Red and yellow; green and white; orange and blue. After walking through the halls of SHS and tallying the myriad collegiate color pairings, a visitor might never guess our school colors are maroon and white. College apparel is the de facto “jeans and a t-shirt” of the typical SHS student’s wardrobe — nothing short of an essential. But following decision day, a garden-variety college logo can become loaded with dynamite. Customarily, the administration has issued an email to seniors requesting they refrain from wearing college garb the day after decisions come out. The administration’s goal is to reduce stress for students who were rejected from their favorite schools. We at Maroon examine the ramifications, positive and negative, of this message.
Don’t Sweat the Sweatshirt
For most students who get rejected from their dream college, the experience can be described as nothing other than soul-crushing. After camping outside the mailbox for days on end or setting alarms on your phone for odd hours of the night to check your email (in case Dream University accidentally releases the big news at 4:00 AM instead of 4:00 PM), the proverbial thin envelope might as well be a doomsday announcement, given the wave of sadness it hides behind its flap. Slogging into school the next day only to spot an accepted student donning the shirt of Dream University doesn’t do much to improve the mood of rejected students. Granted, it might not be the most considerate move for accepted students to proudly tote their new scholarly allegiance. But, counterintuitively, the administration should not interfere for risk of strengthening an unhealthy, competitive ethos at Scarsdale High School.
From the moment they enter the building on the first day of freshman year to the time of their graduation, SHS students confront a chorus of voices trilling platitudes about the stresses of college admissions. Indeed, it sometimes feels like Scarsdale’s community dialogue is a 24-hour news cycle of college admissions coverage. We can’t look anywhere without encountering the topic: newspapers, both local and national; television shows; dinner conversations. Yet the hype creates the substance, at least in part. There is a particular image of the typical Scarsdale High School student in wide currency amongst community members: frazzled, tired, stressed. But just as we say we’re “tired” when we’re not to fill lapses in conversation, we talk about college stress because it’s there to talk about. College chit-chat is an easy target, even if the colleges themselves aren’t. All this buzz, from students, faculty, parents, and media alike, makes the college application process larger than life. Most SHS students feel at one point or another as if they’re being chased by a rabid admissions brochure foaming at its cardstock flaps. We need to shut the mailbox and stop the massacre.
The administration’s treatment of the logos on shirts as trophy figures only serves to corroborate these unhealthy conceptions of the college competition amongst members of Scarsdale’s community. Creating rules for a competition that is, at least in part, artificial, only serves to validate its existence. Instead of nurturing this unhealthy learning environment, the administration should take a back seat and let the dialogue fizzle out, both in this case and in others. Perhaps one day, when school officials stop supporting policies that perpetuate admissions stress, students will be able to see the college process for what it is: merit and luck, in near equal ratio. Seeing a college shirt after acceptance day would be much easier if the SHS community didn’t make such a huge production of the college admissions process.
But for now, we need to learn to handle the disappointment. If Scarsdale High School is a pressure cooker, then the world is a pressure cooker with keen teeth and fire-breathing abilities. When we graduate from SHS, nobody will be there to protect us from real-world pressures. Yes, seeing someone wearing a shirt emblazoned with the logo for the college of your dreams may be difficult. But at the end of the day, there’s only one slot for the job, 25 men on the roster, and, of course, a certain number of students a college can feasibly accept. We might as well learn to cope with rejection now, when the decision is much less personal than it might be in the future. If we don’t learn to avoid internalizing the judgments of a committee of 5 people we’ve never met, then we risk never learning how to handle tougher situations. If anything needs to be modified, it’s the system that makes the shirts such contentious items in the first place. We need not dilute rejection, but must change the very terms on which it operates. Don’t we deserve a more substantial solution to the situation than coddling?
Stick to the Status Quo
It’s true that life is unfair, and the reality of the college process is that not everyone will get into their dream school. However, using the “life is cruel” mantra as an excuse to be insensitive to other people’s feelings is just wrong. While you can’t control the outcome of your application or anyone else’s, you control your reaction. Getting into college does not mean you were delegated the job of enforcing the potential disappointments of the college system. Yes, rejected students will be upset anyway, but it is neither your responsibility nor your right to make them feel any worse by wearing your college apparel immediately after being accepted. By not wearing your sweatshirt (or otherwise shamelessly promoting your new home for the next four years) you can practice quiet modesty without people mistaking your happiness for heartlessness.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t celebrate your college acceptance. On the contrary, you deserve to be very proud of all the work you’ve done to get into the school in question. But, if the way you celebrate is to wear a sweatshirt or put an enthusiastic post on Facebook then you’re basing your happiness on the validation of other people. If you’re going to celebrate your acceptance, do something that actually makes you happy. Go out to dinner with friends, watch a funny movie, or eat a bowl of ice cream. Just take some time to relax after three years of hard work that have led to this moment. You’re only doing a disservice to your own accomplishments by reducing the past 3 years of diligence, perseverance and effort to a $30 hoodie, a post on facebook, or the opinions of others. Furthermore, college is a time for independence, learning and growth. So if you are accepted you should be looking forward to all the new and exciting things that await you in the next four years. If you derive all your happiness from the 300 likes on your “Accepted!!!” status on Facebook or the reaction of your classmates when they see your new collegiate wardrobe staples, then you need to reexamine your educational priorities.
Ideally, SHS students should understand that rubbing your acceptance in other students’ faces is wrong. However, since this is an issue in our school, the administration is right to officially remind students of the ramifications of wearing college sweatshirts in the days and even weeks following the release of college decisions. Because ultimately, this issue is not solely about the inequities of the college system or the hyper-competitive environment at SHS. It is about being a decent person and respecting the stresses and trepidations of your classmates as we all look towards the future. And until we can realize that, then it is the school’s right and responsibility to step in.