Set Your Goals, Don’t Let Them Set You

Thuan Tran, Staff Writer

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“If you take AP classes, colleges will see that you are capable of handling rigorous coursework and are more likely to accept you.”

We’ve all heard it. Our counselors and teachers recommend AP classes. Generally, it is culturally accepted at Hoover High School that college is the path to success. There is nothing wrong about college; it is an excellent place to pursue higher education in a topic of interest and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences. In addition, it is statistically proven by the Pew Research Center that college graduates make on average $17,500 more than high school graduates annually. Specifically for our school, having data that boasts a high percentage of our students attending college is impressive and signals to others that our students are prepared to take on larger challenges. On the contrary, what if some of our students have other plans? Is college the only way for them to become successful and effective individuals?

We have an epidemic at Hoover. Recommending that students attend college is not the root of it, but enforcing it as a “college or bust” dilemma is. There is a ubiquitous mentality circulating our campus that when a student graduates high school, they are presented with only two options: to go to college or to hold a minimum-wage job. The latter is used as a shame-evoking fallacy to argue that college is the only way in life. Therefore, students begin taking AP classes that do not interest them for the sake of carrying the AP label. They study for a test and are inclined to inflate their GPAs at the expense of true learning. Naturally, some cannot maintain this artificial facade and fail their classes or AP test. This outlook on education then isolates students who are not college-bound and debases them with the belief that they will never amount to anything much. As a result of this, they desperately climb up the education ladder to find purpose as their goal, and the higher they climb without proper conditioning, the harder they fall.

There are students each year who are accepted into colleges with undecided majors. They enter college with little to no expectations about what they want to receive out of the experience. For this reason, it is crucial to ask yourself, “Why am I attending college?” Some terrible answers are “because all my friends are going,” “because my parents wanted me to,” and “because I want to find out what I like.” Do not conform or base your decisions on what others want you to be. Do not let them set your goals lest you become a person that is not you. You are your own keeper. Set your own absolutes and college will be a better use of your time and money.

For disillusioned students who see no career-specific purpose in college, the most accessible option for them is to be trained in a blue-collar specialty. There are many honorable jobs that are necessary for the constant development and maintenance of our country. Some jobs earn as much as college graduates with low-employment majors, but without the investment of time and tuition. In this particular case, those without a college degree would be considered more successful since they found and took a different path to a steady job, while the college graduate is still looking for one. Loving your job is not always a possibility, but this is a much better alternative to being unemployed with a college degree that was advertised to be a guarantee for success.

For students in high school, it is wiser to incorporate extracurricular activities that build character by teaching life skills than load up on AP courses that are not interesting to them. College advisors on-campus inform students that colleges actually prefer well-rounded applicants with plentiful extracurricular activities that make up for minor flaws in their academic record over students with good grades and no other activities. If college is the place that you want to be in order to prepare yourself for a higher-end career, prioritize your goals and seek help from college advisors when needed.

College is meant for those who are certain of their interests. It is not a place to waste time “finding yourself,” and this is especially important when financial aid does not cover the entire cost of education. Holistically, college is a genuine institution of higher knowledge which also serves as the prerequisite for careers in law and medicine. College is a great place for you if you know yourself inside-out. Do you set realistic goals? Are your goals objectives to be completed toward your personal satisfaction? Are you sure your major is employable? If your answers to these questions are “yes,” then college is the right place for you. If not, college may not be for you, and that is totally okay. The time is long overdue for us to get over the shaming assumptions presumed by the pseudo-relationship between social rank based on education and expected success.

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