Critiquing the expected, stereotypical college experience

By Ashley Mott

Walking across the stage at graduation is one of the most momentous occasions any high school student can dream of, but the moments that follow directly after have a mixture of emotional tags attached to it.

Excitement, longing, confusion, wariness and sheer terror all come at once in that moment, because the next steps determine the rest of our lives. Whether it means college, technical school, no school at all or the military, we are expected to know exactly what we want to do with the rest of our lives.

The track that most people take after high school is college, and for many, that means getting the full college experience.

Including hangovers during an 8 a.m. Tuesday class, or parties at the closest university with many other add-ons attached to it, that may or may not be legal.

What I don’t understand is why adults encourage this behavior.

They always talk about only being young once and how college students need to broaden their horizons, try new things and make lots of mistakes because apparently this is the time for mistakes. All the while telling the sober us that we as a student body need to know exactly what we want to do.

What degree we want and how we are going to use it are pieces of information that we are expected to have set in stone. When that changes in any way, like when a student changes their major, it’s all about keeping it on the “hush-hush” like it would poison the minds of the other students to know that they have a choice in their future path.

The idea that a college student — who probably just earned the right to vote in their first year — is expected to know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives is preposterous. If we are told to broaden our horizons and explore new things, why is it expected that in order to do that we also need to have our dream job and career path picked out from the moment our senior year of high school starts.

When the first time the question “what do you want to do with your life” is asked, a weight is brought down on the shoulders of the newest generation of high school seniors.

Gap years between high school and college, a year made to explore and try new things to find out what the sheltered walls of high school have kept us from, is frowned upon. Yet getting drunk at 2 a.m. with a person we just met is all apart of the college experience. Since when is that what college is about?

I’ve always thought that college was meant to help you grow as a person and give you a path to getting a better education all while bettering yourself. That, to me, meant making new friends, joining a club, taking an art class or learning a new language. It did not mean  seeing how many beers I could chug in 2 minutes.

College is hard enough with multiple exams and projects all due at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. The pressure that is put on students by teachers, parents and society as a whole is ridiculous.

We are our own biggest critics, yet society seems to make it even harder to breathe in a world that creativity and ideas are already smothered.

Will it ever be enough for society that we, as the next generation, are just trying to figure out what our next step is, not plan our entire lives out? It isn’t the 1950s anymore where you can graduate high school, get a job, have a family at 19 and still be accepted in society.

Now there are hoops and rings we have to jump through. God forbid anyone take a different path, whether it’s the straight and narrow or the wild and crazy, each path is still judged harshly.

When will people see that we as a generation are tired of worrying about offending the people who raised us by not going to college or changing our major? All we want is to be able to express ourselves and find our own way to make our own college experience, no matter what that may mean to us.

Originally Published on The Cauldron.

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