How one goes about getting a college education in this country is a polarizing topic.

For generations the normalized timeline when it comes to college has been untouched. It goes Pre-K, elementary, middle school, high school, and then college. It’s routine for the majority, something that no one questions. We just do it because it’s what’s been laid out for us. Even if you aren’t ready to jump into another 4-8 years of school after enduring about 12 years nonstop, putting yourself in debt trying to keep up with the societal order in place so you don’t end up “behind” your peers- it’s stressful, challenging, and for those who dare to go against the norm are often deemed disappointments.

You’re expected to catapult yourself into another whirlwind of stress.

You get back into the world of assignments, unnecessary fees, and an even bigger goal. The weight of this transition shouldn’t be understated. Ultimately, your choice to attend college can decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. There’s no genuine time for a break. Even in your junior and senior years of high school, you’re applying to colleges. You’re writing your personal statement, asking for recommendations, and filing for financial aid. Then you get to squeeze in a summer break and you’re right back at school. Our current generation of youth have done a great job at challenging the inaccessible norms, the next one is combating the normalized timeline of when you should continue your education. 

I graduated high school in 2019.

I had an exhausting senior year and honestly couldn’t imagine having to go straight into another academic setting. We’re taught at very young ages that rest is something that is commonly taken away from us. There’s only 3 – 4 months in between having to immerse yourself into yet another stressful environment. You don’t have too many people who let you know that it’s okay to go against societal standards. There’s no one to encourage you to prioritize your mental health and not rush right into school if you’re not ready for it.

Your older siblings went straight through school. And your elders in your family encourage you to push through and continue on with your education. With that being the case, you’re left to feel like there’s no option for a break. You’ll get more disapproval for taking a break than understanding. The thought of uttering the phrase “gap year” to your family has you questioning whether or not you should even go forward with your decision. Being called lazy, unmotivated, or being told that you’re “giving up,” seems like a precursor to you not finishing school to them.

Obtaining a college degree has sadly become a deciding factor of whether or not you’ll be accepted into the real world.

A degree provides you with better job options, higher salaries, and ultimately pins you with a badge of respect from your peers, you get even more respect if you get it at the standard that is set. Going against that normal timeline almost seems like points get knocked off of the same degree as someone who immediately went to school. 

This generation of youth has done an amazing job of breaking societal norms.

They prioritize what’s most important – ourselves. I’ve been hearing stories from so many students under the age of 25 that are just starting college, that took years off from school, that are going in a completely different direction. More of that needs to be normalized, so individuals who are feeling like they’re alone in their college journey can know they actually have a community. Getting a degree is a big milestone and accomplishment. It takes time, effort, and a lot of hard work. We should be more accepting of how everyone decides to go about that journey.

Alycia Kamil is a freedom fighter and believer of the people. She is a Freshman at Wilbur Wright College. Follow her writings, interests and more here.