Warrior Words: The college paradigm

In two days my eyes will be drooping with spectacular drowsiness, my nails will be bitten until every cuticle is raw and my fingers will fumble over my laptop’s keyboard as I attempt to find the password that will unlock my fate for the next four years. In the weeks to come, months of speculation and anticipation will culminate with a series of emails, finally giving me an answer to what has become the omnipresent question of, “So, where are you going to college next year?”

This question has marked my senior year from August, before anyone had any way of possibly knowing the answer, to January where I avoided it at all costs, to the months to come where my future self, clad in co-opted sweats and other garb, can proudly answer with a smile. In its simplicity, it has just acted as a conversation starter, allowing adults to bridge the generational gap with one phrase. However, as the end of high school nears, this concept, and this question have become beautifully complicated.

Growing up in the Northeast, we are programmed to view our secondary education under a distinct set of characteristics. The hallowed halls of university should reside beneath facades of brick and stone, classes should range from cavernous lecture rooms to intimate tabletop discussions and library architecture should leave our minds teeming with images of the Hogwarts castle. Until the moment when the exhaust from our parents’ cars finally dissolves into the air, leaving us with a few posters and an already-cramped dorm room, college exists merely as an image and as a concept. Yet its conceptual nature becomes even more intricate when considering the fact that our lives, a year from this day, will be dominated by people we do not know exist, by interests we may not know we have and by situations we never imagined we would encounter.

College is more than a simple name that answers an overasked question. It’s an opportunity to break from the boundaries of preconception to endeavor to become a different version of one’s self. For the past 13 years in the Wilton school district, the senior class has operated as a family unit. Some of us differ in our roles from year to year, and some of us stay constant, but we all, more or less, stay together as the same kids who boarded the bus for our beloved half-days in kindergarten to the teenagers who whip our cars out of the high school parking lots after grueling, interminable days. The bonds we have created as a class may last for years to come; however, we have also created definitions whilst creating these bonds, eventually to be known by reputation and association. College offers the first chance to break this pattern and step outside the comfort of our family to redefine ourselves based on who we want to be, not who we have come to be.

A year from now, every member of the senior class will be different. We will have the answer to the question, and will have parroted it so many times that our response will be nothing less but mechanical. We will come back for breaks and revert to our Wilton ways, but, in truth, we will have changed for the better, taking what is unknown today, and turning it into what drives us to become our true selves.

Maddie Hoffman is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.