The Great Debate: Is ‘College T-Shirt Day’ a good idea?

April 29, 2019

No. Day fails to celebrate all post-secondary plans.

Throughout high school, people are judged by what they wear. Seniors on May 1 might think they’re less than a month away from escaping that constant pressure, but they’ve actually just embarked on the worst day of them all: College T-Shirt Day.

Seniors going to college have until May 1 to decide where they’ll spend the next four years. A tradition at Algonquin is to wear a t-shirt from the school you’re attending, which is meant to be a positive celebration of all the work you have done throughout high school, but it can instead lead to people feeling jealous of others, or bad about their own decisions.

The tradition of College T-Shirt Day emphasizes the value of the traditional path and reinforces the competitive nature of our school.

Not everyone goes to college after high school. With Algonquin being a very competitive, college preparatory high school, students don’t always see the alternative paths beyond high school, such as going straight into the workforce, taking a gap year or going into the military. While someone could choose to wear a shirt to represent those alternative future plans, College T-Shirt Day singles these students out.

Another reason why College T-Shirt Day has to go is because not everyone can get a shirt. If your college is eight hours away, you can’t take a quick trip to pick up a shirt for this day. Granted you could order it online, if you make your final decision well before May 1. Otherwise, the likelihood of it coming in time for that date is slim. Plus, feeling pressured to purchase a shirt to show off your choice is yet another expense that not everyone may be able to afford, especially after having to pay a hefty down payment to their school.

Instant judgement pops into most people’s heads as soon as they see the name of the school a senior is wearing. People seem smarter when they wear a shirt of a more competitive school, yet people in “easy schools” can be more successful than people in “good schools.” Of course, some of the smartest students may choose to go to a more affordable state school or community college, but they are often not as celebrated as those wearing shirts to more prestigious, expensive private schools despite their intelligence.

Not only would it be hard to look at people wearing shirts to colleges that you did not get into, it would be easy for people to get jealous of students attending expensive schools if they don’t have that kind of money, and it could possibly make them feel bad about their own decision.

It might be hard, but people can avoid looking at where others got into college when it is posted on Instagram. However, seeing other students’ schools is inevitable when it is brought to school and literally in their faces when sitting in class or walking down the hall. Everyone should celebrate their success of (almost) graduating from high school and having a plan for the future. Many people have graduation parties where their family and friends celebrate all of their accomplishments and wish them good luck for their next chapter. However, for some, College T-Shirt Day brings down the excitement for the future.

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Yes. We should recognize students’ accomplishment.

On May 1, seniors don t-shirts emblazoned with the name of their future college, following an annual tradition that is meant to celebrate students’ accomplishments.

Although this tradition has raised doubts, seniors should wear their college apparel proudly. College T-Shirt Day is not a day for people to feel inferior or superior to their peers; it is quite the opposite.

Sporting a college t-shirt serves as a symbol of the hard work an individual has put in throughout high school. The name or prestige of the college is irrelevant. Just the fact that the student is able to continue their academic career at an institution of higher education is a laudable achievement in and of itself. It is an achievement that, come May 1, classmates should take the opportunity to recognize and congratulate each other for.

Of course, it can be argued that this might create a situation where some students feel self-conscious or perhaps jealous. The reality is that not everyone gets into the school of their dreams. And someone might not feel comfortable displaying their commitment to a community college while sitting next to someone heading to an Ivy League.

This outlook, however, is a personal choice. We, as a society, need to place less importance on a university’s rank. One thing to learn from the recent college admissions scandal is that the prestige of a school is gravely overinflated, so much so that people will take extreme lengths, even breaking federal laws, to secure a spot at an elite institution.

Virtually any college can set a student up for success if he or she takes the initiative and works hard. Yet, through our rankings and lists, we have created a perceived hierarchy of the nation’s colleges. This is not to say that every school is equal. That is far from accurate. But the spirit of College T-Shirt Day should not be to fixate on who is going to the “better” school. Rather, it should be a celebration that students are taking the next step in their lives, one that required incredible efforts to reach.

Another concern surrounding the tradition is that college is not the right post-secondary path for everyone. Many students decide to pursue something else after high school so won’t this day make them feel excluded or sidelined?

It is a valid objection. Those who are choosing alternate paths deserve their time in the spotlight too. No doubt these students also have bright futures ahead and many accomplishments to praise, and the school community should do more to recognize this.

Yet, with more than 90 percent of Algonquin graduates entering post-secondary educational institutions, I don’t find it unreasonable that we should take this one day to commend them.

To dedicate May 1 to those who do chose to continue their academic careers in a university setting doesn’t mean that we have to disregard those who don’t. We should celebrate all students, regardless of which path they decide to take after high school.

Though College T-Shirt Day focuses on just one of these paths, it does not impede us from acknowledging them all. May 1 should remain a day where we praise the achievements of those who will be attending college, given that we also find a way to praise the achievements of others.

About the Writer
Photo of Gabriela Paz-Soldan
Gabriela Paz-Soldan, Editor-in-Chief

Gabriela started writing for the Harbinger at the beginning of her sophomore year through Journalism class. She is currently Editor-in-Chief.

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