It’s the middle of December, and all the young adolescents are running out of the school doors and into their cars or buses. Winter break has just begun. I can feel the coldness of the snow seeping into my Converse Chucks. The snow is a blinding white. My surroundings looked like something straight out of a Christmas greetings card, but my mind is far from the beauty around me. Another day of advice about where I should go to college is over, and I am exhausted. After fielding questions and listening to comments from teachers, students, friends, enemies, counselors, and parents, I feel more like a senior citizen than a senior in high school.
For months, I have heard comments and mildly helpful tips about where I must go to college in order to avoid being destitute. I appreciate this guidance, although most of it is unsolicited. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have a different idea as to which school is the absolute perfect school, the paragon of higher education. Combine this with my inability to make a decision about the simplest of matters (Like which sweater should I wear this morning) and you have one confused little girl.
Not long ago, I thought I had a perfect plan for college, but I received advice about why this was an unquestionably wrong from more people than I care to remember. I have received every single reason that you can think of to not go to the college of my choice. I’ve heard comments such as “The school’s being sued.” “The tuition is too extreme.” “You could get the same education for less at the local community college.” “It’s too far away.” “I don’t want you getting mixed up with those Californian kids. Only God knows what kind of things they do over there.” People who had not spoken to me in years were suddenly full of opinions and wanting to guide me in the right direction.
Every time somebody asks me where I plan on attending college, I answer honestly. Then they usually try to tell me what a huge mistake I’m making, but it’s good that I’m following my dreams. But after attending a grand art institute, I’ll be too broke and might as well keep dreaming. Somehow after that we get on the topic of their horrid summer vacation on the west coast.
Despite these protective measures, I am still bothered about the dreaded subject every time I set foot outside. I am now undecided between moving out to a homeless shelter because that’s where I’ll be within five years, or tearing up my social security card, changing my name to Rosario Sanchez and becoming a migrant worker. Or I could actually chase my nearly impossible dream and see how far financial aid will carry me. Somehow I will find my courage to choose the right college and the strength to stay there all four years.
No one should have to go through such emotional misery. College is an exciting step that will change your life. It’s going to move you up in the working world. Unfortunately, these academic nuisances have made this step more painful than rock climbing with two broken legs and a broken arm. In order to point these well-meaning people in the right direction, I have created a list of ten rules, or guidelines, to consider before cramming college information down every high school senior’s throat. Parent’s, Guardians, high school advisors and counselors, this is for you:
1) Everyone has the freedom of choice in this country. Despite what everyone else thinks, this includes what college we choose. Yes, we also have freedom of speech, which means you can voice your opinions on the institutions that you don’t like. Don’t be offended if a student you are talking to also decides to use his or her right, and disagrees with you.
2) Money is important. Money makes the world go ’round. If a student is considering the financial obligations as part of the decision-making process, he or she should be praised, not laughed at. If you say that $40,000 per year is impossible and might as well be $40 million, you’re basically telling them that they are not worth moving forward in their life and advancing in their careers.
3) Do not badger annoy, agitate, aggravate, irritate, harass, bother, or otherwise annoy every senior you meet into a state of insanity. The insane asylum is not the place where any student wants to spend the rest of his or her life.
4) Do not badger annoy, agitate, aggravate, irritate, harass, bother, or otherwise annoy parents of every senior you meet into a state of insanity. The insane asylum is not the place where they want to spend the rest of their lives, either.
5) We are not reptiles. We do not throw our children out of the family shortly after birth and let them fend for themselves. And yet people constantly dictate about the importance of independence until they’re out of breath. If somebody wants to go to college close to home or even in their hometown, then it’s okay. That’s what I’ll probably end up doing. As much as I want to move out of the state, I’ll admit, that I’m not ready. If someone wants to go to college far away, let him or her give it a try. Parents, just keep your arms open, as well as your minds.
6) Parents, do not push us to go to the same college that you attended, and major in the same fields that you did. We are different people. We may have different interests. Let us be the black sheep rising Broadway actors or artists in a family of doctors and lawyers. Or vise versa. Please do not make us live your life.
7) A student wishing to go to a college you have never heard of is not ruining his or her life. Don’t limit our choices to the small handful of Ivy league universities. Plenty of important people have come from schools that don’t have a household name.
8) Do not make us apply to every single college in the U.S. We have more things to do that to spend our final year in high school writing application essays. We will apply to the top few that we want to go to and hopefully we get accepted at one or more.
9) Its okay if we make mistakes. Let us experiment and figure out what we want to be. If I end up wanting to switch majors after two years of college, please don’t shoot me. You probably didn’t know exactly what you wanted to spend the rest of your life when you were eighteen or even twenty.
10) Most importantly, let us have fun. Don’t make us feel like every step that we take on our voyage to college is life threatening. College visits are supposed to be pleasant, not stressful. Also, not every single minute of our final year of high school should be about getting into college. Senior year is still a year in someone’s life. Why not make it fun?
With all that said, I will leave you with a quote by the wise Dr. Seuss, whom by the way, didn’t finish college. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I think this is the best advice you will ever receive. College is about finding yourself and becoming the person that you want to be. Others may not approve of who you’re becoming or where you’re going, but they don’t matter.