Editorial: Focus on experience, not name

Editorial Staff

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Senior year is coming to a close, and there’s one question on our mind: Where are you going to college?

But the questions that we should be asking are a bit different: What are you going to learn in college, who are you going to meet, and how are you going to ensure that the next four years are some of the most enriching and fulfilling ones of your life?

College is an opportunity to grow intellectually and personally surrounded by capable peers. We can use college as a chance to join a new sport or club, study abroad in a faraway place, or explore new ideas and beliefs.

Yet many students ignore these aspects of a college education. In the minds of some Redwood seniors and many others, getting a diploma is the be-all and end-all of a college experience.

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The most valuable part of college doesn’t come from the name of the school—it comes from the people met, the subjects studied, and the opportunities pursued. To have a successful and enriching college experience, we should stop obsessing about which sweatshirt we will wear, and instead start focusing on making the most of the opportunities that are given to us, regardless of where we end up.

Some students spend their high school years attempting to get into the “best” or most selective college, under the impression that a diploma from a prestigious institution will set them up for a lifetime of success. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

For many students, an alternative path to college is a good choice. Some students just aren’t geared toward a four-year college. So instead of approaching their education halfheartedly, they could attend community college or take a gap year.

And that’s not to say that attending an “elite” school is bad. For some students, an Ivy League education is a great fit. But for others, it’s just not right.

In his book “David and Goliath,” Malcolm Gladwell posits that students shouldn’t always strive for acceptance to prestigious universities. Instead, they should focus on finding a place where they can truly excel. For some, that means matriculating at a smaller, albeit lesser-known, school with more personal attention. For others, it means attending community college to figure out what they want to study.

At Redwood, there exists a culture that can turn the college process into a competition about who can get into the most impressive, selective school. However, at the end of the day, it’s your college experience, and other people’s perceptions shouldn’t matter. Choosing the school that feels best, and taking advantage of every opportunity there, is the best way to attain true success.

About 47 percent of adult Millennials, Americans born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, have received a college degree, according to a White House report. This percentage has increased steadily over the past few decades, and will probably continue to do so. Simply obtaining a degree isn’t enough anymore—to stand out, we must excel in the intangible aspects of education.

Recently, New York Times Op-Ed columnist Frank Bruni made waves with a book entitled, “Where you go is not who you’ll be.” Bruni writes that the best way to fix the fierce competition over college admissions is to stop placing so much importance on getting into an elite college.

It’s absolutely possible to attend a “lesser” school and still be wholly successful, Bruni writes. So we shouldn’t worry if we didn’t get into the college of our dreams (or our parent’s dreams). We’ll have many opportunities to grow, learn, and create the successful life we’ve always envisioned.

So seniors, as you transition out of high school, we hope that you’ll enter the next chapter of your life with a desire to learn something new. Whatever you’re planning for your future, we hope you approach it with curiosity and drive. We know you’ll succeed and we wish you well.