FALMOUTH — The fourth and final year of high school can definitely be stressful. Students begin to take the next steps into their futures and for the majority of seniors that means applying to colleges. The main question for senior year is “What is your post-high school plan?” – and believe it or not, there’s more than one answer. Most people attend college immediately after high school, but there’s also the possibility of taking time off, joining the military or simply not attending college. However, these other ideas are generally looked down upon by students with high ambitions and high ego.

As a senior at Falmouth High School, I have seen and been affected by these stigmas firsthand. Falmouth High School lacks diversity not only in students but also in students’ post-high school plans. The question of college is never “Are you going?” but always “Where are you going?” As determined seniors begin to apply to their list of colleges, it becomes engraved into their brains that this is what everyone else should do, almost as if the thought of not applying to any school is uncharted territory.

Falmouth High School has helped shape many supportive students; however, with the majority of students attending college immediately after high school, it leaves the smaller group of students who either don’t feel ready, aren’t interested or just need a break from education, feeling … well … small.

Surprisingly, talk of even going to local schools such as the University of Southern Maine or Southern Maine Community College is seemingly as controversial as not attending college.

As a student interested in attending USM, I feel that a majority of seniors in my class don’t necessarily understand my reasoning. When the topic of college arises, people tend to question why I would want to go to USM instead of a school like Bates College or even the University of Maine.

Some infer I can’t get into Bates or that leaving Maine is “too scary” for me, but those speculations are far from the truth. I end up telling the same story to everyone: The idea of college isn’t as appealing to me and I don’t want to spend close to a hundred thousand dollars doing something I’m not 100 percent confident in.

Although they try to understand and not let their confusion surface on their faces, I can tell they don’t completely value my decision or my reasons. They tell me how I should branch out and apply to colleges away from Maine and get to know the different programs schools offer and that I’m “limiting myself” (ironically, the same spiel my parents give me). However, what my fellow seniors can’t seem to comprehend is that I’m not “limiting myself” – in fact, I’m doing the opposite.

Staying in Maine and commuting to a school 15 minutes away is a much more logical choice for me. Being granted in-state tuition and not having to live on campus would cut a significant amount off my tuition, and with the money my family has saved, I would graduate USM debt-free. For most this is very important; however, most teenagers don’t think like this.

Because each person is different, it allows for our ideas and aspirations to be different as well. I’m not 100 percent of certain the next steps I’ll take into my future, but I’m trying to play my cards right for what’s best for me.

We live our own individual lives, so it’s important for us to live them the best way we believe we can.

We are not robots. We are all not the same. Just because someone didn’t get into a college with a 15 percent acceptance rate does not mean they’re defective. Just because someone decided to go to community college instead of a four-year does not mean they’re broken. The post-high school question is a very personal one. Different students from different backgrounds and who have different interests and different strengths should not undervalue each other based on their own answers. Instead, everyone should learn to support one another, because at the end of the day we all want to feel confident in our futures.

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