From the start of elementary school, most students have only a faint idea of college as their goal in their educational career; the ending point in which long-promised freedom and adulthood are finally granted. However, as one grows older in a society filled with seemingly endless demands and pressure from both your peers and family, college gradually becomes the inevitable, mysterious doom in which every soon-to-be graduate fears. Along with that fear and uncertainty comes the pressure to get into the most prestigious college. Many hear the same phrase over and over again from family and peers to get accepted into a certain Ivy League or world-known university, but is there really a difference between colleges that are known worldwide to those that are seen as minimal and insignificant?
Through the eyes of many, if you graduated from Harvard, you are considered one of the smartest in the generation. However, have you ever wondered what exactly makes people think that? It is not that the University of South Dakota does not teach the same topics as Princeton, but instead it is for students to impress family and friends. Students study day and night for that one acceptance letter from that one college, but never stop and wonder exactly why. The appeal of prestige is so great that it blinds teenagers.
There is also another myth that those who graduate from elite schools would end up becoming more successful than those who don’t. Studies have indeed proven that students from prestigious schools earn more than students from less-known schools, thus creating the simple conclusion that this was a result from the difference in schools. However, when digging deeper into the situation, economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger reported a similar study, cited in the book, Admission Matters, by Sally P. Springer, Jon Reider, and Joyce Morgan, that when comparing the “income figures for individuals who were accepted by elite colleges and attended those colleges with the income of people who were accepted into elite colleges but chose to attend a less selective college,” there was no difference in income. Some of the data gathered even suggested another interesting fact that those who “simply having applied to an elite college (that is, having high aspirations), regardless of whether a student was accepted, was a critical factor in predicting later income.” Whether you go to a famous college or not, it shouldn’t affect how successful you would be in life. However, it is your character as a person that determines your future.
Many students in middle and high school would understand the pressure of success in their academic career that they place on themselves, but most times, the measure of success is not only brought through those hours studying past twelve o’clock at night, preparing for the SATs or ACTs, but instead by how you shape yourself into becoming the individual you most want to see yourself as. If that person aims for higher standards, then by all means, send that application letter to Princeton, but do not ever forget the real reason why you try so hard. Do it, not for others, but for yourself.
Image: Lily Nikias