With a perfect average, athletic talent, multiple leadership roles, and an SAT score that goes beyond the Ivy-League cutoff of 2200 points, one can expect such a student to get into any school of his or her choice with a generous scholarship. However, times have changed and colleges these days seem more fickle and random than ever. One 2006 graduate with all the aforementioned attributes failed to get into her first choice school and was accepted only to second-tier schools with little or no scholarship.
Interestingly though, the demand for higher education is greater than ever and competition is rather fierce. The recent College Night at Prep was a microcosm of the scholastic warfare that parents and students alike partake in across the United States to get entry into the country's most coveted universities.
Nowadays, colleges have become businesses, similar to investment banks, selling securities in intellectual and financial success. Ivy-leagues such as Harvard and Yale have become brand-names, like Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, that pretty much guarantee a sizeable return. With success and fortune in mind, the $45,000/year tuition fee at Harvard may not sound so bad.
However, every investment has some risks and most parents are not willing to take them. That is why, along with rising tuition fees and an ever-growing pool of highly gifted students, smaller colleges and larger scholarships are becoming increasingly more important. Consequently, many students at Prep are becoming more interested in smaller, less selective colleges that, although are obscure and unknown, are willing to give out scholarships of considerable value.
The highly-regarded, smaller schools like SUNY New Paltz and Villanova University dominated most of the tables on College Night. There were only two or three Ivy-Leagues at College Night and the representatives for them were rather indifferent. However so were the students; mostly over-zealous parents crowded the Ivy-League tables in futile hopes of getting their child entry with mere ingratiation or unnecessary inquiries that try too hard to sound intelligent.
Rutgers was a very popular table, along with the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The most popular table at College Night, however, was that of the US Army. Besides the fact that they were giving away free things like sunglasses and Frisbees, the US Army provided Prep students with a much-needed alternative to college.
Although serious consideration in becoming an Army recruit is minimal at Prep, there was one senior who expressed an absolute determination in joining the Army. ?It would give me the chance to travel the world? he said when asked why he wanted to join. When he was asked if he had any plans for college, he simply gave a silent smirk.
It would not be shocking to find a handful of students at Prep who have an utter lack of interest for college, but make plans for it on the insistence of family and friends. ?Sometimes I wish I could just win the lottery and forget this [crap]? one senior said as she walked into the damp, crowded lunchroom, her mother trying to push through to the Columbia table.
While there are some at Prep who disgust the idea of having to go to college, most find it a means to independence and to the fulfillment of one?s dreams. When asked why he wanted to go to college, Tim Moore, a senior at Prep, answered that ?college will force me to learn about myself. I think that while we're growing up we tend to adopt the viewpoints and ideals held by those around us. I want to learn how to think and live on my own and going to college seems the right way to go.? He "wants to be completely independent.?
Another senior, Rebecca Tuccillo, wants to major in English at St. John?s University. She wants to become an English professor because she was inspired by ?some really awesome English teachers" who made her see how much of an art writing is.? She also said that ?college will lead to a more fulfilled life because I feel that the more we know and the more we are educated, the more productive our lives will be.?
Although students wear the same uniform at Prep, they all have different plans and reasons for going to college. Some are after the Ivy-Leagues, while others would prefer to go to a community college. Some seek fame and fortune, whereas some are just after independence. Some wish to forgo college altogether and join the Army or travel, while most couldn?t think of anything of the sort.
In any case, one?s experience at college should and will outweigh the name of it or how much one paid or didn?t pay to get there. In the end, what?s in a name? That which we call a college by any other word would feel just the same.