Keeping Calm About College

By: Cynthia Fang ’14

It seems that at Groton, the students are constantly told that college is not that important, especially not the name. Especially after the student body questioned why Kara Miller did not enjoy Yale, Groton seems to have exploded with controversy towards this matter.

Faculty, older students, even peers – at Groton, students are always being told to calm down and not to worry about college.

The students get it – we really do. Don’t worry about college. It doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. Going to a good college doesn’t guarantee you success or happiness. It’s all true and makes perfect sense – why is it that no one seems to accept it, let alone live by it? Most of us are overstressed about college.

With the exception of the few who are already exactly sure of the major choices they would like to make in life, most of us are still bumbling about, trying to figure out what it is that will bring us the best future. The Groton environment contributes a great deal to the way we tend to think. What exactly is that environment?

Groton is a preparatory boarding school, top ranked and selective, that undoubtedly gets quite a few of its students into top colleges. However, all students can agree that Groton is much, much more than just a stepping stone. There are countless experiences and friendships built, destroyed and rebuilt. On the other hand, we all know that there is a solid end result (not the only result, but nevertheless still a very important one) that is printed and mailed (or even emailed in recent times) – college acceptance.

No one can deny that Groton greatly prides itself on its college matriculation and happily displays the statistics. Sending 30 students to Harvard in six years? Who wouldn’t be impressed? Before even sending those primary applications to Groton, a potential student will see the numbers.

In lower school, we’re told to not worry about college, that it’s far away, and to just do what we can and what we want. Then, in fourth form, they continue saying those things, although GPA does start counting. Fifth Form hits faster than anyone expects, even though we all see it coming – the college buzz fills the air, and people start loading up on APs that they don’t want to take, in subjects they don’t actually like, all for the sake of college.

“I think the school sends mixed messages,” says a Fifth Former. “They tell us not to worry about it, but then they throw SAT diagnostics and AP preparation on us while they all keep telling us not to care. In a way, it makes it even worse because we have to hide our preoccupations with college and pretend that we aren’t in a neck to neck competition with every single student in our form.”

We are told over and over that in applying to colleges, we must choose the right place, not just strive for a good name. However, on the other hand, the school doesn’t try to hide its pride in the high amount of Groton students who go on to Ivy League schools. The best of the best at Groton are the ones who get into the big names, and Groton pushes them the whole way through. The culture of Groton – the things that aren’t necessarily reminisced in chapel talks or taught in lectures – tells us that going to an Ivy is, in fact, something that we should strive for.

It’s not just Groton either. It’s the whole United States, the way everyone would look at you differently if you said you attend a prestigious university. The Ivies are hyped up, not without cause, but the idea is trapped in our minds, and simply telling us otherwise will not convince us otherwise.

The issue is extremely tricky, and perhaps making a change would require upturning society. Groton students are not going to stop worrying about college – they may conceal it, but with the ambition and expectations that exist on this campus, the preoccupation will not cease.

Maybe we shouldn’t be told to stop being concerned with college – clearly, it has not and will not work. If anything, it makes us feel like it is wrong to be working hard and striving towards our goals for college.

The relationship between the Groton administration and students concerning college is and probably always will be a tricky one. Students will care, maybe for the wrong reasons, about the wrong things, but they will care. It simply would be nicer if we weren’t constantly told that we shouldn’t.

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