Photo Courtesy of Dave Granlund
Yorba Linda High School

The college hoax: Are we feeding into brands or actual education?

It is the middle of November, and the essence of autumn is upon us. While gliding through this season of hearth, we are compassionately greeted with the chromatic metamorphosis of leaves, the illustrious aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves…… and a noticeable line of sweat among a high school senior’s forehead.

As we head into application season, a state of restlessness and apprehension engross our societies considering the unpredictability of admission. Common Application deadlines, FAFSA forms, CSS financial aid profiles, fall term grades, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and supplemental essays tease incoming freshman’s already heightened discomfiture as they attempt to emphatically present themselves to an array of universities.

We have entered an age of impassioned collegiate competition, encouraging students to surpass their peers due to the highly popularized belief that a certain GPA, SAT score, or ACT score determines fundamental self-worth. The unfortunate thing about this ordeal is that it has become a reality for many students.

Although that it may be seen as overzealous emulation, the actions of current scholars are merely reverts to the concept of survival of the fittest. Today, college has become a blurred homage to a form of “educational Darwinism,” making it seemingly impossible to determine a certain student’s ability to satisfy varying academic criteria. And even though that we may blame these universities for impractical precedents, they are not the one’s solely responsible for the aberrant nature of the U.S. education system.

For one, we have promoted these colleges as brands to lust over, not as academic institutions. Ask any graduating student on a high school campus what schools they are applying to, and you may catch yourself subconsciously labeling these institutions as “sub-par” or “holy crap!” But, our predispositions of these schools are not incorrect as many do have extremely challenging guidelines in order for acceptance.

However, we tend to collectively over exaggerate the worth of these colleges, and force undeniably negative mantras upon ourselves when considering admission. As a population, it is innate in our human nature to compare ourselves to others, and in this particular situation that is exactly what we have done. Individually speaking, we consider the accomplishments of fellow students as “ego-determinant springboards.” For example, if we have a slightly higher ACT score than someone we feel better about ourselves, but if someone else has more service hours or a higher GPA than us, we are consumed by self-doubt.

Irrational, but a legitimate apprehension of ourselves. We allow the prestige of a college to validate our insecurities, and then blame the university for provoking our own self-hatred if rejected.

Yorba Linda High School senior Suhna Choi believes that the root cause for this affirmation of self-worth is that “as individuals, we crave the possibility of unattainability,” and even thought that this can prove ineffective, “human pride will always continue to shade our views of reality.”

Although that these schools have targeted the public with advertising themselves as equivalents to a certain level of intellect, we choose to ignore the fact that we are a nation obsessed with popularity. If we haven’t heard enough or even at all, then the college is completely irrelevant to our decision-making process.

But what can we do to maneuver our way around this process of branding colleges? Simple; stop doubting our academic ability, have an open mind about the institution, and be confident in the admissions process. A seemingly challenging ordeal, but to ease the tensions of November’s disquietude, the messiah to our “college prayers” is artlessly our own self-image.