“The one”

When picking a college, they say you should have a moment where you just instinctually know that the college you chose is the one. I never had that moment. My college decision came with a lot of conflict, and a moment where I also completely changed my mind and switched schools. I was torn – I loved Elon, but it was too far away. After an overnight stay with a friend on campus, I decided on James Madison University, but a part of me just picked so that the decision would be over and out of my hair forever. I love James Madison, but I never had that “moment” with it. Until today.

Everyone always brags about their campus being the prettiest or their academics being the best, but no one has ever really bragged about the people being the nicest people they’ve ever met. I can say without a doubt, that JMU has the kindest, nicest people that I have ever met and might possibly ever meet. During orientation, everyone was more than friendly, and even afterwards, my orientation guide emailed me back and forth for a while about concerns I had, and just things he thought I would like to know. I really started to warm up to the place after orientation; then today happened. I was just sitting at home on the computer, trying to find my textbooks online on the JMU Facebook book trade page. Finally, I came upon someone who was selling the one book that I needed. I messaged her, and she got back to me right away. She was so helpful, even when I told her I was a freshman. She was really nice about everything, and made me feel welcome. I have been scared for months now about how I would be welcomed as a freshman. I couldn’t stand to be looked down upon for a whole year just because I was 18 instead of 19. We talked about the book for a while, and then she randomly asked if I had any questions. I told her no, but she continued with, “Don’t hesitate to ask if you think of any :)”. And that was when I had my moment. I can brag to all my friends that I am going to college where a million things are great about it, but the one thing that stands out is the only thing that will really matter – the people.

The Problem I Have With College

Now, that seems kind of silly. A seventeen year-old girl having an issue with volumes of freedom and independence? Definitely not – that aspect of college life fascinates me. The issue I have, and have had, concerns the two years leading up to college. Us high-schoolers practically sell our souls over college resumes, clubs, grades, and SAT scores. Service organizations become meaningless and self-centered, grades become repetitive, and learning becomes a chore. The National Honors Society was created to HELP PEOPLE, not to get you into college. One bad grade on a quiz will hardly even affect our grades, yet we stay up all night just to make sure we know everything. Honestly, I am not any better than the rest of my peers. I have joined clubs solely on the basis of wanting to beef up my resume, and I have definitely found the answers to my calculus homework on the internet a time or two (sorry Mr. Mathew!). The hyper-competitive nature of applying to college is slowing turning high-schoolers in to egocentric animals that have learned to memorize, not learn.

My biggest issue stems from the self-centered aspect of the whole process. We need to know the most impressive aspects of ourselves, just to keep up with the rest of the group. I went to a college interview, and they interviewer asked the most worthless questions. I prepared for questions like “What do you hope to contribute to society?” or “What do you hope to earn in college?”. Instead, I was asked(in rapid-fire succession) what my GPA was, what AP classes I have taken, what my SAT scores were, and what my SAT Subject Test scores were. Now that I am applied and admitted into college, none of those things even matter! I think this all stems off of the one-size-fits-all mentality that is shoved down our throats during high school. Between standardized tests and the ever-increasing demand to be a 100% success, the need to be unique has never been so high. We are told by our guidance counselors that we must take the most rigorous schedule in order to get into our top schools – and all for what? Just so we can graduate after another four years and move on to graduate school? 

My point is not to rant and complain, but rather to remind everyone – high-schooler or not –  that the real purpose of joining a service organization is to SERVE OTHERS, not yourself. The real reason to go to college is to LEARN, not to fulfill someone else’s dream for you. The reason we get up and go to work every morning is not because we have to, but because we want to make a difference in the world. If we want to change society, we need to start with the children and the school system. School should bring out the unique qualities in a person, while giving them education that they can use for the rest of their lives. I remind you today to help others, and maybe someone will help you. Happy April 9th 🙂