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POV: Surviving the college search

This Point of View article is the first in a two-part series about the college search process. The writer, 17, is a senior at Bethlehem Central High School who is attending college in the fall. She has recently been accepted to the University of Vermont, Fordham University, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is (very carefully) making her decision soon.

“A Good College.” It seems my generation has been raised with those words constantly echoing from the mouths of our parents and educators. It might come from a mother threatening her child over his apathetic B’s with the classic line: “If you keep this up, you’ll never get into a good college.” Perhaps it’s from teachers, who emphasize the importance of those mind-numbing, stress-inducing, six-hour standardized tests that may just be the only ticket to “a good college.” I sit here scanning through my endless list of potential schools, through every statistic, rate and ranking, wondering not only if it is “a good college” but if it is good enough. High school seniors all over the country are losing sleep and struggling to keep their sanity intact as they wait for those acceptance letters. Floating in their nightmares is the cringe-worthy word no student ever wants to see: “waitlisted.”

We can’t help it. The overwhelming importance of getting into “a good college” has been stressed to us for years. It’s no secret that an individual’s worth suddenly increases in the eyes of others if he or she casually mentions unforgettable days playing rugby with the chaps at Harvard Yard. The school emblem on one’s diploma has, without a doubt, always held a significant amount of weight when it comes to what that individual’s opportunities might be. In their desperation, many of my peers dig themselves a hole of debt from their tuition costs that is so deep, they will work well into their 30s and still be trying to crawl out of it. Colleges know this, and they don’t care. They have no problems filling their seats. The institutions are fully aware of their high esteem in society. They thrive on the parents who take out second mortgages and sell their cars to put their child through school. But that system is collapsing. Quickly.

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