Students should place less weight on the reputation on universities

Samantha Viel, Opinions Editor

From now until the fall, seniors will continuously be asked the dreaded question: “Where are you going to college?”  For some, the answer to this question may be an Ivy League, a state university, a selective institution, or a small liberal arts college.  Regardless of the answer, however, Schreiber seniors shared a strenuous and traumatizing experience not only during the application process, but when deciding where to spend their next four years.

In reaching their decisions, seniors have been trying to determine what school may be “best” for them.  But what is truly “best” for each student?  The truth is, there isn’t a concrete answer; it depends on each individual.  However, in a society that values reputation and materialism, prestige has begun to hold an immense amount of weight in these decisions.  Students have begun to appeal to the idea of committing to the “best” college they get into.  But what factors establish that a university can be classified as a “top” school?  

While online rankings may be amusing to read, they don’t come close to portraying what a university has to offer.  Basing one’s entire perception of a university on the word of one website prevents students from truly understanding the education value of a school.  Additionally, rankings lead students to quickly praise and degrade certain schools without possessing in-depth knowledge of a university.  While a university may be ranked in the 200’s by one website, they may also have one of the most respected options for a specific major.  It truly depends on what a student in seeking in the next four years of their educational journey, including what they aspire to study.  Ultimately, there are so many factors that define a college; students need to stop relying on one ranking from a single website to establish the worth of an entire school.  Each university possesses its own unique characteristics, and it is up to individual students to determine which aspects of a university appeal to them.

Surrounded by a society and high school obsessed with social media and status, how can students not weigh the prestige of a university into account when making their decisions?  For students, mostly females, there is an informal process that occurs after one commits; first, there is a commitment party, followed by eating a customized cake at lunch, and then a decoration of one’s bed with college merchandise.  While these events all seemingly act as celebratory moments, all they accomplish is repeatedly displaying the name of a college on social media.  These moments have lost their true meaning of celebrating an individual’s accomplishments, and have become a gateway to show off the name of the university that a student will be spending their next four years.

This obsession with prestige can be seen on a national level with the massive college admissions cheating scandal, which involved prestigious universities across the country.  This incident only displays the lengths that individuals are willing to go to in order to get their children into a “top” university and exemplifies the weight that both students and parents place on a name of a school.

By allowing the name of a school to act as a factor in college decisions, other, more significant considerations are completely ignored.  When making a decision, one needs to ensure that a school best fits their academic and personal needs.  While thinking about school colors, sports games, and college merchandise is surely fun, these factors don’t play a meaningful role in a student’s future.  However, students have begun to let these less minimal aspects of a school determine their decision and have lost sight of what is truly valuable about a college education.

Not only do students completely ignore certain factors about a school, but they are also often quick to develop generalizations, possibly regarding the “type” of person found at those schools or the overall social scene.  In actuality, though, there are going to be individuals from diverse backgrounds with a diverse range of personalities found at every school, regardless of location or size.  Every student will have his/her own personal experience, separate from what he/she may have heard from others.

“When deciding what college a student wants to attend, a student needs to consider various factors and can’t base their decision on the experiences of others,” said senior Nick Kapoor.

While students encounter this process, they have one thought on their minds: their futures.  But the name of a school doesn’t play a role in this; in reality, it doesn’t matter where a student goes. Rather, what truly matters is what one makes of the opportunities presented to them.  For instance, if a student received an Ivy League degree at the end of their four years, this degree would be worthless if he/she didn’t take advantage of the resources provided to them at a school.  As students endeavor toward reality, opportunities are no longer handed on a silver platter, but need to be sought out and worked for, regardless of where one goes to college.  Ultimately, employers value students who took advantage of their college experience, not the name of the university one attended.

Moreover, social media plays an immense role in placing unnecessary pressure on students and encourages them to value the reputation of a school.  As soon as an individual commits, their friends congratulate them with posts on social media, and the student updates his/her Facebook profile or adds the name of the school into their Instagram bio.  In a matter of seconds, the entire school recognizes who was accepted into a university, and, based on who didn’t receive a post, who wasn’t.  Apparently, rejection isn’t the only aspect students have to deal with; they are also immediately bombarded with pictures of their peers who did happen to get into that university.  Ultimately, this intended form of celebration isn’t worth the emotional distress it places upon students.

Furthermore, when individuals know that the name of their school will be displayed across social media, they are swayed to commit to a popular school.  But the fact that a university possesses a well-known name doesn’t mean that the school is necessarily the right place for a student.  Being a teenager in a society where everyone broadcasts their actions and thoughts, it’s easy for students to fall into the trap of committing to a university based on its name.  However, by being conscious of the fact that the prestige of a university isn’t a sole determinant in the decision process will guide students toward finding a school that truly suits their academic needs.

“People broadcasting what college they go to and stuff on social media adds a lot of pressure on students because you want people to think highly of you academically,” said senior Molly Schiff.

However, this pressure doesn’t solely stem from social media, but from the reactions of those around us.  Students must stop judging their peers, who they have learned and grown from over high school, based on what institutions they got into or are attending.  A name of a school does not define an individual; students need to stop degrading their peers or this endless cycle of unnecessary pressure will only continue.

Schreiber is already competitive enough; students don’t need to go out of their way to place even more pressure on one another.  Just by being more conscious that the name or prestige of a university should not hold weight in a college decision, students can relieve so much pressure from their lives and make the college process more relaxed.  Students already feel enough distress during application season, and don’t need to experience more when arriving at their decision. Deciding where to spend the next four years of one’s life is supposed to be an exhilarating time, not a stressful one.