Does the “no college” stigma exist?

In a world of social media and technology, students have the ability to post about their lives on any platform available. At Pascack Hills and surrounding towns, this set obligation to post means updating the public on all major decisions; the peak of these decisions is college commitments, a post mostly done by girls declaring their commitment to a certain school, usually also clad in spirit wear or surrounded by it.

While this spirit towards college commitments is undoubtedly positive and congratulatory, there definitely is an underlying question. If everyone is being congratulated so heavily on purely committing to college, what does that mean for people who don’t choose to go, or take a completely different route instead? Why do the people who take a path to cosmetology school, or trade school, or even no school not receive this congratulatory tone?

There is no argument for the idea that the surrounding area is not heavily focused on the idea that the college path is the only path. This notion is supported by the rise of students enrolling in college after high school and, in fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, “traditional-college enrollment rates in the United States have risen this century, from 13.2 million students enrolled in 2000 to 16.9 million students in 2016; that’s a huge increase.”

Students at Hills acknowledge that the symbol is prominent. PHHS junior Jared Mitovich acknowledged the existence of the stigma at Hills itself: “When I was asked about trade school, I was taken off guard. I’ve never been asked about that before. I went ‘wait, trade school? what?’”

Jared is not the only student feeling this pressure for college. Most juniors at Hills recognize that they are being pointed in the direction for college through their curriculum and the surrounding environment of PHHS and the community.

“From the moment I began high school I was unknowingly placed on a college track,” added Emily Maradiaga, a junior at Hills.

Of course, this heavy college focus is because most students in high schools in the surrounding area do choose to take the college route, so much so that the very small percentage of students who choose not to take the college route are overlooked. However, it is important to note what this college focus is fueled by. Students have found themselves needing to live up to their family’s expectations, or have decided to take a different path than what they truly want to do to make others happy.

Ms. Pfleging, an english teacher at Hills, believes that this stigma perpetuates a toxic idea to students that college is the only route, citing multiple experiences with students who had admitted they felt pressured to attend a specific college or push themselves past their comfort zones to please others.

“Every student in the country is placed on this college track,” spoke junior Simmie Brisman. “We don’t really have an option whether or not we want to be on it, because as soon as you begin high school you already are.”

While the “no college” stigma is NOT perpetrated by Pascack Hills itself, the underlying message from a student’s peers and the community overwhelmingly shows that there is, in fact, a stigma, and it is not positive.

“When someone says they don’t want to go to college and everyone judges them, that goes directly against the values that Hills promotes,” junior Larissa Aquaviva stated. “We all need to recognize that no matter the decision a student makes, it is their decision. No one should be judged for what they choose to do with their future.”