Online Managing Editor Sophie Stephens ‘19 addresses the issue of owing people an explanation during the college process.
Article originally published on wsspaper.com on February 5, 2019. Read the original article here.
Everything you do in high school has the chance of being noticed, questioned and even judged. No, West High isn’t an institution that breeds “mean girls,” popularity contests or anything else that may come straight out of a teen movie.
However, in high school it isn’t uncommon for your decisions to be questioned by your peers.
Everyone wants to know all the details, whether it’s “hot gossip” topics or more serious conversations. For me, I’ve noticed a repetitive and exhaustive trend concerning college, specifically that everyone’s college decisions are being questioned.
At West, there is no possible way that you can prevent people from knowing the juicy details of where you are applying to college or what your major is going to be. It seems that sometimes you can tell one person what your top choice school is, and the next day 20 more people know.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in college discussions. I myself am guilty of lunchtime conversations consisting of, “Did you hear so-and-so is applying to this school?” or “Blank got rejected from that school.” But I came to realize early on that these conversations do nothing but make me feel like I’m sizing up competition that isn’t really there.
It’s incredibly hard to avoid conversations like these. When someone approaches me and asks, “What schools are you applying to?” it’s not like I can walk away or pretend I didn’t hear the question. But I also don’t feel the need to tell somebody about the choices I’m making if it may lead to judgement or questions. It’s not like this information is top-secret, but I’m trying to navigate college decisions just like everybody else; I don’t want to risk facing judgement for my choices when I’ve spent weeks worrying over making sure they are the right decisions for me.
There is an expectation among people my age that we deserve information just because we requested it. We expect people to tell us all of the interesting stories that the person hasn’t yet shared as if we are, for some odd reason, deserving of the information. For the people being asked, it’s hard to dodge the question. Eventually, we succumb to the pressure and willingly hand over the information to eliminate the discomfort that comes with the expectation to answer.
But you do not owe anyone an explanation for your actions.
There is no need to explain your reasoning to apply to in-state colleges to someone who only wants to go out-of-state because your explanation simply won’t make sense to them. The same goes for explaining why you are attending one school when another school that, to someone else, may provide better academic or athletic opportunities.
Someone once told me that everyone is playing their own game in high school.
Not everyone will be working towards the same goal, not everyone will be interested in the same topics and not everybody will approach college applications the same way. There is no reason that you need to explain your game to someone who isn’t even using the same game board as you.
Can we stop assuming that we are privy to information just because we demand it from somebody? Can we also stop feeling obligated to give an explanation that we don’t want to give?
You do not owe people an explanation for something that does not affect them. We need to stop pressuring people into handing over information they don’t want to share.
Don’t doubt your ability to make the best choice for yourself. Don’t doubt your decisions just because they aren’t the same as your best friends. Don’t let people who feel like they deserve an explanation make you question your choices. As long as what you are doing is being done for your own well-being, you don’t need to explain your actions to anyone else looking at the situation from the outside.