Why there is no college map.

You may have noticed the lack of a colorful, two-page map filled with the future plans of the graduating class in this June issue of the Tower…

graphic by <span class="credit credit- "><a href="/credit/"Caroline/" title="View all of this person's work">"Caroline</a></span>

graphic by Caroline Tan

As seen in the results of the recent Stanford survey, as well as in national trends, high school students today feel more pressured and stressed than ever before. And in our competitive high school, this academic focus has morphed into a tunnel-vision focus with elite colleges at the end. In fact, the Stanford Challenge Success program responsible for the survey specifically recommends schools refrain from publishing college acceptance lists in order to foster a stronger “climate of care.”

With the typical student juggling multiple APs, daily sports practices, and abundant extracurriculars, there’s no wonder that 81 percent of students reported feeling often or always stressed by school. Especially in our little bubble of Princeton, particular emphasis is placed on “measures” of self worth, like college admissions, GPA, and number of leadership positions. None of that is worth only  6.37 hours of sleep per night, almost three hours less than recommended amounts. And, as members of the PHS community, it is certainly our responsibility to both caution and assist the PHS student in this journey.

We don’t want the complexity of the high school experience to be flattened onto a 28” x 24” spread, or reduced to a singular line.

The tradition of the college spread, while not the sole reason, certainly contributes to the overly college-centric culture that exists at PHS. It can be exciting to see where everyone is going, but that comes at the cost of perpetuating the idea that “future plans” can only mean college, or that somehow, where you go to college is the most important aspect of your future. That narrative is unhealthy, dangerous, and wrong.

Increased awareness of mental health here at PHS, whether through forums spearheaded by local youth committees, discussion of the Stanford survey results, or schedule changes by the Bell Committee, made it clear to us that this kind of spread would just aggravate the issue, and would be hypocritical for us to publish in light of indisputably telling statistics and our personal hope for student wellness.

Instead, we have a new spread, celebrating milestones unique to PHS with reflections and short stories from a few graduating seniors. We hope that this is something that the whole school will enjoy reading and will allow the seniors to reflect on their high school experience and to provide them with closure before they leave. We’d like to end on a sentimental note that, hopefully, many can connect with. Wherever our seniors go, we hope that they are happy, healthy, and successful.


3 Responses

  1. Christa Persico says:

    Awesome decision! There are many paths in this world. Assuming that college is the only one, limits everyone.

  2. Grateful Mom says:

    Brilliant and courageous! An excellent investigative piece for next year would be getting reliable data on how many PHS students actually stay in the school they selected. It might be fun, and slightly controversial, to compare the maps from the last few years to a new map that captures where our recent PHS alumni actually are or from where they graduated. This kind of information could serve future PHS seniors by showing them how much people change after they graduate. It also might show them how common it is for students to transfer and/or to leave the institution they chose at the age of 17 to pursue another interest elsewhere.

  3. Jon cook says:

    Be idealistic, the world will not change. About 25% of the graduating class want to go to a top 10 school. The global race for these seats will not change. You can decide to not publish the map, but the competition will not change.

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