Under Pressure: The College Crisis


Julia Norkus, Features Writer

A few weeks prior to the beginning of my senior year of high school, I began the
Common Application: the dreaded document that might make or break the trajectory of mine, or
anyone else’s, life.

Being 17 at the time, to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement.
There was fear, stress, and all of the other lovely little things that came along with making a
decision that would potentially affect the rest of my life.

Deciding upon community college as my first step was the best decision I could have
made, taking some pressure off of deciding where I wanted to go right away and giving me time
to acknowledge the things I was passionate about. However, now that I am in my final semester
at OCC, I feel the same stress beginning to rear its ugly head as I embark upon my transfer
journey. Such stress led me to question my major, my future career, if going away to study was
the right path for me, and it made me ask the question: is this type of plan and this pressure
necessary for students?

New information regarding alternative routes for students prove that going straight from
high school to a four-year college is not necessarily beneficial or right for everyone. Gap years
and attending community college have their own benefits to students, and remove some pressure
and fear from the college decision process.

Global Citizen’s article “Why Take a Gap Year?” provides information regarding the
benefits of taking a break between high school and college, and acknowledges that taking a break
might be what some of us need before we embark on a brand new journey. The article mentions
that it can be a great opportunity to take extra time to prepare for college, giving you additional
time to build a resume, gain life experience, and recognize one’s passions before committing to a
school and a major.

In addition to the option of taking a gap year, students can also attend community college
to make the transition a little bit smoother from high school to college life. Travis Mitchel and
Emma Kerr, from U.S. News, compiled a list of the benefits of attending community college.
Not only does it save money for students attending, but it provides the university experience
without being too far from home. Students can also experience smaller class sizes, which allows
for a more personalized experience and an easier transition to a full-time college or university.

After taking into consideration my mental health after taking numerous Advanced
Placement classes in high school, taking community college classes over the summer, and taking
a full course load during the fall semester, I almost felt like going right to a four-year institution
was not at all what I wanted. However, after taking a step back and realizing that while I was
making the most of community college, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to have
everything perfectly together the first time. This is an entirely unrealistic expectation, and one
that society has pushed upon juniors and seniors in high school for years.

It’s important to acknowledge the many other options that we do have, and that there is no one-size-fits-all plan
for education. Not every plan will work for everyone, but finding the right one is the first step in
acknowledging what makes us happiest in this lifetime.