How Chapman is dealing with the realities of college

Elizabeth Franklin, Editor

Times are changing: From fashion to politics, past generations had very different experiences growing up than today’s teenagers. In some ways, life has become easier, but in others, it has become more complicated and much more difficult. One of those changes is college admissions and acceptance. 

While some are taking drastic (and illegal) measures to get into colleges and universities, others are left struggling to find a way to get into or pay for a college education that is becoming more and more necessary to survive in today’s competitive job market. 

“As jobs changed, as careers changed, needing higher education became more and more important to be able to perform those jobs,” said Assistant Principal Amy Driggers. 

College hasn’t always been a common post-high school goal, but college attendance has been gradually increasing for the past few decades. Over the last decade, college attendance has reached record highs. 

According to Susan Burgess, a guidance counselor here at Chapman, when it comes to applications, “the earlier the better.” She says it’s okay to start an application, save it and come back to it later, but don’t forget to come back. 

Getting started with the application process earlier allows students ample time to properly fill out applications and make sure their test scores are high enough to be competitive. 

College is hard work. It’s difficult to get accepted, and it’s even harder to actually succeed in classes. That’s why Burgess says “personal interest” should be the biggest deciding factor when choosing what career path to take: If you choose something you don’t truly enjoy doing, you won’t work hard, and you’ll spend money on classes that you don’t even end up passing. 

Driggers agrees that finding something you love is extremely important:

“You have to really love what you do,” Driggers said. “Your life is long, so you need to make sure that whatever you plan is something that you love to do, because when you come to work every day, you spend many hours doing your job, so as you choose colleges, you need to make sure that the coursework you choose brings you joy and fulfillment.”

According to U.S. News, “Thirty percent of college and university students drop out after their first year. Half never graduate, and college completion rates in the United States have been stalled for more than three decades.” 

There are many reasons for students never making it across the stage at graduation. Some don’t have the financial means to finish, and others have conflicting feelings about their major and many have jobs outside of school that are necessary to support their families. 

Chapman tries to prepare its students for the road after high school. Faculty members are available to talk to students about their college experiences and to help them find a path that will be right for them. 

“I meet with students all the time who just want to talk it out like, ‘I’m kinda like this, but I’m not sure’,” Driggers said. 

Going into college with some idea of what they want to do helps students feel more confident about the classes they’re choosing and whether or not those classes will be beneficial. Entering the next level of education with uncertainty leads students down a stressful and oftentimes unnecessarily expensive path. Some students take classes that end up being useless towards their major, but nevertheless, they have to pay for them. 

Finances can also be a barrier for students. With the price of college tuition rising rapidly, it can oftentimes be a deciding factor. 

Chapman tries to help its students with this in the application process by offering application fee waivers for certain colleges on college application day, which is held every fall and is available for all seniors to take part in. 

With the average student loan debt for 2019 graduates being over $30,000, scholarships are crucial for many students to be able to attend a college or university. 

For junior Colby Garner, the financial aspect of college affects his time in high school “a good amount, because (he) doesn’t want to have to pay a lot of money if (he) doesn’t get a lot of scholarships.”

Garner believes that taking future college prospects into account encourages students to do well and to be purposeful in their approach to coursework. 

However, students also have to balance their sports, jobs and other extracurriculars with their schoolwork, particularly in finding time to finish homework. 

“Knowing how to study and knowing when and how to do your homework (are important in trying to balance extracurriculars and schoolwork),” Garner said. 

Even though students dedicate a large portion of their time to school, many students still share a common fear of not being able to get into the college of their choice; they fear that all their hard work would be in vain.

“My biggest fear about college is that I’m not going to be able to go to the college I want to go to or that I’m not going to be accepted,” Garner said.

However, this fear shouldn’t discourage students from working their hardest to succeed in school. College is a motivating factor for many students, and a healthy amount of stress keeps students from doing badly in school and gives them a purpose to learn. 

“(Grades) give you a purpose to do good in school, to get good grades and do well in class,” Garner said. “If you didn’t have grades to stress about, there wouldn’t be a purpose in going to school.”