For most students, the application process is even more stressful than actually attending college. The pressure put on by family (from parents with high expectations and older siblings to which to live up) drives students to strive for prestigious schools. As the beginning of summer comes around and they matriculate into their colleges, students compare their schools to those of another. College of DuPage. U of I. Princeton. All of these evoke different emotions from people who form premeditated judgments. The latter makes people think the student is intelligent and hard working, and he will be successful. U of I says, “You’re pretty average for an Illinois kid”, while COD induces critical glares and the presumption that you couldn’t get into a better school. A school doesn’t say who you are, so why do we let it?
There’s a plethora of reasons we should not judge one another. Underestimating, overestimating, propelling stereotypes, and creating expectations are a few. My brother Elliot, Class of 2017 student at Princeton University knows the consequences of expectations and premeditations:
“People assume just because I’m smart, I’m not hardworking”.
Sure, it is difficult to get into Princeton (7.4% acceptance rate of 2013 according to their website), but that does not automatically imply success or morals. One Princetonian was recently caught underage drinking and had ecstasy in his room. Sound like someone that could make it into Princeton to you? People regard students highly when they attend an esteemed college.
The premeditation works the other way around as well. People assume because you go to a community college you’re not smart or hardworking. You’re lazy. You’re dense. You’re bad. But for my friend Liz, COD Class of 2009 graduate, her situation was quite the opposite. Motivated, bright, and excited to learn, Liz chose COD because of financial reasons (she also got into U of I, but it was too expensive). In 1999 at the age of 10, she came to the United States from China. Just a decade later, she was awarded 2009 Outstanding Graduate, All-USA Academic First Team, and a scholarship that would change her life.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, an organization dedicated to “advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need”, awarded Liz with the JKCF Community College Transfer Scholarship. In other words, a full-ride to Northwestern University. Just one decade from being a Chinese immigrant, she had gotten the opportunity to attend the 25th best college in the world (according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings). Her merit, undoubtedly mixed a wonderful opportunity, got her into an amazing college.
Though I am a year off from college, I feel the pressure to live up to the standard my brother set in my parents’ eyes. COD isn’t enough, and it never will be. Personally, I wouldn’t mind at all going there. I, myself, still fear the judgments I would get from telling people that’s where I want to go. “You can do better than that” or “Ew, really?”
In reality, I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to even be able to attend college and get an education in a safe environment with parents that will pay for it. Oftentimes, people forget to be thankful for something they’ve had for so long. Recognizing this is half the battle and takes away lots of stress. Another thing to remember is that going to a good college does not equate success. Along the same lines, a “not as good” college does not equate failure. Don’t judge a person based on the college he attends/attended; you may overlook some of the most intelligent minds you will ever have come across.