College apps

Tori Shamlian, Editor

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Around this time of year, many students have already submitted applications to the college of their dreams, as well as typically multiple other schools. However, how many of these students are picking these colleges because they think they are what they “should” pick? In my opinion, students are too swayed to follow one certain path in their higher education. There is definitely a culture of this right here at Shaker. How many times have you heard someone refer to community college in a negative way? How many times have you heard other students putting immense pressure on themselves to get into an Ivy League school? There is too much emphasis put on the name of the college students go to, and not enough encouragement to go to the college that is right for you, like a community college, or to even not attend college. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In October 2017, 66.7 percent of 2017 high school graduates age 16 to 24 were enrolled in colleges or universities” The main types of college options according to the College Board are community college, public universities, private universities, and liberal arts colleges. Community colleges tend to be two years and is a good choice for students who may not know what they want to study just yet, don’t feel fully prepared for a four year college, or want to save some money in their tuition. All too often, students discount the benefits of these community colleges. According to Community College Research Center, “In fall 2017, 34 percent of undergraduate students attended public two-year colleges.” This includes both full-time and part-time undergraduate students. Furthermore, public universities, according to Peterson’s, tend to be much larger in terms of the amount of people, as well as less expensive due to the fact that they receive money from the state government. Some examples of public universities, according to US News, include University of Virginia and University of Michigan. Private universities, on the other hand, usually have less students but are more expensive because they do not get money from the government. These include Stanford University, University of Chicago, and MIT, according to US News. Lastly, liberal arts colleges, according to Niche, usually have less students and are more focused on undergraduates instead of graduate students. US News states that some liberal arts colleges include Williams College, Vassar College, and Colgate University. 

There are a variety of benefits to choosing a path other than a four year college or university. According to US News, community college can cost around $1,000 in annual tuition, while other colleges can be tens of thousands of dollars. This can make a big difference in whether or not a student has a large amount of debt coming out of college. Furthermore, community colleges provide a more individualized approach to education that allows students to learn at the speed they need to, as stated by US News. This can be especially beneficial for students who may have had trouble keeping up with with the curriculum in their high school classes. Students can transfer to a four year college or university after community college as well, according to US News.

A gap year can be as beneficial as community college for some students. This is a year before college when a student does not have formal schooling. According to Business Insider, gap years are becoming more popular in the United States. Even Malia Obama took a gap year before attending Harvard University, as stated by Business Insider. Options of activities to do during a gap year include working on a project, volunteering, or traveling, as Business Insider explains. Business Insider also quotes Robert Clagett, who was previously the dean of admissions at Middlebury College and a senior admissions official for Harvard University. He is quoted saying that those who chose to wait a year before attending college “will frequently be more mature, more focused, and more aware of what they want to do with their college education (Business Insider).” Business Insider explains that gap years can help students in being admitted to colleges as well if they apply after programs such as Global Citizen Year, in which students volunteer, travel, and learn languages. These are a variety of the numerous benefits that gap years have for students that feel they could benefit from a year off of school.

I wanted to find out what some other students at Shaker felt about the pressure to go to a certain type of college, so I interviewed Maya Blanchet, a senior here at Shaker High School. Upon asking her if she has felt pressured to go to a certain type of college, such as a liberal arts, top 20 college, or large public university, she said that there is a very negative stigma surrounding SUNY (State University of New York) schools in particular, with friends of hers calling them names. She said, “certain SUNY schools are looked down upon even though the SUNY system is and has been very good.” For example, she says that she knows people that discuss how bad they think SUNY Albany is often. However, she thinks there are benefits to different types of colleges, explaining that incredibly smart students may not be able to afford other schools, so they may have to turn to community college. This experience of one student at Shaker could definitely be a description of how others feel, including myself.

It seems as though many students feel that they have been inundated with pressures of college from a young age. Personally, I remember teachers talking about college admissions from as young as sixth grade, when they said it was crucial to be placed in advanced classes in junior high in order to have an edge for college admissions. There should not be as great an emphasis placed on students at young ages, such as twelve or thirteen-year olds.

While high schoolers need to be preparing for college, preparing sixth graders contributes far too much to the stress culture of college admissions. I think that students nationwide and at Shaker need to focus on their individual needs and which type of post-high-school experience would be most suitable for themselves, instead of going to a college that they think they should be attending.