On November 7th, 2018 Denzel Cuffy, a senior, will turn 18 years old. By that time he will have already completed his 4 years of high school and be well into the next stage of his life. Most might guess he would be attending college like many of his classmates plan to do. Quite frankly, Cuffy does not know himself what he would like to do. “I like lots of different things creative wise; photography, film, fashion… I’m hesitant to pursue those things because of the risk but I’m hesitant to go to college because I don’t like school at all,” says Cuffy.
Surprisingly enough, many students are in a similar situation as Cuffy. Not in regards to hating school, but in not having a very clear sense of direction of where they are headed after high school. Such as upperclassmen Roberto Dacosta, who has been caught in between his practical goal of pursuing a degree in criminal justice and his long list of impractical dreams.
“I’d like to call myself a dreamer, I have lots of things that I’d like to do,” Dacosta says. His list includes becoming a rapper, Youtube, or professional gamer. Dreams do not sell well however as a student’s passion can be written off as a teenage fantasy. Those that mention not receiving further education as soon as they get out of high school, are immediately reprimanded by those around them.
“There is a stigma with not going to college … society pushes on you that if you don’t go to college you’re not going to go anywhere in life,” says Dacosta. What stems from this expectation to go to college is the sometimes overwhelming pressure that can influence a students decision on what they would like to do coming out of high school.
“It’s annoying actually,” Cuffy says, “All of my aunts are doctors, my mom has 3 degrees… they ask about my GPA, extracurricular activites, what I want to go to school for, how I’m going to do it… I didn’t want to tell them about my plans because I was scared they would mock me.”
While some are expected to follow in their family’s footsteps, other students are expected to do the exact opposite and become the only ones to achieve success. “My parents didn’t go to college and both my brothers dropped out of high school… they expect me to be the one to go college and be ‘the greatest.’” says Dacosta.
Students often end up going to college due to all of these external factors not because that is what they would like to do, but because they feel like that is the only option available to them; whether that be to live up to expectations or because it is the only thing that “makes sense”. “Before people thought I WANT to go to college. Now their thinking I HAVE to go to college,” says senior Mark Moreno.
The truth is you do not have to go to college, you simply need to have a plan. “There are a lot of different avenues where you can be successful,” says school counselor Ms. Pernell, “College is not for everyone… you could receive formal training, go straight to work… “
For those who plan on chasing pipe dreams after high school, all it takes is a good work ethic: “You can be an entrepreneur or an innovator without going to college, but it depends on the student,” said Ms. Pernell
While most students will pursue a degree at whatever institution they attend, others have other things in store for the future. According to Moreno, college is not the end all be all; the only path to being successful. “I feel like college and success correlate but they are not synonymous… if you feel like you’re forced to go to college then college isn’t for you.”