Editorial: Unpacking the College Conversation Taboo
Every fall, V Formers face looming college application deadlines while having schedules that are chock-full of challenging 500 level courses. In the sprint towards early application deadlines, the mere topic of applying to college has become a taboo subject for many students. There seems to be an atmosphere of secrecy surrounding college-related questions, and many of us completely steer clear of the topic. While every one of us certainly has a right to our own privacy, and we do not need to completely divulge our application plans with others, perhaps the hysteria over dodging this subject has gone too far.
The underlying reasons as to why we avoid the discomfort of these college talks demonstrates how we, as Lawrentians, may have misplaced certain values within our community. While what college we get into is certainly very important and the significance of this process in our lives should not be downplayed, our fear of these conversations highlights two issues: our community’s excessive preoccupation with peer-to-peer comparisons, and our view of college as the finish-line, rather than a checkpoint within our lives.
A factor that causes us to steer clear of college talk is peer-to-peer competition. For example, if a student who does the debate club, writes for publications, and participates in theater hears about another Lawrentian who does the same activities on top of varsity sports and is applying to the same college, unquestionably, the first student will feel stressed. At Lawrenceville, it is almost second-nature for us to compare ourselves with our peers, and we avoid discussions about college applications because knowing about potential competition is worse than not knowing at all. In making comparisons between each other the focal point of why we avoid the conversations, we reinforce the mercenary mindset behind becoming involved with various campus activities and roles. Rather than completing such activities for our own interest, we end up focusing on one-upmanship because we feel as if a lengthier résumé indicates success. While activities do matter to our applications, perhaps Lawrentians are taking extracurriculars to an extreme, causing us to unnecessarily stress about work for the mere sake of rising on top of competition.
Most Lawrentians shy away from the mentioning of college applications because it creates stress. However, this stress comes from a misconception that many of us make of the process. Too often do we see college as the determinant of our hard work over our past three and a half years at Lawrenceville. If we get into our dream schools, then we feel as if our hard work was worthwhile; if we do not, then we risk believing that we did not do enough to qualify us for an acceptance letter. It goes without saying that placing this much importance and emphasis on only one aspect of our Lawrenceville experience causes us to excessively worry about it. Attending a college should not be seen as our ultimate goal, but rather a stepping stone towards our broader life objectives; these applications should not have the ability to make or break us.
While every student undergoes the college process differently and should not feel pressured to share his or her plans, Lawrentians cannot ignore the fact that there is an unspoken tension surrounding college matters, but there are reasons as to why there is this elephant in the room. Our community’s tendencies to stay silent on college matters are significant because they highlight how we may misperceive the fundamental role that college applications play in our Lawrenceville experience.