College Elitism

By, Ellisya Lindsey

From a young age, we often hear that there are “good” and “bad” colleges. The “good” colleges are the Ivy League schools, Stanford, and the like, while the “bad” colleges are, well, everything else. This perspective towards higher education is known as college elitism, “the belief that only a small group of the very most selective schools are acceptable choices,” according to Ms. Graham, one of Winsor’s college counselors. At Winsor, the general feeling is that the lower the acceptance rate, the better the school. Therefore, it is unsurprising that HYPS (Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford) are the schools to which many students aspire to be admitted, as they are the schools that often have the lowest acceptance rates in the nation. Truthfully, the fact that an acronym for the “good” universities has entered the vernacular of Winsor students shows the prevalence of college elitism in Winsor’s environment. This college elitist mindset has had a negative impact on Winsor’s culture. College elitism affects not only the schools that students consider but also College Sweatshirt Day, which is a recent tradition for the senior class.

For one, college elitism can negatively influence a student’s list of the colleges to which they apply. Ms. Graham “definitely think[s] that ‘college elitism’ gets in the way [of] creating thoughtful and appropriate college lists” because one does not “give the factors that really matter – size, location, culture, academic programs, etc. – much serious thought” and places great emphasis on the name of the school instead. Caroline B. shared, “I feel like a lot of people are forced to consider Ivy Leagues even though they may not be the right fit for them personally.” I think that Winsor students are usually unafraid to be independent in their beliefs, yet college elitism causes many to go with the crowd and choose schools that Winsor’s culture deems acceptable. We should not allow college elitism to affect our college choices as a student should not ignore a school that could be a perfect fit simply because that school is not considered a “good” college by college elitists.

College elitism has also affected College Sweatshirt Day, a day in late April during which many seniors wear apparel from colleges they plan to attend. While College Sweatshirt Day originally celebrated the achievements and accomplishments of the seniors thus far, it has become a day on which many underclassmen feel pressure to pursue those elite schools when seeing where the seniors are going to college. Regarding her College Sweatshirt Day, alumna Priya S. noted, “At Winsor, [College Sweatshirt Day] tends to be viewed by non-seniors as a way of celebrating the achievement of a name brand college. I do think that is a problem because it seems to perpetuate the idea that Winsor is a means to an end — the end being a name brand college… I’m not thrilled about how other people tend to focus on the name of the school.” It is a problem that we as students feel the need to assess the seniors’ college plans to decide if they are “good” or not, and it is even more of a problem that we allow their personal choices to affect us. Instead of concerning ourselves with the choices of others, we should celebrate all that the seniors have done in their time at Winsor.

Now, I am not saying that the Ivy League Schools and Stanford are bad schools that no one should want to attend. I just think people should realize that the term “good” refers to the academics, not necessarily the fit of the school for each individual. As Caroline B. added, “in reality, there’s no college that’s right for everyone.” All in all, we need to remember that there is a difference, which varies from person to person, between “good” and “right” regarding college choices. We can acknowledge that Ivy League schools are “good” colleges without feeling that they are the right schools for all Winsor students. There is nothing wrong with wanting to go to a certain school, such as an Ivy, but there is something wrong with basing college choices on only a college’s name or its acceptance rate. I know that college elitism cannot be escaped easily because it also exists outside of Winsor, too, but Winsor should try to become an environment to escape this mindset where “good” and “right” are synonymous regarding college.