TIME Education

Why I Wish My Guidance Counselors Would Stop Talking So Much About College

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Pamela Moore—Getty Images/Vetta

If we follow traditions embraced by white people because we think it is the only way to be successful or important in the world, that can lead not only to financial debt, but ongoing stress to be someone we are not.

In New Orleans schools there are a lot of teachers, principals and guidance counselors who encourage students to go to college so much and so vigorously that it seems as though they are forcing the idea of college on them. I have advisors who encourage me to attend a four-year university at both my high school, Lake Area New Tech, and at Bard Early College, a college preparation program I attend part time. Their encouragement is understandable since both my high school and Bard’s program were designed to prepare me for a four-year college. But I wish the advisors took seriously some of my other dreams. For instance, one day I tried talking to one of the advisors about moving to California to pursue modeling and he told me that I should just put that dream on hold and go to college. If I can only talk with my college advisor about college — or else risk being seen as lacking in ambition — then I would prefer a life coach or someone else who accepts me and accepts alternative definitions of ambition and success. It’s unfair to force the same notion of success on all children; everyone is different and college is not always the right or best choice.

Not only does my high school tell us that we all should go to college, they force seniors to apply to college and tell us that we cannot graduate unless we have been accepted some place (although they would have no legal right to withhold a diploma). I do not even know what I want to major in if I go to college: My high school has taken us on many field trips to colleges, but we have never visited workplaces that would give us a sense of potential jobs and career paths.

Moreover, there are not enough vocational classes or career courses available for students in New Orleans. Most schools have math, English, science, social studies, art and physical education classes. Yet I have rarely seen home economics, mechanics, wood shop or any other classes that could provide different options to students with diverse skills.

As much as they differed in their outlooks on education, both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois understood that not all black people need to follow the same path. Their thoughts are still important today in New Orleans, where most of the public school children are African-American. “Du Bois stressed the importance of a college-educated talented tenth [“talented tenth” referred to the most elite African Americans of his day], while Washington emphasized vocational training for the black masses,” wrote historian Raymond Wolters. Both Washington and Du Bois were correct. Not everyone should go to college, but not everyone should go to vocational schools. The two men emphasized the importance of personal responsibility and self-improvement. But an individual has to know her own strengths and find her own path in order to take charge of her own destiny. This is a particularly important lesson for African-Americans because we come from a different culture and background than white Americans. If we follow traditions embraced by white people because we think it is the only way to be successful or important in the world, that can lead not only to financial debt (in the case of college), but ongoing stress to be someone we are not.

Writing in 1978, Diane Ravitch noted that many historians viewed schools as “instruments of coercive assimilation, designed to strip minority children of their culture and to mold them to serve the needs of capitalism.” While Ravitch disagreed with the idea that schools were instruments of “assimilation” at that time, I personally agree with that argument. Many schools, for instance, tell children to go to college and try to teach children rules that will make them disciplined enough to work at corporations that support the country’s capitalistic economy.

Schools should not prioritize college above other goals such as vocational training. The guidance counselor in every school should speak to all students and understand what each student wants to do in his or her life. Many New Orleans students graduate from high school unsatisfied with their options because the only routes are college or minimum wage jobs. Guidance counselors need to tell students other routes exist, and high schools need to help prepare them by offering a broader range of courses. They also need to employ enough counselors so that they can take the time to get to know students as individuals.

The false teaching that college brings automatic success causes a lot of youth to go to college with unrealistic ideas of getting a job in the field they majored in and making a lot of money. In reality, many people graduate with debt (an average of more than $35,000 for the class of 2013) and have to get jobs unrelated to their majors because the economy is so bad. There is not a guarantee that students will get a job if they attend vocational schools either. But we must not overemphasize one route: There are many different things that a person can do with their life and be happy.

Thea Tucker, 17, is a senior at New Orleans’ Lake Area high school. This essay is part of a collaboration between The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news outlet that covers education, and Bard’s Early College in New Orleans.

TIME Sexual Assault

Dartmouth’s President on Sexual Assault Prevention and Bystander Intervention

Philip J. Hanlon is the president of Dartmouth College

Prevention efforts are critical if we are to rid our campuses of the extreme behaviors that harm our community and distract us from the passion of our pursuits. Through the Dartmouth Bystander Initiative (DBI), we are instructing individual students, faculty and staff to intervene at the first signs of trouble. To date, more than 800 Dartmouth students have been trained in DBI and we expect up to 1,400 more to be trained by the end of the month.

But, we are doing even more to mobilize the community as a whole. We have established earlier this year the Center for Community Action and Prevention to serve as the hub for all our violence prevention programs, including DBI. At the same time, we are collaborating with leaders in Washington DC and across higher education to identify the best prevention strategies, resources, and support to enhance the engagement of our communities in the all-important task of stopping extreme behavior before it happens.

And in July, Dartmouth will host a Summit on Sexual Assault that will bring together higher ed leaders and experts from around the country to strengthen prevention efforts and better promote the safety and well-being of our students.

(You can read more opinions in TIME’s special report: Ending Campus Sexual Assault and get the full story in this week’s cover article by Eliza Gray: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses.)

TIME Sexual Assault

Consent Must Be Created, Not Given

Jonathan Kalin
Carla Aronsohn

Jonathan Kalin is a senior at Colby College and founder of Party With Consent, a movement that facilitates dialogue about sexual violence prevention through events and education.

Sexual assault happens on college campuses. And it’s awful. As Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, author of the SaVE Act explained, on-campus sexual assault is the “ultimate betrayal” committed by “monsters” and “cowards.” When colleges are faced with a wave of human rights violations on their own campuses, one of the first questions asked is, “How do we make it stop?”

It’s especially difficult to find the answer to this question when colleges see the low number of campus sexual assaults that are reported. Cultural norms created by college life have repeatedly shamed survivors of assault and allowed those who perpetrate it to call the crime a “misunderstanding.” This horrifying trend shows up on the national level and results in 60% of sexual assaults going unreported according to The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN). Which means we need to change the question from “how do we prevent sexual assault?” to “how do we prevent this crime when it is nearly statistically invisible?”

The recent formation of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault has already brought together many suggestions and some great tangible actions to respond to those questions. Federal investigations have started on 55 college campuses that may be in violation of Title IX and an awesome PSA directed at men’s roles in preventing sexual violence has been created. These efforts have been outstanding and deserve to be applauded.

In thinking of the next steps toward building sustainable communities free of sexual violence, I’ve thought about starting the process by asking some different questions, such as, “how did we get to this point?” and “what is a sustainable solution?” In conversations about sexual assault, consent is always mentioned. We tend to think of consent as a “line that can not be crossed,” or as something a woman gives, and something a man works to get. These are, of course, generalizations that rely on heteronormativity and traditional gender roles.

If consent is a line, then the preventative efforts of bystander intervention, along with efforts to ensure perpetrators face legal repercussions, are reinforcing the importance of staying above this line. Again, if these efforts happen with greater frequency, college campuses will become safer places.

But in thinking about the next steps, we must realize that college campuses (or any community for that matter) can work to stay above this line with the implementation of these task force recommendations, and yet still be faced with an unhealthy campus sexual culture.

Therefore, when it comes to consent, there is a huge space above this line that needs to be discussed as well. There’s an ironic truth that exists when considering sex scenes of music videos and movies (where many students learn about sexuality). You seldom see the two people about to engage in sex verbally communicate about consent, although that conversation surely took place before the cameras started rolling. This means the media makes sex seem like a silent practice, even though everyone involved had a conversation about it beforehand.

This is part of the thinking that went into creating the Party With Consent movement. The three words in themselves are an effort to affirm those who already live above this line and remind everyone that being honest and authentic in relationships, sexual or otherwise, will always come with a greater outcome than those that rely on deceit, coercion and manipulation.

Additionally, the verb we place in front of sexual consent reinforces this narrow understanding of it. We often say consent is given or gotten, yet using these verbs turns consent into a commodity that uses the same verbs we use for the groceries we buy. In living above this consent line, we must re-envision consent as something that is created amongst all parties involved.

The effort behind preventing sexual assault needs to start with getting us above this consent line, but our work isn’t done there. These efforts also need to be complemented with educating youth on how much better consensual relationships are, sexual or otherwise.

(You can read more opinions in TIME’s special report: Ending Campus Sexual Assault and get the full story in this week’s cover article by Eliza Gray: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses.)

TIME Sexual Assault

‘I’m Proud’ to See My Alma Mater Investigated For Mishandling Rape

Jaclyn Friedman
Louis Shackleton

Jaclyn Friedman has been been an anti-rape activist ever since she survived a campus sexual assault as an undergrad. She’s the author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety

I was proud to see my alma mater, Emerson College, on the Department of Education’s list of 55 campuses under investigation for their mishandling of sexual violence on campus.

Obviously, I’m not thrilled that the university is accused of mishandling rape cases. But I’m proud that students at Emerson expect the best from our school, and refuse to settle for less. In my work with campuses across the country, I often hear that students who’ve spoken out about being raped on campus are facing the wrath of their fellow students in the dining hall, in the campus newspaper, at parties, online. The charge is always the same: disloyalty.

But is it disloyal to keep a drunk friend from driving? Or to tell a spouse a difficult truth? Telling the people and institutions we care about that they’re hurting us and themselves is tough love, but it really is love. On the other hand, when we ask victims to whisper so that no one thinks ill of our alma mater, we’re asking them to give up their access to justice and healing, that ultimately hurts the very institutions we claim to be defending. That’s the true disloyalty.

Most campus rapes are committed by a small number of perpetrators who pursue victim after victim unless they’re stopped. When we squelch victims’ efforts to hold our schools accountable, it leaves those repeat offenders free to attack again. That leads to campuses with more rape, and more victims whose trauma keeps them from fully pursuing their own education and contributing to the college community in all the ways that can make a campus great.

When it comes to addressing campus rape, the financial incentives for schools are inverted: schools that succeed at suppressing victim reporting benefit from the impression that they don’t have a “rape problem,” while the schools that encourage reporting risk a bad reputation and drop in donations. The way to change that dynamic is to raise the cost of schools sweeping it under the rug.

That’s why speaking out is not only brave, but actually fiercely loyal. Students who speak up about rape on campus are saying: I know my campus can be better than this. I believe my campus can be great, and I’m willing to sacrifice to make it so. And that’s why the students who brought a federal case against my alma mater are the best Emersonians I know.

(You can read more opinions in TIME’s special report: Ending Campus Sexual Assault and get the full story in this week’s cover article by Eliza Gray: The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses.)

TIME Educational Financing

Only Rich Kids Should Go to College

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Linda Goodhue Photography—Getty Images/Flickr RF

The evidence keeps mounting: college loans are holding back young Americans in unprecedented numbers.

Should only rich kids go to college? It seems like an absurd question. Yet evidence keeps mounting that, financially speaking, if you must borrow to pay for college you might be just as well off skipping higher education and going straight to work.

Some 37% of American households headed by an adult under the age of 40 have student loans outstanding—the highest share ever, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Their median student debt: $13,000. College loans in total run about $1 trillion and the Pew findings show that this burden weighs heavily on the finances of young Americans.

Households headed by a young college graduate with student loans outstanding have a typical net worth of just $8,700—a pittance compared to the typical $64,700 net worth of similar households only with no student loans outstanding. But that’s just the start. Those with student loans have total debts of $137,010—nearly double the typical $73,250 indebtedness of those without student debt outstanding.

These differences are far greater than the value of the student loans outstanding and speak to the snowball effect that debt has on many households. The findings suggest that, for many, their debt spiral can be traced to their first student loan. “It may be the case that the burden of student debt makes it more difficult for young adults to gain financial traction in other areas of their lives,” the researchers noted.

Perhaps most interesting, Pew found also that the typical net worth of households headed by a young adult without college debt and without a degree was $10,900—greater than the net worth of college grads that had taken on debt to get through school. Going to work sooner and avoiding the expense of college provided immediate payback. The clear loser in the analysis was the young head of household that took on student debt but never earned a degree. That person’s median net worth was just $1,200.

Richard Fry, a Pew researcher, cautioned not to read too much into the greater net worth of the debt-free non-graduate. “College-educated student debtors tend to have much higher household incomes than those who did not complete college (nearly $60,000 versus low $30,000s),” he said in an email. “The typical benefit from completing college is immediate in terms of household income. But if a young adult has to borrow they will be behind in building their nest egg.”

At some point the wealth gap closes and the larger income of the indebted college graduate offsets the early debt-free start of those who didn’t go to college. But it’s not clear how long that takes and it isn’t the case for everyone, especially in an economic period (like now) marred by young adult underemployment.

Findings like these have stirred a great debate in recent years: Is college worth it? Those who say a degree is not worth borrowing for have found a strong voice in PayPal founder Peter Thiel who established a “20 under 20” fellowship staking promising high school students to a $100,000 grant if they’d skip college and start a company. The Thiel Fellowship is entering its fourth year.

Suggesting that only the rich (or those who get full-ride scholarships and grants) go to college is about as politically incorrect as you can get. I would never take that position. It smacks of elitism and runs counter to the income inequality concerns that have made Tomas Piketty an overnight sensation.

Yet more than a third of young graduates themselves do not agree that their education has paid off, and evidence keeps mounting that student loans are the equivalent of wearing lead sneakers in an economic foot race. At the very least, anyone taking out these loans should understand the full nature of their costs.

TIME Parenting

Why Your High School Senior Should Take a Gap Year

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Jekaterina Nikitina—Getty Images/Flickr Select

The growing trend of taking a year off between high school and college can be a benefit if done right

Earlier this month, more than a million high school seniors across the country committed to attend college. But a growing number of them aren’t going to set foot on campus in the fall, electing instead for a gap year—a trend that is leaving some parents feeling anxious and uncertain.

Many educators tout taking a gap year, saying that kids who step off the academic treadmill after high school to work, travel, volunteer or explore other interests are more mature when they arrive at college and more engaged in their education going forward.

With this in mind, a handful of colleges—Princeton and the University of North Carolina, among them—offer scholarships and fellowships to incoming freshmen who take a gap year. Harvard has long encouraged the practice. And in February, Tufts University launched its 1+4 bridge program, which, starting in fall 2015, will offer gap-year opportunities for national and international service regardless of a student’s ability to pay. Meanwhile, organizations that promote a gap year, including the American Gap Association and USA Gap Fairs, are expanding rapidly.

Still, the idea of a gap year can be frightening for parents—especially for those who have carefully cultivated a cradle-to-college track for their children. Many fear that once their son or daughter veers away from a formal education, they won’t go back.

“As parents this is not what you expect,” says Abbe Levin, whose 18-year-old son, Jules Arsenault, attends a small college-preparatory school in Bethel, Maine. “When you have a kid who is not showing interest, or even curiosity about college, that is a tough place to be.”

In the end, though, Levin and her husband came around to accept Jules’s decision to take a gap year—and, in so doing, they wound up following three guidelines that experts say are crucial to ensuring a successful experience.

First, they had Jules apply to college—and then defer enrollment—so that he knows he has something solid waiting for him at the end of his hiatus. For him, that’s a spot at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Second, they’ve made sure that Jules has a structured plan—and isn’t just sitting on the couch, playing video games and thinking about what he’ll do next. And third, they’ve made sure that he has skin in the game, helping to fund his own gap-year plans.

Formal gap year programs can cost as much as $30,000. But there are many low-cost options, including volunteering for a program such as AmeriCorps, City Year or WWOOF-USA, all of which pay for room and board. Other kids work for a while in order to fund a six-month gap-year program or travel abroad.

This is exactly what Jules is doing. Starting next month, he’ll be washing dishes on Monhegan Island in Maine, a tourist destination a boat ride away from his hometown of Boothbay. He’ll work through early October before traveling to Southeast Asia.

“At first I wanted a year off because I thought it was going to fun,” Jules says. “But now I realize that it will give me time to figure out what I want to do. I didn’t want to go to college and not know what I want to study, or get a degree just to have one. With what college costs these days, I wanted to get a degree in something that would be useful to me.”

Levin credits Jules’s high school college counselor for reminding her “that every kid has their own timeline,” and for encouraging her to “let Jules take the lead.” She also bluntly told Levin that if she pushed her son to head straight to college, it could backfire.

“As parents we raise our kids to think for themselves, to be creative, to follow their own path,” Levin says. “But then suddenly, starting in their junior year, we are asking them to go along this very prescribed path that might not be right for them. Now I feel like when he does go to college, he’ll really be ready.”

Studies suggest that Levin is right. Robert Clagett, who served as a senior admissions officer at Harvard and is also the former dean of admissions at Middlebury College, has found that those who delay a year before starting college have GPAs that, on a 4.0 scale, are 0.15 to 0.2 higher than otherwise would be expected.

“What we saw was startling,” says Clagett, now the director of college counseling at St. Stephens Episcopal, a college preparatory school in Austin, Texas. “The prevailing wisdom is that kids are going to lose their hard-earned study skills if they take a gap year. The opposite is true.”

While taking a gap year is not right for everyone, Clagett believes that many college-bound kids could benefit from taking time off—particularly those who are burnt out from years of piling on honors and AP classes, tutors, test prep, community-service projects, varsity sports, piano lessons and other extracurricular activities.

A gap year is a chance for kids to take a breath and do something that doesn’t require them to ask, ‘How will this look on my college application?’” he says. “To just do something for the pure love of doing it.”

Corinne Monaco, 23, was certainly ready to take a breath after she graduated in 2009 from ICE Institute for Collaborative Education, an academically rigorous public school in New York.

“I was always one of those kids who liked school and was looking forward to going to college,” Monaco says. “But by the end of second semester senior year it became clear that I needed a break. I was exhausted. I didn’t have the energy to dive right back into school.”

Monaco worked part-time for the better part of a year for an environmental education, arts and advocacy organization. She then spent a few months traveling across the country.

When she finally got to college, she was genuinely excited to be back in the classroom again. Says Monaco, who will graduate on Saturday from Pitzer College with a dual degree in art and environmental analysis: “Taking a gap year was the best decision I ever made.”

 

TIME Religion

‘Black Mass’ on Harvard Campus Canceled

Critics of the re-enactment that was planned as an educational demonstration of a historical "black mass," a ritual that mocks the Roman Catholic Church, included the university's president and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, who called the idea "repugnant"

Updated 8:45 p.m. ET

A Harvard University student club’s planned re-enactment of a satanic ritual was canceled at the last minute, amid backlash from students, alumni and the Archdiocese of Boston.

The “black mass,” to be hosted by the Harvard Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club, would have taken place at a pub on the school’s Cambridge campus Monday night. The club called it a “re-enactment” that was intended solely for educational purposes. The ritual was historically performed to mock the Roman Catholic Church.

About an hour before the ritual would have been held, the dean of student affairs at Harvard’s Extension School said in a statement that the black mass had been moved to an off-campus location. Fox Boston later reported that the group then canceled the event because it was unable to secure a new location.

Dean Robert Neugeboren said he was glad that the students finally decided to cancel, given religious leaders’ and other students’ firmly expressed reservations about the event.

Earlier on Monday, the Cultural Studies Club had faced strong criticism of its plans. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, called the event “repugnant” in an interview with the Boston Globe. He added, “There’s a great fascination with evil in the world, but you know, it doesn’t lead to anything good.”

University president Drew Faust denounced the event in a statement, saying that “the decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent.” She then said that students still have a right to free expression: “Vigorous and open discussion and debate are essential to the pursuit of knowledge, and we must uphold these values even in the face of controversy.”

A petition started by a member of the school’s Catholic Students group had hundreds of signatures, the Harvard Crimson reports, and a prayer vigil would have coincided with the black mass.

TIME College

This Graduation Speech by a Single Mother Will Probably Make You Cry

Elin Nordegren made some points about how much getting a degree mattered to her--she also took a few swings at her famous ex

A 34-year-old single mother of two gave a moving and often funny graduation speech after Rollins College recognized her as the 2014’s Outstanding Graduating Senior. After nine years of night classes, this student for whom English is a second language, was graduating with a psychology degree and an impressive 3.96 grade-point average. What’s so special about her? Oh nothing, she just used to be married to Mr. Tiger Woods.

Elin Nordegren, who famously divorced the disgraced golfer in 2010 after a cheating scandal, spoke passionately about the comfort education has brought in her life, calling it the one thing “no one can take away from you.” She also reflected on how crucial her fellow students were to her time at Rollins, especially when controversy in her personal life threatened to overwhelm her progress in school. Getting to see the struggles of her classmates who were also working to earn a degree in night school proved to be a humbling and worthwhile experience for Nordegren:

I was inspired by your passion to reach your goals and you fueled mine. When you told me stories about your full-time day jobs, about coming home to cook dinner for your families and about making sure your children were cared for while attending classes, you inspired me.

The ex-wife of the world’s most famous golfer also couldn’t help but take a few swings at her famous former half:

When I entered my student advisor office in the fall of 2005, I was 25 years old, I had just recently moved to America, I was married without children. Today, nine years later, I’m a proud American, and I have two beautiful children… but I’m no longer married.”

TIME Tiger Woods

Elin Nordegren Jokes About Tiger Woods Divorce in Graduation Speech

“Today, nine years later, I’m a proud American and have two beautiful children," said the former model after completing her college education. "But I’m no longer married”

Elin Nordegren, ex-wife of golfer Tiger Woods, spoke at her own college graduation on Saturday after nine years of study at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

During that time, Nordegren gave birth to two sons, now aged 5 and 6, and dealt with the revelations of her ex-husband’s multiple infidelities—a period she referred to in her speech as the wild storm of my personal life.”

Nordegren spoke with People in 2010 right before her divorce from Woods, saying that it would be her first and last interview regarding the matter, but her reference to it during the speech still elicited laughs.

The former model graduated with a GPA of 3.96 and was honored with the Hamilton Holt Outstanding Senior Award.

Watch her speech in the video above.

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