When I began outlining this column, I planned on writing an open thank-you letter to my high school for how well it prepared me for college. But when I thought about the unfairness between alumni from my high school and less fortunate schools, I felt more angry than grateful.
Throughout high school, teachers and administrators always told the students that we would be more prepared for college than our classmates there, but I just thought they were feeling cocky from our recently awarded title “Best Public High School in Missouri.”
However, I later realized I had an excellent high school education because we were held to extremely high standards. Every night, I completed hours of homework in preparation for difficult lectures, quizzes and exams the next day. Oftentimes, at least one day of my weekend was dedicated to catching up or getting ahead on readings. By senior year, my course load was just as difficult as some semesters at Bradley due to enrollment in Advanced Placement courses.
I witnessed my first taste of inequality during my junior year of high school, when two nearby schools became unaccredited. Attendees were forced to transfer if they wanted to earn a valid diploma, so my school accepted displaced students. Before then, I didn’t even know schools could become unaccredited, since mine never struggled with test scores or teaching quality.
Although I came to Bradley knowing high school disparity existed, I still assumed most Bradley students grew up in environments similar to mine. I expected they obtained the same study habits and writing skills from difficult courses at their schools as well.
While many students did come from comparable backgrounds, I encountered freshmen who were not as fortunate. Their high schools had fewer resources and held lower expectations. As one friend told me, her teacher advised her against applying to some colleges because she didn’t have a chance of getting in. As a result, these students were inadequately prepared for the tough classes that Bradley offers.
Since I only had so many hours to study after school, I learned how to take effective notes in class and spend a minimum amount of time studying before exams. This skill has proved extremely useful in college because I usually only need to invest one night in preparing for an exam. Whereas, my classmates who come from schools with less demanding assignments need more time to study for the same tests. I do not believe I am any smarter than those classmates, nor did I do anything to deserve attending a priviledged high school. Yet, I am still reaping the unwarranted advantages.
Inequality is revealed and actually perpetuated once kids arrive at college. For example, I receive benefits for being in the university Honors Program, through priority registration, more challenging classes, fascinating seminars and unique social events. Yet, it is much easier to meet the requirements for the honors program if you come from my high school than from a school where the students receive less ACT and SAT preparation.
By taking advantage of priority registration, I can select the most interesting classes with my favorite professors. I’ll most likely gain better grades in these courses and be able to include honors on my resume. Additionally, I can take lighter course loads each semester due to entering with 30 credit hours already from AP and dual credit classes. At Bradley, I found out that some high schools didn’t even offer AP courses. Therefore, the perks of attending a high school with more resources influences us through college and beyond.
High school disparity and the consequences are awkward subjects to discuss because no one wants to brag or feel sorry for themselves. But, it’s important to reveal inequalities, so we can start working to correct them.
As much confidence as I’ve gained in college, I fear that others are quietly losing courage, simply because of a difference in high school achievement.
I am still trying to figure out how to help rectify this unjust system, but until then, I hope that this column serves as a small start.