Defining Success: Finding Fulfillment Beyond GPAs and High Level Courses

Alexandra Wagner, Managing Editor, A&E

I’ve always wanted to tell the student body that academics are not everything. Participating in the most extracurriculars is not everything. Minnetonka stresses the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity, whether that be AP courses, the IB Diploma program, clubs, the arts or sports. Sometimes it feels like success is only achieved by scoring a 36 on the ACT or getting featured as a Senior Showcase on a Beyond 140. I absolutely love this school, but I think success is more than what Minnetonka advertises. 

During registration for my junior year, I signed up for four AP courses, Symphony Orchestra and ASL 4. I knew I was capable of successfully completing all the courses, along with my extracurriculars, but my advisers all believed I was overloading myself. I ignored their advice and argued I would be fine since everyone else around me seemed to be doing more. I placed heavy value on being recognized for my achievements and proving my worth to my peers by taking difficult courses and achieving an AP Scholar status.  

Come the beginning of junior year, I found it necessary to step out of school during first semester to address health issues. My academic success still remained a priority, however, and I put more effort into my schoolwork than taking care of myself.

School got more complicated when facility staff told me I could not join live class over Google Meets. ASL started to seem impossible without being in class, but I defaulted to looking at daily assignments on Schoology and annotating PowerPoints on my iPad from the daily lectures for ASL and my other courses. 

Soon thereafter, the facility staff told me I could not use my iPad at all. This caused me to panic because I wanted so badly to prove I was capable of completing a schedule full of AP courses, but I had no decent way to download and submit work from the Dell desktop I could use for only 45 minutes each day. I had to get creative if I wanted to succeed in these courses; I printed off AP Calculus assignments and completed them during my free time and often found myself awake late at night to read books for AP Literature and Composition. 

Of course, putting school work above myself caused my health to regress. Dropping out of some of my courses to prioritize healing was one of the hardest decisions of my life; I felt like a complete failure. I knew I had the capacity to take those classes, but when I went back to school in person I feared everyone would think I was not smart enough to take them. I believed that I failed my parents and advisers as well since their warnings had turned out to be accurate: with everything I ended up going through, I had taken on too much.

When I returned to school, my main priority was determining how to graduate. My grades were fine; it was completing the required courses in three semesters that was a problem. Traditional courses offered at the high school were no longer an option if I wanted to graduate with my class, so I had to get innovative.

PSEO became the most viable option. It allowed me to complete a year’s worth of school in a semester with the added bonus of weighted grades. It was not the AP status I wanted, but it was still a way to earn college credits by taking online college courses. Taking classes online had added benefits as well, such as flexible work time and weekly deadlines. I found a way to excel academically in my own way and prioritize what matters even more than academics: my health and well-being. 

In case it was not obvious, I am in fact graduating and with more credits and a higher GPA than I thought was feasible. While graduating means the end of high school and the beginning of a new chapter for most, the achievement holds a much larger significance for me. I was able to achieve success in my own way and on my own time, identifying how I function best along the way. Overcoming huge obstacles with my health has been a major challenge in itself, so ending high school on an upward trend is something of which I am very proud. 

Success does not have only one definition; it is different for each individual. It simply revolves around one’s ability and determination to improve over time. Some people excel in high school while others accomplish more in the workplace. Either way, each person finds their own time and place to succeed during their life. In the end, none of it depends on the number of cords around their neck at graduation.