By Austin Moody
Over the past 20 years, the importance of a college education has been becoming a more stressed part of life. Fewer and fewer employers are hiring individuals without college degrees. And as more people begin to perceive this, more people begin to apply to college, which causes increased competition.
“Twenty years ago our statistics for going to college were not as high as they are now,” said Sonia Logan, a guidance counselor at Northwood. “Businesses, communities and companies want their students to have high school diplomas, and they want them to have a post graduate education.”
One reason that more employers are requiring college degrees is that technology is beginning to soak more and more into work environments. Jobs are beginning to require more technological instruction, making education a necessary prerequisite for many American workers.
“[College is] where you are going to get a lot of your technology training,” said DeLisa Cohen, a career management teacher. “They are bringing it into high school, but employers are going to want more than that because technology is helping with the global market; you’re going to have to be able to compete at a technological level.”
As more people apply to college and the competition becomes steeper, students are finding more ways to push themselves ahead of the curve.
“College programs are no longer looking for students to just graduate high school,” said Cohen. “They’re looking for that total student, someone who has done volunteer work, community service and who is involved in their school’s extracurricular activities, clubs, organizations and sports.”
Students nowadays have more pressure from colleges to work harder and longer on their schoolwork than past generations who applied for the same spots years ago. Whereas in 1990 there was an acceptance rate of 38.2 percent at UNC, the acceptance rate dropped to 32 percent by 2010. UNC-Pembroke’s acceptance rate has been dropping even quicker, sliding from 86.4 percent to 75 percent from 2000-2010.
One way students compete for these sought after spots is by loading up on increasingly prevalent honors and AP courses.
“There is so much pressure to get into college and the competition is so high, people are not taking classes they even like, they are just taking the highest class they can to get the highest GPA,” said senior Erick Blake.
According to Logan, when students take classes they aren’t genuinely interested in, they may not contribute to the class, and the classroom’s learning environment may not reach its full potential.
Cheating and plagiarism are also growing indicators of tension in the pursuit of college.
“I think students cheat because they don’t want to fail,” said Logan. “They don’t want to disappoint, they don’t want to get the bad grade, they don’t want their GPA to drop, and it becomes an endless cycle.”
Principal Chris Blice also sees cheating as a means students use to get ahead.
“There are always going to be people who will see increased challenges as more justification to do things the wrong way,” said Blice. “I don’t know that there is really anything you can do about it. I think that we just have to deal with it and go on.”
Some people do see the competition that colleges create for high school students as having advantages, despite these negative aspects. Northwood’s test scores have been improving in almost every area over the past three years, which Blice accredits to both the success of students and teachers, who are meeting the higher academic standards that are being set for college bound students.
“I think our school is really competitive and it makes kids try harder to get better grades,” said senior Ethan Stubbs.
This higher level of education that is expected of modern day students is meant to provide colleges with more prepared and competent learners.
As kids strive to reach this higher level of education, some struggle with maintaining a balance between their academic and social lives.
“Students, they get burned out, then of course their grades drop which causes them to have mental health issues,” said Logan. “They get sad, they get depressed and that brings upon a whole different thing because they are not keeping themselves healthy.”