Finding the right fit

Story by Kimberly Hsueh
Senior Staff Writer

Most high-achieving South Pas students have one goal: getting into college, especially a prestigious one. Even in middle school, I was beginning to think about my dream college and planning the steps I would take to achieve that goal. But in high school, I began taking a more critical look at the cracks forming in the pedestal I put college on. 

My college dreams are a manifestation of my mother’s own American Dream. She came to America with little knowledge about English, making her job search extremely difficult. Instead, she worked at my father’s chiropractic clinic part-time while raising my sister and me. She often recounted stories of her education while we worked on homework at the dining room table. Taiwan’s rigorous education system never resonated with her learning style, so she found herself in a constant spiral of confusion and disinterest. She wanted us to take a different path, emphasizing achievements and academic success. 

My mother urged my older sister to find a role in every organization on campus, and soon her resume was filled by ASB, Virtual Business, Tiger, and most SPHS clubs. Finally, the long-awaited dream came true. My sister would be a part of Dartmouth’s Class of 2019. Seeing my sister’s hard work pay off encouraged me to follow in her footsteps. I joined various clubs and participated in competitions, such as Academic Decathlon and SkillsUSA. I faced rejections, success, and uncertainty — was this for myself or for college? 

Many students travel this same path, and often, acceptance into their dream school is where the plan ends. My sister was one of these students. Entering college undecided, her world was flipped upside down. She struggled with her goals, the rigor of academics, and a scattered list of majors. My sister began wondering if Dartmouth was the right school for her. Reflecting on my sister’s journey, I began to question my own desire to attend a prestigious school. Will I truly enjoy the environment of an Ivy League? Or, am I just yearning for the prestige of acceptance into one? 

As a Questbridge scholarship applicant, I have taken these questions into careful consideration. When looking at the list of forty schools, I found familiarity in the Ivies and hesitated to explore smaller liberal arts schools. After weeks of stalling on Questbridge’s homepage, I finally clicked on a smaller schools’ website. In the end, the majority of my college list was made up of schools I recently discovered, schools I could truly see myself thriving in. 

Just like how APs and extracurriculars won’t guarantee college admission, a school’s prestige and name won’t necessarily guarantee easy entrance into a career pathway. So, before developing Ivy League tunnel vision, consider what kind of college experience you actually want to have and seek schools that align with those goals. Afterall, a college should be one that best fits you, not the other way around.

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