Shifting The Conversation About College

Shifting The Conversation About College

College admissions are rigged--what else is new?


From age 9, I have been enrolled in private schools. At these two institutions, college was an ever-present conversation. A lot of our parents, teachers, and administrators expected nothing less than admission to "highly selective" and "prestigious" universities; anything other than "prestigious" generated both shame and gossip. My brother's classmate, for instance, were admitted to Southern Utah University (which he later attended). His admissions decision was met with extreme criticism from all grades--whispers of his stupidity and statements of "how embarrassing" it was for him to matriculate to a school like that were widely disseminated around the high school, middle school, and (in some extreme cases) lower school.

Kids in our generation are under immense pressure. This pressure is facilitated by decreasing admissions rates and increasing standards for admission. Most of my peers in high school ran clubs, created businesses, and obtained internships. The majority of my high school received 3-4 hours of sleep every night, and in general, an overwhelming amount of my peers suffered from anxiety or depression.

Where does this pressure stem from? Mostly, it can be traced back to the issue of college, parental expectations, and societal values.

When I was a junior in high school, I remember meeting with my college counselor and parents. He asked me my top schools, and after hearing my answers, he let out a sigh of relief. "Finally, a student who is realistic."

Most parents, I later learned from my counselor, groom their children to aim for the Ivy Leagues and other selective liberal arts colleges. This mindset supports an attitude that prioritizes clout over best fit which is inherently problematic for students.

The Ivies are notoriously competitive. These low acceptance rates sometimes push students (and parents alike) to seek desperate (and often illegal) measures. For a particular group of rich, lifer students at my high school, things like paying older students to take online college courses, cheating on the SATs and ACTs, and participating in other malpractices were unspoken norms. This blatant issue created a divide between us--the normal, middle-class students--and them--the elite with massive amounts of money. As college decisions rolled out last spring, many of my peers were angry about certain acceptances since we knew that these admission decisions were based on money, cheating, and legacy--not merit. The growing pressure to attend selective schools creates a temptation amongst America's wealthiest to follow these actions, and it ultimately deters students from matriculating to the schools that best fit their academic abilities.

Moreover, college isn't necessarily everyone's path. Although society advocates for college degrees, some students may choose technical trades or speciality fields that do not require a college education. The overarching conversation about higher education should shift to this message instead: valuing student's happiness and personal interests is more important than attending a "brand name" school. People will be more successful when they pursue fields that make them happy and that appeal to their passions. Regardless of college ranking or field of study, parents should motivate their kids to find schools that fit them best instead of plucking universities off of ranking lists.

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Dear Mom and Dad, You Don't Understand What College Is Actually Like In The 21st Century

I can skip class. I can leave early, and I can show up late. But, ya see, I am not doing that.

College is not what you think it is. I am not sitting in a classroom for six hours listening to a professor speak about Shakespeare and the WW2.

I am not given homework assignments every night and told to hand them in next class.

I do not know my daily grade for each of the five classes I am taking, and I don't know if my professor even knows my name.

College today is a ton different than how it was 20+ years ago.

I go to class for about maybe three hours a day. Most of my time working on "college" is spent outside of the classroom. I am the one responsible for remembering my homework and when my ten-page essay is due.

I can skip class. I can leave early, and I can show up late. But, ya see, I am not doing that. I am a responsible person, even if you do not think I am.

I do get up every morning and drive myself to class. I do care about my assignments, grades, my degree, and my career.

I spend a lot of time on campus having conversations with my friends and relaxing outside.

I am sick of older generations thinking that us millennials are lazy, unmotivated, and ungrateful. While I am sure there are some who take things for granted, most of us paying to get a degree actually do give a s**t about our work ethic.

Dear mom and dad, I do care about my future and I am more than just a millennial looking to just get by.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlyn Moore

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How To Stay Mentally Healthy In College

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.


Staying healthy in college seems really, really hard to do. Classes, friends, clubs, and the whole fact of living by yourself can create a lot of stress and anxiety. Most students, and people in general, don't really know how to deal with stress or how to take care of themselves mentally, leading to unhealthy behaviors physically and mentally. If you don't take care of your mental health, your physical health will suffer eventually. Here are a few tips and tricks to help take care of your mental health:

1. Eat a well-balanced diet

Eating fruits, vegetables, grains, and other healthy foods will help you feel more energized and motivated. Most people associate eating a balanced diet as beneficial for your physical health, but it is just as important for your mental health.

2. Keep a journal and write in it daily

Writing can be one of the most relaxing and stress-relieving things you can do for yourself. Writing down the issues you are struggling with or the problems you are encountering in your life on a piece of paper can help you relax and take a step back from that stress.

3. Do something that brings you joy

Take some time to do something that brings you joy and happiness! It can be really easy to forget about this when you are running around with your busy schedule but make some time to do something you enjoy. Whether it be dancing, writing, coloring, or even running, make some time for yourself.

4. Give thanks

Keeping a gratitude log — writing what brings you joy and happiness — helps to keep you positively minded, which leads to you becoming mentally healthy. Try to write down three things that brought you joy or made you smile from your day.

5. Smile and laugh

Experts say that smiling and laughing help improve your mental health. Not only is it fun to laugh, but laughing also helps you burn calories! There's a reason why smiling and laughing are often associated with happiness and joyful thoughts.

6. Exercise

Staying active and doing exercises that energize your body will help release endorphins and serotonin, which both act as a natural antidepressant. Keeping an active lifestyle will help you stay happy!

7. Talk out your problems

All of us deal with stress and have problems from time to time. The easiest and probably most beneficial way to deal with this stress and anxiety is to talk it out with a close friend, family member, or even a counselor.

8. See a counselor, peer mentor, or psychologist

Just like it was stated in the previous point, it is beneficial to talk out your problems with a counselor. We all have issues, and it is OK to ask for help.

Keeping up your mental health in college can be a struggle, and it may be hard to even admit you are not mentally healthy. This is OK; you are not alone. If you want to see a psychologist or would like to learn more about mental health, there are resources. You can also take a self-assessment of your mental health. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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