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College Bound

kross825's picture

I have the type of parents that started a college fund as soon as I was born; the parents who sent me to the "alternative learning" kindergarten to ensure I started at the top of my class; the parents who had me learn SAT words while eating cereal at age 6; the parents who were convinced I should be in a special, after-school math program; and the parents who, now, would rather I leave school and become a farmer. 


It wasn't until my junior year of high school that my parents realized they had been puppets for the past 19 years. Puppets controlled by the very institutions that "prepared them for life." They had fallen into the trap of paying endless amounts of money to ensure that I received the best education. It wasn't my personal success they were interested in (I don't think my parents have ever actually checked my grades or questioned the completion of my homework); instead, it was how my success was percieved by others. Did my teachers think I was a good student? Did colleges want me? 


There is no doubt that my parents were proud of me, but by the time I graduated high school something had changed. They had given up on the higher education world and were beginning to realize what was more important. My mom stressed the importance of learning to drive a tractor or understand organic farming. My dad checked in on my community service work and how happy the direction of my life made me. Instead of bragging about my grades, or the colleges I was applying too, my parents spoke highly of the friends that I had or the great relationship I had with my family. 


What sparked this change? My brother's experience at Yale. He came home the first Christmas and was completely obsessed with his success, future, and grades. Every conversation turned towards what the future would bring and what he should do with his elite education to make it most beneficial. As a liberal arts college turned flower farmer, my mom was not pleased. Rather than growing as a person and better understanding the world around him, college had turned my brother into one, of many, parts of a machine. He had to know exactly where he fit and how. 


I let the phrase "college bound" define my precollege life. I woke up early on Sunday mornings and drove an hour to learn how to get a good score on the ACT. While I am extremely happy with my life at Haverford, I can't help but wonder how my identity would be different if college had not been a topic of conversation in my house hold. This is the best time in my life to go out and make change. I have essentially no commitments and no one relies on me. Instead of exploring my freedom and helping others, I am following the exact path set out by an institution that luckily thought I was good enough to be accepted.


Where would we be if socety didn't place so much pressure on higher education?