Down the hall: All options lead to same scary plunge

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2007

By JALEY CRANFORD / Guest Columnist

In preparation for the rest of our lives, seniors must decide where they are going to go after graduation. For many, choosing a college can prove to be one of the most difficult tasks of the school year.

Choosing a path for the rest of your life can seem a bit scary. I know that for me, the idea that what I decide now will have a dramatic pull over what I do later in life is very intimidating.

But it stands true. Where a high school senior applies and then goes to college affects the rest of his or her life.

For many, scholarships decide tomorrow. The attraction of an education free from financial concerns is undeniable. It would be difficult to turn down a full ride to a smaller college just because one has one’s heart set on a major university.

All of the work seniors have put into their academic and athletic careers leads them to today, the time when all their efforts will be rewarded. It seems to me that all of the years that have come before have only been preparation for this time. All the time spent in school – the studies, the tests, the friendships, the tragedies great and small – are now just a preliminary for the ultimate test.

For others, family plays an important role in the choice of a college. In my case, my grandfather and mother are graduates of the University of Alabama. They have instilled in me a drive to follow their footsteps and go to college in Tuscaloosa. How much of my desire to go to Alabama is because it was all I heard about as a young child? I don’t know how appealing another university might be if I had heard as many stories about it as I have about the University of Alabama.

But family also decides how hard students work and what grades they bring home. At my house, my mother always demanded my best. I wonder how I would have reacted if she had cared less about my education. For most students, family instills the drive and determination that it requires to be able to have options by decision-making time.

Some students find the pressure of life at a large university intimidating and choose the more laidback smaller institution. The notion of being “a big fish in a small pond” has its appeal. Places like that are less competitive and more likely to offer scholarships to students.

Other students choose a college close to home. They can opt to live at home or venture out, safe in a familiar environment. Some students may discover too many distractions away from home and find themselves back where they started in a semester or two.

So here we stand on the precipice, poised to take a leap. The choice you make is life-altering. I have come to the conclusion that after weighing all your options carefully, there is nothing left to do but hold your breath and jump.

Jaley Cranford is a 12th-grade student at Pelham High School