IE Grapevine Updates

Sweeney: When it comes to college in modern America, image is everything

Graduating from high school, attending a good university, then securing a great job has traditionally been viewed as the best route to becoming successful. In recent years, the status of education in America has gained even more attention, thanks to the issues of student loans and the financial debt they cause. However, many people fail to realize that there is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on students besides just completing their education.

Katlin Sweeney

Katlin Sweeney

There is a notable difference between how a person that is enrolled in college is perceived versus one that is not. Everyone that has graduated from high school has inevitably been asked the question of what they are doing with their time, what their career goals are, and where they are going to college.

For past generations, graduating from high school and attending a university was considered a grand achievement. But now that getting into college and paying tuition is becoming progressively harder, it’s become more about the name versus the act of going. We’re starting to hear more about the school and what it is known for, rather than what the student is doing with the opportunities that come with being enrolled in a university.

It’s relatively ridiculous that we are starting to judge our peers based upon the school they went or go to versus on what they are doing outside of the classroom. Unless they aced all of their high school courses and lucked out with some scholarship money, the college choices of many people are severely limited based upon their financial status.

We can’t control the amount of money that our parents make or the circumstances that we are born into. And in some cases, the fact that your parents generate too high of an income (even if it is only slightly above the margin of eligibility) disqualifies you from receiving any federal aid. Unless your parents are willing to pay for that particular school, you start saving money early, or you secure some private scholarships, it makes even the relatively financially secure incapable of attending the university of their choice.

Unless someone can produce a stunning list of achievements and/or enrollment at a well-respected school with a high price tag, adults and other college students tend to judge. However, the traditional college route is just not for everyone.

There should be less of a stigma placed around the fact that someone has chosen not to attend a four-year university and more of an encouragement for people that choose to attend community college, trade schools, or go straight into the workforce right after high school. The whole purpose of college, besides helping you find a job after you graduate, is to learn. It is a mecca that instantly introduces you to a variety of people, ideas, and concepts that you may have never encountered beforehand. However, some people are just as successful at discovering these same critical sources of information in the workforce or in a non-traditional educational setting. We should be focusing less on the degree and more on what people know.

Being in your late teens, early twenties is already a tricky ordeal. But when you factor in paying for, attending, and choosing a college, education becomes far more complicated. Whether or not college is what you ultimately decide on, it doesn’t hurt to be a little more open-minded about the fact that just because someone else’s path is different than yours does not make you better or worse.

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