A big hat to fill


“Oh, your hat says Columbia! Is that where you’re going?”

This recurrent phrase reiterates back to me like a broken record. I hear it whenever I don my favorite hat passed down to me by my dad.

   An old, torn Columbia hat, a main staple that can be spotted even in my baby pictures, represents the omnipresent reminder that higher education will no-matter-what be achieved once I receive that high school diploma.

   The pressure to meet the educational expectations of previous family members, all of whom attended prestigious universities, such as Columbia or New York University, portray the thought that I may just become a diamond instead of a normal college student.

   Just two years ago, my older brother, whose natural brilliance had been always a defining characteristic found in many of my family members, was accepted into New York University with several scholarships under his name. His complex and unnecessarily perplexing instructions of which AP classes need to be completed, at what grade, with what recommendation letters, just seems like he is conversing in whole different dialect. SAT scores, AP tests, ACT grading, numerous Honors courses; they all seem to fit into one long mathematical equation that waiting to punch me in the stomach.

   Nevertheless the terror that remains in every high school student. Numerous studies and statistics demonstrate the higher prospects that await college students after graduation. On the contrary, statistics rarely include the often large burden of student debt that can occur when attending an expensive school, or just schools in general.

When debating where to apply come application season, many students do not realize that it’s like buying a brand-name item.

   The name “Gucci” may seem enticing and only fashioned with only the highest quality of materials, but is it really the most well-made? Top-tier schools such as Princeton University, Columbia University, and the University of Pennsylvania all charge high tuition rates per year, not to mention the additional fees of board, food, textbooks, and other required materials to complete your year.

   Moreover, a good portion of that money from the hefty fine goes to the construction of new buildings, student centers, and other amenities that create a resort-like environment, instead of an academia haven that the title “college” is said to be.  According to Collegedata, one full year at the University of Pennsylvania can charge a student upwards of $69, $40 (including extra expenses).

   Depending on the individual’s major and choice of study, it is questionable to even propose that this university’s education is the highest quality. In-state colleges, such as Rowan University, offer much lower tuition rates, along with a better quality education in many fields of study. Students that choose schools within their state many times choose a great school, as well as avoid the deep hole dug into their pockets that can follow many throughout their lives.

  The issue of loans and how much should one take out depends on the major the student decides to complete. As cited by the Bureau of Labor, students who complete their degree and continue on as general practitioners can make upwards to $80,530 per year. Fortunately enough, this career path is also growing at 13% more per year, with room for promotions and bonuses.

   This allows for some leeway in terms of the amount of loans a student may want to take out, however this cannot be said for all. Students whose careers do not have a high initial salary would not want to take out $100,000 in student loans, as interest grows on every dollar. With numerous different agencies, both private and federal, the struggle to find which type best suits your needs can create additional stress on top of the already present knots in their shoulders.

   My path ahead of pursuing medicine is certainly no easy road. Conversations that I was fortunate enough to have with current student of medicine while I was volunteering at the local hospital did not necessarily comfort me. Tales of eighty-hour work weeks for new residents, the hours on top of hours of mind-numbing studying students need to do every night (which made me rethink thinking that AP was horrendous), and loans creeping up on those who chose to ignore them were all described in excruciating detail.

   Needless to say, it may have been a little concerning to hear, conversely, their stories had served their purpose to educate my young brain that there is an intelligent way to approach college, with tenacity and responsibility. The realization that the quality of the university’s program is what matters most, not the brand name shown on flashy merchandise and extensive rock walls that may attract the unknowing.

   No longer am I frozen with terror that if have my dream schools, all with recognizable names, rejected me that my career will be over with my life paused. Success can be found anywhere with the proper education, not only at schools with huge names and the highest tuition rates.

   The frayed embroidery of the Columbia hat does not antagonize me any longer, and I can wear it once again happily with less weight upon my shoulders.