I’ve got what thousands would kill for -- admission and enrollment into an Ivy League university -- but I’m scared.
Not necessarily of the school, but of myself. While I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity, I’ve been thinking about how my values fit into the choice of attending an elite college, and I’ve found myself stuck in a few contradictions. Between being ecstatic for my next four years of my education and being grateful for what lies ahead, I have worries. I am worried that I will lose part of my integrity by going to a college of and for the elite, worried that I won’t fit in, or worse, worried that I will.
On some level, I believe that the colleges considered “elite” are not considered this way because of their education, but because of the society within these colleges. One could attend almost any college in the U.S. and get more or less the same degree, the same piece of paper, but what a student pays for at an elite college is the people -- the connections.
I don’t really believe in prestige when it comes to colleges, but regardless, prestige (that is, how many exclusive wealthy people attend) is still a factor that matters. It’s not right, or even factually based, but I have a tendency to see people in elite institutions as the type of people that think, "I’m not better than you, I'm just smarter," which seems roughly like the equivalent of thinking, "I'm better than you and I'm also not going to admit I think that way.”
And while I’m being very biased and majorly stereotyping, I am scared that I could be right, and scared that I will fall into the same line of thought while climbing the superficial ladder of success.
I recognize that everything I do while in college will be my choice, but I can’t help feeling that I’ve already mixed up my values. After all, if I see elite/prestigious colleges as such a scam, why am I attending one? So that I can put myself ahead of others? Isn’t that the exact conflict I’m so concerned about?
I don’t know if I can answer those questions for myself yet, and I doubt anyone can answer them for me. On some level, I think I’m grappling with a deeper conflict than just my opinionated college woes. I think I’m finally reaching the point where the real world meets and overpowers ideal values (or the values we tell our kids).
The truth is, despite being told that everyone deserves fairness and/or equality, and that hard work always pays off, I am starting to recognize the actual truth just by going through the college admission process in the U.S. The real world is unfair. People don’t have equal opportunities. Those with more opportunities seem to consciously or unconsciously prevent others from gaining them.
While I know that my views are not fact, and likely to change, I don’t want them to change for the wrong reason.
Anya Miller is a senior at Century High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.