College Expectations at Ralston Valley

Sydney Horn, Editor-in-Chief

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Senior year is an incredibly stressful time: ending high school, adulthood approaching, and a huge pressure to go to college, regardless of what you want to do with your life. Since Ralston Valley is such an academically prestigious school, the pressure put on students since day one to get the best grades, be in multiple extracurriculars and to get into a good college is tremendous. That kind of pressure can be damaging to mental health and can make these students feel out of control, despite many of them being legal adults.

Senior Bailey Hodgson said, “I told my counselor that I was going to do online college next year,” but her counselor implored her to rethink her decision. Even though online school may be best for Hodgson, the pressure put on students and most people involved at RV to get them into prestigious schools is huge.

Senior Abby Swinney said, “Ralston Valley has carried the reputation of sending many students off to college,” which to many is the merit of a wonderful school. Swinney also said, “I think RV puts so much emphasis on going to college because it is not only seen as the successful route but is also seen as an expectation or standard for the students.”

This kind of pressure comes from schools, at home and all over our society. Hodgson mentioned, “parents are forcing them to go to college” instead of that person pursuing a vocational school, travel or just starting their life in the workforce. She later talked about how, “Parents want to be proud when they tell someone their kid is going to college. They don’t feel proud to tell someone ‘my kid is going to community college.’”

Senior Kaela Guerra feels, “If employers and society didn’t judge you so much about college, then we’d probably take a gap year for a mental break.” College expectations are stressfully high for students at RV, yet those expectations are everywhere. Students can’t seem to escape the stifling expectations to go to college, which for some contrasts what would truly make them happy.

Hodgson said, “Most of the time [students] are forced to go to college by their parents,” a sentiment vastly agreed upon by Swinney and Guerra. Since parents generally want their kid to be successful, college is the societally agreed upon path to success. However, some parents or family forget to take into account what their kid wants and what would make them happy.

Paradoxically, adults look at high school students and feel the need to make decisions for the student, since they’re “too young and inexperienced” when that student maintains that they don’t want to follow the college path. Yet when a student chooses to go to college, adults consider that person to be “on the right path” and even more mature, even though both of these students have made hard decisions that could define the rest of their lives.

Swinney also feels, “Students aren’t offered many opportunities to gain knowledge about taking a gap year or attending vocational school,” which only adds to the pressure to go to college. If students are only told that they can either go to college and have a successful life or they can not go to college and never reach success.

So these wildly stressful expectations that most students feel to go to college is driven by a society who places more value in, for example, a liberal arts degree that doesn’t guarantee a job and dumps thousands of dollars in student debt on that person. But people generally look down on those who didn’t go to college, but learned, say, welding and never had to deal with sketchy job listings or stifling student debt.

Mentally, students are already going through a tough transition period. Adding these societal pressures to conform and get into a good college instead of pursuing that persons dream can cause severe stress and possible other mental conditions. Hodgson said, “Everyone is judged on their GPA so they begin to feel worthless if they don’t get into a good college.” Deriving your self-worth from your grades, your college or how many scholarships you got is a never-ending game with no winner; you’ll never feel good enough because there’s always someone with better grades, in a better college or who has more scholarships.

Swinney wants RV counselors and administration to understand that, “[Students] may have unique visions for their future that can’t be obtained by the traditional college route. Counselors shouldn’t assume that all students are wanting to take the college path, and they should make an effort to have a conversation with each student to support them in finding a path that will fit their desires for the future.”

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