College preparation follows a “one size fits all” plan

Entering high school marked the beginning of all the adults around me inquiring who I want to be. Suddenly the focus of my life was where I am going to college, what my major will be, and what I am doing to prepare for all of it. Walking into dinner, my relatives say, “You’ve got some big decisions ahead of you. Some very big decisions.” The emphasis on college has been constant since my freshman year, and now as I am beginning junior year, the preparation for college has restricted the way I think about my future. College has been set as a norm of success for all students, and this limits what their future options seem to be.

Its always been assumed that I am going to college, and I’m not alone. “The end of ninth grade, all of a sudden it was like, college is not even a question, its like a certainty that I would do it.” said junior Klevis Deva, who has taken many advanced classes in preparation for college. When college is deemed as the pinnacle of success for everyone, students will decide to go even though it isn’t the best option for them. Other options like trade school or the military seem like a step down from college, even if a student cannot easily attain a college education.

Different expectations should be held over each student. Students that decide to not go to a four-year college right away are looked down upon. In high school, we should learn that college is not for everybody- its for people that want to continue being in school and learning. “Its like the path is already set and I can’t do anything about it,” said Deva. “I’ve been so busy trying to go to college, I haven’t thought about what else there is in life besides college.”

We should be told that you don’t have to go to college to be happy. People that don’t go to college can also get a head-start on working and developing their careers. Plenty of successful people have not gone to college and still achieved great things! Take a look at Beyonce, Ellen Degeneres, and Mark Zuckerberg. Success is dependent on how much work you put in, and although college can definitely help with finding a job, its not the only way to achieve great things.

When we learn that college is the prime route to success, we are not being told about how many alternatives there are. High school should not only educate us about college, but also help develop our interests and skills. Programs that offer apprenticeships and training should be offered while students are still in high school, because experience is the best way to learn what you are interested in. When schools push for every student to attend college, it limits the amount of information we get about life after high school, away from college.

College pressure starts too early for high school students, and the result is that students are encouraged to decide on their futures early. High school students are expected to decide on their futures at a very early age, and choosing a major seems like a decision that will dictate the rest of your life. “I don’t feel like I’m at a place to say what I wanna do when I grow up, but colleges and parents and schools and the higher world is like, ‘So, Carly, time to choose!’” said senior Carly Siewert. When we don’t have experiences with jobs, we don’t gain as much knowledge about our interests.

The intent of college preparation is good. Parents and teachers want their students to be successful. However, the result is that students change themselves to conform to the expectations that colleges have, and believe that college is the only acceptable approach. “You have to spend all this time doing extracurricular stuff to make yourself look better, and fill out all these scholarships, you have to be the best.” said Siewert. Applying to a college seems like a competition, and picking a major that will make more money is favored.

Often times financial success is the biggest component to considering college. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, college graduates that work full time earn about $17,500 more a year than adults with only a high school diploma. However, college is also a huge financial commitment and success is not guaranteed after you finish.

The way we prepare students for the future needs to change. College should not be presented to us as a way of success that works for every student. Instead, we should be having experiences with different fields and jobs, that don’t all follow the traditional four-year college plan. The accessibility of college is another issue that should be considered when teaching about decision making for the future. Some students are not able to attend because of financial reasons, or college is just not right for them. Holding college as the only way to success discourages students who do not take the four-year college route, and pressures students to change themselves to fit the norm.