College choices consuming

BRISTOL, Connecticut, USA — What school do you want to go to?

It sounds like an innocent question, right?

But when you’re a confused high school junior, the question takes on a whole new meaning.


When you’re a freshman and sophomore in high school, it doesn’t seem real.

You might start thinking about it, but, hey, it’s still a few years away.

Then comes junior year. You’re finally an upperclassman. The year is full of promise.

Then it begins.

On a day in the middle of October, you participate in the junior ritual of the PSATs.

On the exam, there is one question, one of many, that changes your view of college permanently: “Would you like your name to be entered into the Student Search Service in order to receive information from colleges?”

Sure, you think. You like to receive mail. What could it hurt?

Who knows, maybe you’ll even hear from Yale or Harvard: “Dear Casey, We are so impressed by your academic record that we want to offer you a full scholarship. Please, please come to us.”

Yeah, right.

If you’re waiting for a letter like that, you can keep waiting.

You will receive letters and letters and letters and, yes, even more letters.

Your name is put onto some list and shipped off to tons of colleges and universities, many of which you’ve never even heard of.

Still, you might by think, that’s not so bad.

And it wouldn’t be — if the letters weren’t so fake.

Some of the colleges try to deceive you by using your name.

“Dear Casey,” sounds promising, at least they know who you are and they’re so much more personal than those letters you receive addressed to “Student.”

“In the coming months, many colleges and universities will clamor for your attention.”

That’s an understatement.

“We want you to consider us because we are the perfect school for you.”

OK, why not?

“But since you’re one of America’s best and brightest, you should know this already, right?”

Wait a minute!

How does a form letter, sent to millions of students, know that you’re one of America’s best and brightest?

Just because you scored well on one test, schools clamor for your attention.

That one test is no measure of the type of person you are.

All that shows is a number, and from this one number, you are swept into the category of “best and brightest.”

And what if you didn’t score well on this one test?

Then you’re put in a different category — in other words, not one of the best.

Then there’s the deception.

The same school that six months ago sent you a letter proclaiming how perfect you were could now possibly send you a rejection letter saying, “We regret to inform you….”

You want to stop reading.

“But your application to ‘we’re perfect for you university’ has been denied.”


So the next time you ask a high school student, “What school do you want to go to?” and they run screaming from the room, remember one thing.

The normally intelligent person you’re talking to could be slowly suffocating under a mountain of mail that grows larger every day with no end in sight, full of false promises and confusing assumptions.

And you wonder why high school students act so strange.

Casey DiBella is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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