We are all aware that Stuyvesant students have a reputation for being elitist, a quality that stems from our diligence, intelligence, and fierce competitiveness. And although this sense of superiority may be well deserved, and even motivational, it is also extremely dangerous. Not only does it create an atmosphere of negativity among Stuyvesant students, but it also heavily influences significant decisions. One of the most important choices we must make is where we plan on going to college, and being immersed in such an environment makes it difficult to see clearly.
I am always hesitant to give a reply when asked, “Where are you applying?” Afraid to be considered unintelligent, lazy, and undetermined, I often answer with “I’m not sure yet.” But to be honest, the Macaulay Honors program at Hunter College is where I see myself. The benefits that it offers are unfathomable: free tuition, first choice in all honors classes, countless internship opportunities, a free Macintosh computer, and $7,500 for travel abroad. But when I say that this is a top choice, I am often met with a silence. “Why would you go to a CUNY after Stuyvesant?” my friend asked perplexedly. Her question stung, forcing me to reconsider an option I was once so sure about.
“I want to major in pharmacy at St. Johns,” a classmate told me. “But, I don’t understand why everyone bashes it,” she asked after seeing a group of girls discussing it on Facebook. “Who from Stuy would ever go here?” they asked each other mockingly online. And with 5 AP classes, a 96 average, and a strong involvement in extracurricular activities, this student would.
These elitist sentiments, spreading like a wildfire amongst students, only breed ignorance, making it difficult to remain objective and thoughtful in the application process. What we all need to realize is that just because a school isn’t ranked, frequently applied to from Stuyvesant, or because it isn’t tier 1 or tier 2, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable option. A big name and the connections associated with it are great, but there are so many other factors worth considering.
Since we are in the midst of a struggling economy, it is very important to keep cost in mind, corresponding with a student’s prospective profession. If you are planning on becoming a doctor or a lawyer, is it really worth it to spend $200,000 for college, when medical and law schools are so expensive? And currently, going to graduate school and earning a Master’s degree, a PhD, or an MBA makes you far more profitable as a potential employee. But with the expenses of graduate school, does it make sense to enter it with hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans that may take a lifetime to pay off?
With schools like Cooper Union, or Sophie Davis and other BA/MD programs (which offer automatic acceptance into medical school after college, for free), honors programs in various state schools (University of Maryland, University of Massachusetts Amherst, etc.), the Macaulay Honors program, and even well-funded SUNYs, we are given the opportunity to enjoy an excellent and prestigious education at a minimal price. They give us an opportunity to be recognized for our intelligence, and are competitive enough to be viewed in high regard by top-ranked, graduate schools.
The concept of “fit” that our guidance and college counselors are so often discussing is another major factor to finding the right school. Though we all want to be challenged, I, for one, am not sure if an atmosphere of cut-throat competitiveness will help me excel. For students such as me, maybe a more balanced school, in which they will able to shine and stand out, is the right choice. Or maybe there is a program within a school that you absolutely fall in love with that isn’t as popular among Stuyvesant students. By no means should that fact affect your decision. By no means can we allow the elitist views to become influential enough to affect such important and personal choices. Too many of us are EDing to high-ranked schools simply because they are our ticket to the top, all the while disregarding where we may be happiest.
Of course it is difficult to handle this process impartially. I still feel a great sense of pride when I am asked what high school I attend. I crave the reaction, the automatic assumption that I am intelligent. But college is the precedent for the rest of our life, and if it is spent in an intolerable condition, with regret and worries about tuition, it will be very difficult for it to be successful. We are far too mature and profound to let something as superficial as names and mere labels cloud our judgment.