The detrimental effects of college shaming

Sarah Augustine, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The dreaded college process is stressful in all communities. However, Weston in particular is known for its overly ambitious environment, as numerous students attend highly selective colleges. Based on the detrimental mental health effects of this cut-throat atmosphere, the comparisons and shaming of “bad colleges” is simply not worth it. This shaming is even more unaccounted for due to students’ varying accessibility to college and financial circumstances. It is clear that a college education is beneficial and a privilege, regardless of the ranking of the institution. 

    It can be perceived that the competitive nature of Weston is motivating, and actually assists students in working harder to reach higher-ranked schools. Although the intense atmosphere of Weston may motivate students, research has shown that it is at the expense of mental health and substance abuse. 

    Psychology professor at Arizona State University Dr. Suniya Luther researched children in affluent, competitive communities. Luther found rates of about one and a half to two and a half times as high as national samples for depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms and even higher rates of problems of substance use in these affluent and competitive communities, due to the “pressure to achieve” (American Psychological Association, 2014). 

    These detrimental effects of the college process truly emphasize how the process is not a fair system, as many students have different hardships affecting their performances. 

“I think it is generally positive that we all aim for such high standards, but I do think that it sets an intense pressure on everyone in terms of where we want to end up,” Kirk noted. “The truth of the situation is we all don’t have the same circumstances, so for us all to have this high expectation on us is really tough sometimes.”

When examining the various unequal circumstances Kirk acknowledged, research has shown that 90 percent of freshman students who are enrolled at the most 146 selective or seen as “prestigious” colleges and universities in the United States originated from families in the highest two levels of socioeconomic classes. Unfortunately, only 9 percent of students enrolled came from the bottom two levels of the socioeconomic classes (“How can state policies promote college accessibility,” California State University). This clearly emphasizes the fact that selective colleges are just not accessible to low-income students. It should be noted that college is a privilege, and that a higher education alone is beneficial. 

    When even thinking about these highly-ranked schools, it is important to define what quality education truly looks like and what is real “success”. History teacher Cameron Tabatabaie believes that the direction a student takes matters equally or more than the college they are attending. 

“I would hazard that you can go to a high-level school that is ranked really high and [not challenge yourself]. A similar student may go to a school that doesn’t have the same supposed prestige and get more out of that experience because that is the kind of student that they are,” Tabatabaie noted. 

In order to ease this crippling stress students are experiencing, it is important for teachers, parents, and even students themselves to be aware of the research proving the benefits of a college education in general. 

Florida is a state that is using a system to assign students an identification number that stays with them throughout their educational careers. When data was collected from these identifications, the students attending four public universities in Florida were producing the highest earnings. This was despite the fact that these schools were ranked within the six worst schools in Florida by the U.S. News (Center for College Affordability and Productivity). 

    Many students are exposed to the idea of a “prestigious” education at a young age, possibly due to their family members or parents attending such. This does not denounce the idea that it is important to accumulate gratitude for the opportunity to attend an undergraduate institution in general, as well as to recognize the true benefits numerous universities have to offer. 

    “The fact that I am able to go to college is important enough and I think that is something that people at Weston need to be able to recognize,” senior Zach Camp expressed.


Works Cited

Myers, Luke, and Jonathan Robe. Center for College Affordability and Productivity, 2009, pp. 9–29, College Rankings History, Criticism and Reform.

Hamilton, Audrey, and Suniya Luthar Dr. “Speaking of Psychology: The Mental Price of Affluence.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2014,

Ketayi, Miryam S. “How Can State Policies Promote College Accessibility.” CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, NORTHRIDGE, 2018,