Why do people act like staying in the Midwest for college should be avoided?

Marie O'Connor, Opinion's writer

Small talk as a senior is something to avoid at all costs. This is because when conversation slows and you strain for topics to casually chat about, undoubtedly the topic of college will come up.

I’ve already had to talk about my college plans in Spanish class multiple times, and talking about it in another language makes the whole topic even more confusing.

Talking about college is, at this point in life, unavoidable. One thing I didn’t expect to make the whole conversation even more unpleasant was judgment of my college preferences.

I know many New Trier students want to graduate and move on to some prestigious university with a well-known name, and this seems fitting for the competitive culture we live in.

The exclusivity of a college becomes, in some cases, more important than the actual school itself. The Post-High School Counselors office loves to flaunt their motto, “College is a match to be made not a prize to be won,” but I don’t think many of the New Trier students, or parents, have gotten this message.

Clearly, Ivy League schools are impressive, and attending one is the dream of many students, but it’s ok if that’s something you don’t want. Right?

The majority of students end up going to big schools in the Big Ten, and still this is somehow looked down upon.

When I tell classmates that I want to stay close to Chicago, or at least in the Midwest for college, I usually receive slightly confused, or full on judgmental looks. I find myself adding on a couple extra schools, “Colorado College, Tulane, Vanderbilt,” that I have no interest in, just to satisfy what my classmates expect me to say.

Lately, though, I’ve embraced my senior status and have given up on caring about what people think of me. So when most people I ask say that they, “want to get as far away as possible,” I usually remind them that living within a couple hours driving distance allows for free laundry a couple times a year.

Not to mention, even though I am an angsty teenager, I don’t hate my family all the time. Going to a school far away takes away the convenience of traveling to and from home.

A plane ticket or gas money is one more expense that many college students can’t afford. I want to come home more often than once a year, maybe to see my little sisters, my parents, and most importantly, my dog.

Those who want to go to school far away simply to be far away might believe that it’s the only way to escape the North Shore. But all around the country there are environments as competitive and wealthy as New Trier.

Fleeing to the coasts, as many students dream to do, may not prove to be drastically different. It doesn’t take thousands of miles to change one’s environment—the city of Chicago is drastically different than living in Wilmette or Glencoe.

What started as applying to schools close enough to visit, has now engrained in me the desire to stay in my comfortable Midwest. I’m not afraid of change or to take risks. In fact, I’m really excited to go to college and experience life outside the New Trier school district.

The truth is, being a college student might not be as easy as many New Trier kids think. It’s the first time we will be on our own and responsible for ourselves, and observing my peers, I’m not sure we’re all ready for this. We might be 18, but most of us are not mature adults quite yet. Having the safety net of living somewhat close to home might actually be a good thing.

Whether it’s due to financial reasons, or personal preference, don’t be ashamed of admitting that the next four years might be spent in the Midwest. Despite what everyone keeps saying, most of your peers will be staying, too.