As I sit behind the help desk at my universities’ Communication and Technology Center, typing in short spurts while simultaneously answering any and all concerns of those who use the lab’s services, I observe. At my job, I help anyone who uses our facility with questions and problems that concern desktop support, web and computer applications, printing, scanning, yaddah yaddah yaddah… even professors, who often hold class in our two classrooms located within the lab, come to us with technical support concerns, whether it’s a projector that’s not working or a computer that’s not playing sound out of the correct device.
My point here is that I talk to a lot of different people every day; some of them are young, some are old. Some are students, some are professors. Some are girls, some boys, and some neither or both, or somewhere in between. In college, you come to realize that there aren’t any more social hierarchies like there where in secondary or high school. You aren’t necessarily the top of the food chain when you’re a senior, or the bottom of it when you’re a freshmen. In fact, sometimes the class statuses get blurred; you can graduate college in three years, or you can do it in six. You can be a senior at 20, or a freshman at 35.
I made the choice to go to a four-year accredited university the semester following my high school graduation. I was one of the youngest in my graduating class at seventeen when I walked on stage to receive my high school diploma, and one of the youngest students at my college the following fall. From a young age, I knew that in my family, college wasn’t an option; it was a requirement. A necessity. A well-known, “you can study what you want, but you have to go, no questions asked” unavoidable rule. And I didn’t try to avoid it– in fact, I looked forward to it. My parents looked at and spoke of college as one of the best things that had ever happened to them. My mom and dad left their home country of Brazil to further their education. My dad, after receiving a bachelors degree in electrical engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and working for a few years in the industry, earned a scholarship for his graduate studies at Texas Tech University. He and my mother married, and not a week later they packed up two suitcases of their belongings and traveled to a country of which they knew nothing of and nobody from. My mother, the absolute bad-ass that she is, decided to pursue her Masters in Business Administration just because she had the time and the opportunity to study alongside her new husband.
The pursuit of knowledge is in my blood. But now, at 21 and four years into my duel degree program at the University of Houston, I’ve come to a difficult realization; I wasn’t ready for college at 18.
According to a survey analysed in detail on edsource.org, “Fewer than half of high school students across the country feel they’re ready for college and careers, even though these remain top goals for students.” The multi-year College and Career Readiness survey of 165,000 high school students that was conducted and administered by YouthTruth, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, found that 45 percent of students feel positive about their college and career readiness. That leaves a majority 65 percent with doubts about their capabilities in regards to post-secondary studies.
There can be many different reasons for this phenomena; the educational system may be lacking certain programs or support services for students looking to prepare for college. Schools may not be preparing students for the path to further education. But the one factor I want to focus on, as a girl who graduated with a 4.0 from a nationally acclaimed magnet school, is maturity and emotional preparedness. Are we, at the ages of 17 and 18, truly prepared mentally for the culture shock, independence, and demand of self-reliance college requires from us?
If you take a moment to look at the science, our frontal lobes aren’t even fully developed until roughly the age of 25. The university of Rochester’s Medical Center writes that “Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.” That’s not to say that we don’t mature at different paces, but one must consider the hard evidence behind mental development and the pressure we are put under to decide many major life choices seven years before our brains can truly work for us.
This last year, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t ready for college when I graduated high school at seventeen. If I could go back, I would have most definitely have gone to community college (which gets a bad rep all on its own, but that’s a post for a different time) first. I would have spent my first two years taking basic classes at my local community college, spending about 1/4th of what I spent at my university and using my precious free time working on my personal development. But I can’t change the past, so what I ask of you all is that you do not hold yourself to the exceedingly high standards many high schools hold their students to.
If you are a high school senior and you haven’t gotten into your dream school- don’t panic! You can do a few years at your local community college and apply again with a new opportunity to boost your GPA and knock out the core curriculum. Hell, you can even take the time to figure out what it truly is you want to study. Above all else, go to college because that’s what you want to do, not what is wanted of you.