about how lucky we are, I cannot help but cringe inside. These schools are not a utopia where everyone is a natural born genius and we all live extravagant lives. We experience stressful testing, long lectures, and intense sleepless nights that go unnoticed.

Many of my peers seem to be mentally burned out by the end of the first semester, and I can only imagine how students, including myself, will feel after four long years. These are the students that often are not talked about. The reality is, that there is a large chunk of demoralized students who really cannot keep up with the workload. The most common result for these students is falling into a landslide of grades dropping and stress levels rising.

Students who have trouble managing their time, or those who live far from the selective enrollment school of their choice, or even those who have a long list of extracurriculars, should really think twice about making the choice to attend a selective enrollment school.  

Obviously, this is not to say that selective enrollment students are unfortunate or mistreated. What is being said is that the way in which these schools are “advertised” to elementary school students can sometimes be misleading and even inaccurate. The diversity, resources, and sports are all present, but for some students the cons really can out weigh these pros.