The Wingspan

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The Wingspan

The Wingspan

Prestigious or practical? The hot debate of college verdicts

Amid college acceptances and rejections being announced, the inevitable conversation of finances arises among family and friends. Whether it be tuition, the rewarding of scholarships, or the seemingly universal sentiment that FAFSA is a pain, seniors everywhere are preparing for the new world of college. 

In Howard County, especially at Centennial, Ivy League schools seem to be on almost every student’s list of applications. So far this year, there have been commitments to Yale, UPenn, and Cornell, and more acceptances to Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia. The prestige isn’t limited to just Ivies, however, with commitments to MIT, Stanford, Washington University, USC, Boston University, Emory, Georgetown, and Northwestern, among others. That being said, Centennial has cultivated a reputation of being a high-achieving, entirely academically-driven school. 

When I was touring colleges, especially out of state, one of the major questions I would ask was what the acceptance rate is. When I asked a representative from North Carolina State, which is one of the top state schools in the country, he told me that the acceptance rate for out-of-state students was 18 percent. He asked where I was from—when I told him I was from Ellicott City, he told me good luck. Even schools like the University of Maryland, a school that’s the standard to apply to in our state, take a limited number of students from Centennial solely because of Centennial’s reputation. 

Most people I know would describe Howard County as an academic bubble. As someone who moved here from Georgia, in a ‘low-achieving’ school system, it’s interesting to compare the goals and values of my old friends to the ones here. In my old school, it was an incredible feat to even graduate from high school, and even more impressive if you got into college. State school was, and is, an amazing feat where I grew up because it wasn’t the norm to go to a high-achieving university.

Here, graduating is the standard. If you don’t graduate high school you tend to be looked down on, which is common throughout the US; however, at CHS, it’s not just graduating. It’s leaving the school with a 4.0 GPA, enrolled in AP classes, and decked out in chords and awards as we walk across the stage. From honor societies to clubs, graduation at Centennial is supposed to show off all of our outstanding achievements. 

With schools like ours, there comes the question of whether or not to go to certain colleges simply based on name recognition alone. There are people I know who have applied to certain institutions solely for the want of an acceptance letter. Some people I’ve seen, not only in person but on social media, have applied to over 20 schools, most of which they have no serious interest in but want to be able to say they were accepted. 

People simply applying for colleges they don’t want to go to doesn’t only have an impact on their wallets, it also affects other people’s honest desires to go to those schools. Many people I know have been put on the waitlist for top schools like NYU and Harvard, who have top grades in advanced classes and 4.0 GPAs, but aren’t accepted because of the sheer amount of people that apply ‘for fun.’ 

It’s frustrating to see how the collegiate system has changed. My dad got into schools like Penn State and University of Maryland, but based on location and his major he chose a different school. The names of the schools didn’t matter—it was entirely based on how he felt on campus. The Ivy Leagues, despite what many say, didn’t hold many opportunities for him, and were so expensive he wouldn’t even consider applying. 

Especially when it comes to financial aid, the majority of students in this school system, and even around the country, weren’t awarded financial aid because of the amount of money their parents make. What seems to be a common problem with FAFSA is that the aid they do or don’t send out doesn’t reflect a student’s entire financial situation. I’ve seen people on social media who have been given federal money, but have bragged about using it for their trips abroad, spring break vacations or for decorations for their dorms. Meanwhile, many students are commenting on their grievances against FAFSA, as they weren’t able to go to their dream colleges because they couldn’t afford it. Regardless of marital status in some cases, FAFSA requires both parents to declare their annual income, even when one parent doesn’t provide any funds to their children. Despite advertising the opposite, there’s an intense imbalance of finances within the collegiate system that brings up those higher on the economic chain and chokes those who aren’t. 

College is such a competition within Centennial. Without a doubt, our school’s track record is incredibly impressive, but the things that matter so much within Centennial’s bubble don’t matter as much after graduation. It’ll be a shock to some Centennial students and a relief for others to finally enter a world where no one asks for your SAT or ACT scores, where AP scores and GPAs are a thing of the past. I’m excited to enter a space where my passions and personality take priority over my academic achievement.  


The opinions stated in this article do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of the Wingspan staff as a whole.

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About the Contributor
Rachel Middleton, Feature Editor