The student news site of West High School

School stigma

September 28, 2021

While deciding which colleges best fit them, many students feel stigma and pressure surrounding attending certain institutions, whether that be a community college, state school or more selective university.

Some at West voice the sentiment of wanting to get out of Iowa. West alum Amy Liao ’21, who studies at Northwestern University, knew college was her chance.

“I’ve always wanted to get out of Iowa. I wanted to go somewhere where the environment would be different so I could have new experiences,” Liao said.

Frese acknowledges the culture around certain schools at West.

“I’ve definitely noticed more students that kind of fall into that camp of ‘why would I stay here? I’ve grown up here’ or ‘this isn’t a big enough name,’” Frese said.

He instead urges students not to simply cross off the University of Iowa because it is the “hometown school” but to instead be more investigative.

For some, family expectations include attending a nationally ranked university. This is the case for Mayasa Hamid ’23, a student who will be the first in her immediate family to attend college.

“Educational success is a really big part of our culture, which makes sense because my dad works a night shift … in the times that he’s supposed to be sleeping. He doesn’t want that for me, and I don’t want that for me,” Hamid said. “There is a cultural stress on my back, but also I want to be better for my parents and my sisters … to show them that anything is possible.”

There is a cultural stress on my back, but also I want to be better for my parents and my sisters … to show them that anything is possible.”

— Mayasa Hamid '23

Hamid also hopes to attend a prestigious college to fulfill her longtime dream of becoming a heart surgeon. At the top of her list is John Hopkins University and its renowned medical program.

Similarly to Hamid, Liao was influenced by her parents to attend a top tier university. Now, she understands that prestige isn’t the most important factor a college has to offer.

“I realized that college is not all about prestige and location, you actually have to look at the quality of the programs that they have,” Liao said. “If the college offers you reputation, but it doesn’t actually benefit your education and your career, then there’s no point.”

Qidwai believes there is a lack of information at West addressing the variety of options students can pursue after high school that aren’t the standard course of attending a four-year university.

“Sometimes I talk to kids who are talking about going to Kirkwood or talking about other options … and I’m like, ‘Wow, you really got out of the mindset they’ve been pushing on us,’” Qidwai said. “I just think that it’s kind of amazing to see kids who are taking this total opposite path they really did not make clear to us at all.”

West alum Perla Dubon ’21, who attends Kirkwood Community College, is an example of a student who has taken such a path.

“I love seeing all the diversity and people from different cultures there,” Dubon said. “[My] teachers have been so supportive of others and look out for everyone. So have been the students … This was totally [the] college experience I have been looking for.”

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