This year, the Piedmont Highlander seniors decided not to publish traditional matriculations, a list of students and the colleges they will attend next year. We would like to take this opportunity to explain why.
As we sat in class and discussed whether or not to run matriculations, we kept coming back to the question: why do people read matriculations? We know that seniors seek closure in knowing where their classmates are headed, younger students use this list to contact alumni at college that they are interested in attending. Teachers and staff want to see where their students are going. Parents of seniors are often interested to know where their child’s friends are going. The list of matriculations measures us as a class, as a school, and also as individuals; and the community likes to look at and analyze the results.
However, this competitive and detached attitude led us to consider the drawbacks of running matriculations.
In Piedmont, an especially affluent and highly educated town, a college’s name carries a weight that encourages a high-pressure environment. Matriculations perpetuate the assumption that every student must pursue a college education, which is increasingly not the case.
For the past three years, as more students have chosen to diverge from the traditional four-year college path, TPH has chosen to diverge from the traditional list of matriculations. For example, last year’s editors asked the graduating class for a five-word description of their plans after graduation and made participation optional. However, we still felt that this created an unspoken pressure to declare the name of your college, and that to say something other than the name of a school would draw unwarranted attention.
The national college cheating scandal exposed the unhealthy value our society places on the brand and reputation of a school.
We acknowledge that many seniors will attend highly ranked schools, and that they worked hard to get admitted and will continue to work hard while they attend. The reputation of these schools is based on the high quality of education that they provide, and we do not intend to minimize the value of that education. Taking this into account we believe that the fields we will pursue and geographic areas we will reside in are more valuable than the name of the school.
In the end, we asked each graduating student to share where they would be next year and their field of study.View: The Class of 2019 | Where are they going and what are they doing?
We feel that this allows all students the freedom and power to drive their own conversation about their plans after high school openly, without judgement, while still providing content that the community would be interested to know.
To clarify, in the decision of running matriculations, we recognize that there is no correct choice, and each graduate should be proud of the hard work they put in to get to their next step. We chose what felt right for our grade this year and hope that the variety, both in location and interest, is inspiring to our student body and our community. We want this to be the start of a shift in the way we talk about college. Rather than talking about the college we are going to, let’s talk about what we are going to do when we get there.
TPH is not alone in its quest to take some of the hot air out of the high stakes college admissions race.
Recently Palo Alto High School made national headlines taking the same tack to fight “Toxic, Comparison-Driven Culture.” See the following related pieces in the LATimes (College admissions prestige and pressure at Palo Alto High School) and Inside HigherEd’s “Student Newspaper Takes a Stand Against Elitism and Boasting”