College: It has been an underlying factor in every conversation since elementary school. I see first-graders making their college lists and sixth-graders calculating what GPAs they need for those schools. From there, school, sports, after-school activities and everything else seems to be decided in terms of college applications.
These conversations reach their pinnacle during the month of April senior year. Decisions are out and college is no longer a looming topic, but rather a topic that dominates every conversation. Students and parents eagerly wait for the newspaper’s annual college map that pinpoints the future of the senior class by labeling their college destinations; the school hosts a college sweatshirt day when students broadcast their college acceptance as well as see where others are going; students decorate their graduation caps with the sparkling initials of their college.
After years of being spectator to the college buzz that crams into the final weeks of school, I am finally a part of it. It’s a weird feeling to have students and parents eagerly waiting for me to pick a college so I have a label to wear around that somehow is supposed to decide the rest of my future.
We’re on the cusp between adolescence and adulthood — about to start the beginning of our lives — and we still cling onto labels. We use college prestige to simplify success. The ranking of your school puts you in a category. People think they can predict your future happiness, success and income on such a simple thing as a logo on a sweatshirt.
The entire college process has become something of a scoreboard — a way to tally up the “big winners” whose schools place high on the U.S. World and News college ranks and see how they stack up against those who have lost. Or, even worse, people try and discredit the winners, trying to think of any excuse — such as money, connections or foul play — of why they got into a school they didn’t.
I don’t know how the process became such a shallow one. Maybe we need a way to cope with the sudden change that’s coming. Or maybe it’s a way to alleviate insecurities that stem from a college-focused culture, especially growing up in the Bay Area. All I know is that our last few weeks united as one student body should not be spent drawing lines that separate us.
Priscilla Jin is a senior at Burlingame High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at [email protected].