My view: student reflects on the pressures of attending a well-known undergraduate school

Sarah Stevenson '19, Web Editor

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“How are you still deciding? You have to go there.”

As a senior in high school, it’s a given to be asked about college plans, but after I state the two very different schools I’m between, the remarks have seemed to sound the same.

I’ll mention the large, public school I’m interested in, and without skipping a beat, the person I’m talking to will often reply with the statement above. With a slight smirk, I respond with a “You really think so?” or “Yeah, you’re right.” This will then lead into a conversation of how well-known the school is, or the big opportunity I would be giving up by not attending.

Then they will ask about the other school that’s an option, and after I respond with the name of the small, private college, we will suddenly be back on the topic of what I would be missing out on by not attending the larger institution.

However, these comments are not surprising to me since I have said the same thing to others in my position, encouraging them to go to the “best” school possible. Although, today, where you attend school for your undergraduate education does not always ensure a well-paying job.

According to an article published by The Atlantic, attending a prestigious university does not guarantee you a higher salary than attending a less known school. In addition, the fact that a student applies to a well-known, highly-ranked university is a larger indicator of future success than actually being accepted by that school.

However, there continues to be a pressure to attend the most competitive and academically challenging school that you get into, and disregard the college that may be the best fit yourself or lead you on an optimal career path. Although it is greatly important to challenge yourself, to what extent is that more crucial than being at the most ideal school based on your needs and personality?

I feel that I constantly ask myself that question, and I continuously go over the pros and cons of both schools that I’m deciding between. But, nevertheless, I eventually end up in the middle- 50 percent for one school and 50 percent for the other.  

And to be honest, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t tempting to choose the more well-known institution instead of the smaller school: the name, the academic status, the alumni network, the social aspect, etc.

But what about where I want to end up? What school will guide and nurture me into what I want to become? How will I get to where I want to be in the most efficient way possible?

Although deciding on the next four years is difficult, I’m incredibly grateful for the support I have received throughout my high school career, and to be given the opportunity to continue my education, wherever that may be.