Emphasis on College Places Too Much Stress on Students

by Tatiana Rodriguez ‘23

Teens have to make many increasingly important decisions, especially while transitioning from a high school student to a young adult. Students start with smaller decisions like what classes to take and which friends to make but, as we progress through high school, the decisions start becoming bigger as we decide if we want to go to college and where. What college will be a good fit? What’s affordable? What future career? These are hard questions that in general do not get any easier when there is the common expectation of going straight from high school to college. Schools and families have high expectations and add pressure that makes tough decisions even more difficult.

Schools add to the unrealistic expectations for students and add more stress to the future by administering career tests in middle school with the message that the test will spark ideas for eventual careers. However, people change a lot, especially in their teenage years, making it impossible to know what they are meant to do. Along with this, schools plan their entire curriculum around what they think colleges would want rather than taking into consideration more course offerings that work for those who want to go straight into the real world by working or doing something else. This makes college seem like the only option for students once they are out of high school since it is all they have been prepared for.

Some families heighten these expectations by saying that going to college is the key to success. Parents might give examples of the benefits that come from going to college or the opportunities they missed by not going to college. First-generation students face added pressure as some parents might shame them for not using the advantage given to them to go to college. There is also the issue of money. Since some students are not given the money they need for college, students have to face the anxiety of coming up with the money they need through working or taking out loans, which will most likely leave them in future debt.

Despite the fact that there is a lot of intimidation for students to go straight to college and some see it as the only path to success, this is not true. Though college can be helpful since a degree can open doors and even can help people learn more about who they are, it is not meant for everyone. Sometimes people need a break and not every career path requires a college education. Schools and families have to take these situations into consideration as they set expectations and should not make the assumption that without college someone would not be successful.