Success is possible through different pathways

The Tower Staff

Olivia Walz ’22

South’s counselors branded October “college application month.” And with a November 1 deadline for early applications weighing on seniors, counselors and teachers, the air in most senior classrooms is filled with a buzz of advice, school preferences and anxiety.

Seniors aid each other through the application process, but sometimes manage to let their judgements seep into that advice, which may be damaging for students considering an alternative approach.

Questions like, “Do you really want to go to school in Illinois?,” or “But how will that look on your transcript?” can plant a seed of doubt and insecurity which may spur a rushed decision from a student. Deciding what looks the best, and receives the most admiration, is not a path the Tower staff would recommend.

In deciding what course to pursue, we advise students to discover the school, program, or institution that fits the most with their unique requirements. Too often, it is assumed college is the most beneficial long-term. With rising tuition fees and increased expectations to acquire a masters degree, students should not rule out trades schools or specific 2-year programs.

As for underclassmen and juniors, the staff encourages their exploration into unconventional paths. Often, students feel pressured to pick an occupation extremely early on and narrow their focus to fit that field’s expectations. That can be beneficial if a student is already set on a career- perhaps becoming a doctor or journalist- but damaging for someone undecided. Consider stepping out of your comfort zone. Try a coding class, explore music and dive into videography while the courses are free. The same applies to jobs; reach out to the professional friends of parents for shadowing opportunities.

A study from the U.S. Department of Education found that about half of high school students reported their family as the most influential factor in their post-secondary plans. The other half of the students cited themselves. While it is important to consider one’s family when it comes to the affordability of college, stigma and expectations should be set aside.

For many students looking to pursue a career in the arts, trades, or internationally, judgement seeps into their decision making. While the staff recognizes the risk of entering a competitive and possibly unstable field, we want to remind students that admittance to college is not a one-time opportunity. It will still be an option 15, even 30 years down the line. Pursuing a passion is admirable, to any degree.

In the midst of a tense application season, we at the Tower encourage students to stay true to themselves and their desires. And, if someone hasn’t discovered those yet, that everything will be okay. The admissions process does not define a student, and deciding not to enter it does not devalue them.