When I am in a “What the heck am I going to write my blog about this week” funk, coming up with a topic becomes a family affair. So this week when Jennifer, 15, saw me staring at a blank page on the computer screen, she made a suggestion for a topic.

“Why don’t you write about how being a teenager is so much harder now than it used to be.” She was coming off of a particularly stressful week of math tests, the Homecoming dance, and having to choose between band and cheerleading trips that happened to both be scheduled for the same spring weekend. So as you might guess from her “I may not live through this” perspective, life seemed pretty challenging.

Though her attitude is certainly reflects natural teenage angst and hormonal overload, she raised an interesting point. Why did she think her high school years were tougher than mine?

When I asked her why she thought this, her explanation was that the bar has been raised and continues to be set at a higher level. “Excellent is the new average,” she said. She went on to say that for kids who are planning to go to college, there are always ways to overachieve.

For example, a trend seems to be emerging for high school freshmen to take Honors Biology instead of the usual Physical Science class. This allows them to take Honor Chemistry, which is a GPA weighted class, as a sophomore. So they are able to start earning over a 4.0 earlier in their high school career.

Thinking back on my high school years during the Stone Age, we thought we were really special if we had one AP class as a senior. Now it’s not uncommon for seniors to take five AP classes. Don’t even think about being valedictorian if you don’t have a 5.0.

In addition to my anecdotal evidence, some cold, hard statistics validate Jennifer’s point of view. I saved the brochures that the UC system sent to my son who graduated in 2006 and to my daughter who graduated in 2010.

When I compared the high school GPAs of the incoming class at every UC, they had all gone up in the four year span, across the board. For instance, the 2003 freshman admission profile for UC Davis showed an average high school GPA of 3.86. The GPA of 2009 incoming freshman was 4.0. At UC Riverside, the average high school GPA was 3.58 in 2003 and 3.61 in 2009.

There was one exception. At Berkeley, the average high school GPA of freshman held steady at 4.15. That would seem like good news but not for our students. A stratospheric GPA in 2011 will get a student into Berkeleyonly if they don’t live in California.

I look forward to Jennifer getting this same UC brochure with profiles of the 2013 incoming freshman. By then, it won’t be surprising to see that students need a 4.0 to get into UC Merced.

All this makes me think that my high school classmates and I were a pretty happy-go-lucky bunch. A 4.0 GPA was nice, but it really didn’t affect our future because we were all going to the nearby state school anyway.

For Jennifer and all the other high school students today, take a deep breath. You will definitely need to pace yourself.

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