more important than college

Recently, a graduate at my high school gained early acceptance into Princeton, Seoul National University, and Cambridge simultaneously. (His regular results haven’t come out yet – I’m sure he’ll get into several more Ivy Leagues with flying colors.)

When he posted on Facebook, “Wow, it sure is easy to get into college,” our whole school was in an uproar (although it turned out later to be a joke post by his friend). “I’d give anything to give you a good kick in the jaw right now,” someone commented. “I’d kill to get into one of those ‘easy’ colleges,” my friends snarled, eyes burning.

With renewed rage, they all reached for a fresh can of caffeine to pull another all-nighter, memorize another page – to do anything, in fact, to strain themselves onto another rung on the ladder of success. Those prestigious, faraway castles in the air called colleges seemed havens of glorious jobs and seas of emerald-green bills – or so we thought.

Now, as a high school student on the threshold of college myself, I have come to disagree.

College undoubtedly offers many benefits: a greater breadth of knowledge, the opportunity to make many compatible companions, and, of course, an intellectually stimulating environment where one is enriched with a plenitude of new experiences.

However, it does not have to be so for everyone. The importance of college has been inflated to far more than it is worth, and in the dog-eat-dog race to get to the “highest” centers of education they can get accepted into, so many, many people have lost sight of more important things – like following their dreams. Like finding happiness. Like love, or memories, or rich experiences, or friendship, or morality, or imagination. It’s really very sad.

I know that as young kids with ambitious dreams and a very limited scope in Korea, it’s only natural (and even commendable) to try hard to get into a good university. But there are far more important things than just the name value of a college.

I hope that even in the midst of the hassle and hustle of a busy senior year, I will never forget that.

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