Prestige or Passion: Choosing a College That Is Right For You

by Anahat Bawa ’24

Source: The New York Timtes

Published Nov. 5, 2022

College admissions is driving the educational and athletic pursuits of students. Students are currently prioritizing grades and a plethora of forced extracurriculars with the intent of getting admission into a prestigious university. By not focussing on activities which they are truly interested in, they compromise their individuality and sacrifice their passions. 

Where do these pressures to go to top institutions come from? When talking to students from Montgomery High School, Haoran Xu, a junior, described prestigious colleges to be more “appealing” and claimed the “competitive atmosphere of high school” to be a pressure for admission into a prestigious institution.

Students, it seems, are more attracted to top schools for social affirmation. This perspective, however, isn’t an entirely beneficial or productive way of approaching the college admissions process, as many students take on certain activities with the sole intent of becoming more attractive applicants.

Another common factor that motivates students to prioritize prestige is parental expectation. Since many parents and guardians believe that going to a top college guarantees a good future for their child, they often push their kids to be successful in their academic pursuits in order to reach the standard for many top universities.

However, this ideology isn’t always true, and can in fact be very harmful to the child in the future. In research conducted by the CDC, it was reported that “More than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019”. Adding the pressures of college admissions to these mental health issues will only make the learning environment worse for students. 

As kids ignore their true interests because they are too busy checking the boxes for becoming an ideal candidate, they lose their individuality. Furthermore, many students are approaching their high school career as a path to college, rather than an opportunity to grow and learn.

For the students and parents falling under this mindset, let this be a wake up call to start thinking about high school as a way to create a well rounded individual, rather than a forced college student who has not been prepared for life’s bigger challenges. 

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