Harvard University. (Image courtesy of T he Common Wealth Fund)
Sunny Hills High School

Opinion: It doesn’t matter where we go to college

Look, I get it. College is the literal epitome of what many high school students have been working for, probably during the last four years of their lives, if not more. We spend hundreds of hours studying for standardized tests and then we work during the school year to achieve the best grades possible.

Yet, despite all the work, we eventually will get rejected from at least one school, if not more. It’s inevitable (for most of us). So then, the question remains: Does the college you go to really matter?

Immediately, a flood of thoughts rushes into my head. Are we really valuing the prestige of the programs we’re applying to, or do we just want to “flex” our intelligence with acceptance letters to the colleges of our dreams?

Let’s say this. Seniors apply either from November to January and generally receive letters of acceptance or rejection in February through April.

If, for some odd reason, you really want to flex your acceptances and compare your admission results with peers, good for you. You have probably two months to do so before you graduate, and then what? The comparisons are over.

The bottom line is yes, the college you go to matters, but not by how “great” the school is.

At a summer program that I attended this year, my instructor listed five things that are important when factoring one’s college decision: weather, food, culture, people and city location.

I initially scoffed at the idea of having the weather be one of the determining factors in my college decision, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

If I needed an escape from the hard work I was doing at school, I could immerse myself in the culture of the city. I realized I needed a safe haven to escape to, and if I loved those five things on the list, it was the perfect formula, all without going to a top 10 university.

Yet, one thing remains in my way: pride. It has control of us all.

Let’s be real. We’re smart here. We carry a culture of academic excellence, and a lot of the time, we get caught up in how “spotless” our transcript looks or what extracurriculars make us shine. I’ve been there — I’m guilty of it, too.

We want everything at an elite level in order for colleges to see that we’ve maximized our time in high school. We’re so prideful of the things that we’ve accomplished, and there’s a certain right to that.

Yet, to “sacrifice” those things by pursuing what you actually want with less stress, much cheaper tuition fees and a higher quality of life is exponentially better than suffering at the school of your dreams.

But, there’s something missing. I’m not saying going to a “good school” or however you want to define it is a bad thing. However, it turns detrimental when we start prioritizing it over the things we love. Cheesy, I know, but 100 percent true.

Why sacrifice happiness at a tier one, name brand school when your quality of life could be much better elsewhere? If people can be happy and those elite schools are the right fit for them, then sure: go for it. But for most of us, it’s time to come down to earth.

Forget about how “bad” a safety (or in layman’s terms, your backup) school is. Instead, find a “safety” you love, and if rejection comes, it’s still a school you want to go to. Instead of clinging on to pride and being left with absolutely nothing, four years of excitement will remain in front of you. Trudging into college sullen and sulky does nothing.

Zooming out on societal standards makes you realize that an entirely new world exists. The best part about it? We don’t have to have a 5.0 GPA. Our friends are going to get into those schools we can only dream of. However, it does no good when we compare ourselves to them. You have something they don’t, it’s just somewhere else. Keep searching, and you will find it.

I’m not saying take your foot off the pedal. Just slam it on another one.