Clayton’s College Culture


Sometimes, it seems that Clayton has an obsession with college. Juniors, sophomores, and even freshman are thinking about where they want to go to college and rarely do students see other options besides attending elite four-year universities. This “college culture” has its upsides in that Clayton has a high graduation rate and a high rate of students that pursue further education but it oftentimes feels that no other post-high school options are being pushed on students.

Currently, student loan debt is the 2nd highest form of debt in America behind housing mortgage with around 44 million Americans having some form of student debt and the number keeps rising.  Along with the high student debt, around 40%, for students eventually drop out when enrolling for the first time into a four year college which, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, half of those who dropped out said their reason was mainly due to inability to afford the expense. Many students aren’t exposed to vocational or technical education opportunities in high school and when they elect to choose those paths rather than a 4-year university they’re sometimes looked down on and/or discouraged from pursuing those careers and that is something that Clayton needs to change.

Carl Siberski, currently enrolled in the military, oftentimes felt that he was pressured to choose other options.

“They (the college counselors) actually tried to get me to still look at colleges ‘just in case I changed my mind,’ and I felt pressure in Clayton. Everyone there takes the same path and I was not a fan of school so I decided to take a different path. Some people supported my decision but many were confused on why and asked if I considered college. Most don’t understand the benefits and see it as an unknown which is why I think they choose college and pressure others to do the same.”

Carolyn Blair, the Counseling Department Chair, has said that the counselors have pushed their focus more onto post high school planning rather than college. “I think that the issue that we have is more about there’s a single sort of focus on the type of school that most of our students want to attend as opposed to a broad approach to the options its sort of like do this or bust. That includes 4-year schools, 2-year, and tech schools… It’s a different culture here it’s less socially acceptable and the social implications of choosing not to go to an elite college or college at all.”

Clayton’s social pressure to attend an elite college puts an unnecessary amount of stress on students and oftentimes forces students to choose colleges due to name or prestige, that wouldn’t be the best fit. We limit ourselves as a community by emphasizing one post high school option and ostracising those who change differently we need to be better and understand the best option for some isn’t the best for all.