The toxic culture around college admissions

The toxic culture around college admissions

Throughout the school year, it is common to see students post on social media about where they will be attending college. For some people, this is a fun experience that allows people to celebrate their accomplishment and the accomplishments of others, but for other people, seeing these posts is full of anxiety over whether they can measure up to the people around them. This pressure to go to a prestigious school makes it difficult to choose a school that is best fit for you.

For some, announcing one’s college decision is an experience heavily looked forward to, but for others, it is one that comes with a plethora of worries about how they will pay for it. This has become especially true in recent years, because college tuition prices have climbed drastically over the past years. One study claimed that since 1963 college tuition prices have risen by 65.8%. These tuition rates have made attending elite colleges and universities more difficult than ever before. However, people choose to over-look this strange system and still fork over an unreasonably large amount of money to go to these top-tier schools. East’s competitive atmosphere makes students feel like if they don’t attend these well-known schools then they’re not pushing themselves enough even though a different school might fit their needs better. This leads to students still paying exorbitant prices to attend schools because that’s what other people think they need, while deep down they know it isn’t what they really wanted.

Some may argue that the focus on getting into a top-tier school is valid, even if it means paying exorbitant fees and attending a school that doesn’t fit your needs or personality, because you will benefit financially in the long run. However, the idea that going to a top college is required for post-college success has been proven invalid in a variety of ways. One study by U.S. News discusses where top Fortune 500 CEOs went to college. The article states that only one of the CEOs out of the top 10 Companies went to an Ivy League school. This demonstrates that everyone comes from different backgrounds and finding a school that fits you best is the key to your success and happiness. Some students who have been told they are the smartest in their class feel this pressure to go to a highly competitive academic school leading them to lose  confidence when they are no longer at the top. This can cause students to lose their passion for learning and spend much of their college years stressed and depressed. However, if they had gone to a less competitive school they might have kept their confidence of still being one of the smartest and gone on to push themselves and keep climbing toward their goals. This concept is known as “Big-fish-little-pond.”

As someone who just moved to East Grand Rapids one of the first things I noticed was how much students were doing solely for the purpose of their college applications. Previously, I often heard things such as “I want to go to school in California to surf” or “I’m going to join the school newspaper because I love to write.” Now more common phrases I hear are “I only do this club for college credits” or “I am going to this college because that’s what my parents want.” I find this mindset fascinating since students don’t sit with themselves and evaluate their own hobbies and own aspirations and just focus on the “textbook” way of getting into college.

Going to college should be about finding the right fit for you and learning what you like and dislike while taking your first step into the real world. One should not base their decision on the school’s name or other’s ideas and hope If you only do what you’re told and only go to a college based on its name, chances are you’ll miss out on exploring your interest in the school you actually wanted to go to. Everyone’s college application process is unique to them so trying to base your college application process on others and what you have heard is the right thing to do is not always the most effective. You only get four years of high school, so get creative, and try clubs, sports, or volunteer work that seems interesting to you and this will help you discover your dreams and passions.

This article originally appeared in The East Vision.

Photo Credit: George Pak

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