The essays in the series “Why Davidson, Sociologically Speaking” represent submissions from students in Dr. Joseph Ewoodzie’s Sociology 101 course this fall, all in response to the above question. 

By: Meaghan Cadieux ’24 (she/her)

Photo courtesy of Meaghan Cadieux ’24

The world of expectations. That was where I lived this past year, but people from all different walks of life have their own expectations. College was always an expectation for me, not a decision. It was something that I saw I had to complete in order to get an ample job in the future. I applied to five in-state schools except for Davidson. I chose to investigate Davidson when I heard about the honorable reputation the school holds from my physician. Like every other attendee, I appreciated how open, accepting, respectful, encouraging, and honest the staff and students were to each other and to the close-knit surrounding community. Davidson College became the best option after I visited the campus in the fall of 2019. The only way I can describe how I knew Davidson was my number one choice is that my intuition was telling me that I belonged here. I felt like I would fit in with the people and staff that encompass the entirety of the college. Another major deciding factor for me was distance. I wanted to be able to go home, and, conveniently, Davidson was in the closest proximity to my house. However, the most important aspect of my college search was money.

It came down to comparing the financial aid options from all the schools I applied to. After careful consideration of each packet, it turned out that Davidson was one of my most affordable options. Because of that, and how much valor and integrity Davidson exhibits on campus, as well as how small, personal, and at home the campus made me feel, I knew I would belong. I was the first-generation student from my family to advance into higher education. Times have evolved so much over the last decades, as jobs demand more experience and degrees in order to secure a position, and as more people are able to attend higher education, the greater the competition for well-paying jobs becomes. Knowing that I wanted to work in the healthcare field and become a doctor, and knowing how competitive that field is, I knew I would meet my friend, college, in the future.

There were so many pressures that I put on myself unconsciously. I wanted to make my family proud and be the first one to attend a prestigious college to show that no matter the history of your family’s past, it doesn’t define what you can do and who you are. Children all around the world aspire to be successful when they grow up and to make their loved ones proud. They feel the pressures of living up to their expectations for themselves and the standards that are placed on them from their family and friends. Many high school students pay attention to where their friends apply so that they can follow their paths. People love what’s familiar and tend to shun what takes them by surprise or challenges what they have always known. I am guilty of this. I wanted to stay close to home because it was what was familiar and comfortable to me. However, many people are just like me. They find comfort in knowing that they will have someone close to them if they need help. As a society, we want to fit in. Everyone strives to locate the college where they can relate to the people there. I wanted a small college where I could get to form meaningful bonds with my classmates. On the other hand, many people wanted the big college atmosphere because they wanted to meet a lot of people and to experience the big party scene at college. Every kid grows up to hear how much fun their parents had at college parties. Most people could feel pressured to find a college where they could have an active social life or party scene if they desired. For myself, I knew that college for me wasn’t a time for fun, but rather a time to increase my knowledge. For others, they wanted to get to enjoy all the benefits of attending a big college with a decent football team, as is stereotypical. 

Now cultural pressures are a totally different ballpark when discussing college selection because, instead of worrying and stressing about letting down loved ones, you concern yourself with making sure you don’t let down a community. Most cultures have a variety of certain traditions for how to proceed with the major milestones of life. Some might not have a present culture in their lives and might not experience the pressures, like myself. But, at the same time, it could make those feel lost or too ordinary to be a good enough applicant for most of the prestigious schools within the United States, myself included. On the other side of things, people who have grown up within a strict culture can feel pressured to attend certain universities that hold their beliefs or embrace their diversity or to not attend college at all. They struggle with stepping away from the set paths from their community to pursue what they want with their lives.

The state of the economy also greatly affected the college process. With the economy dropping significantly over the past year due to store closures and job layoffs from the devastating global pandemic, COVID-19, it has made the college selection process difficult for many people. Some colleges understood the current circumstances and allowed students to defer their payments to a later date to help those with financial struggles. Some colleges didn’t join in on aiding their students, and for many that meant that attending college at their number one choice wasn’t an option anymore or even that the possibility of attending any college was gone. Some might have decided to stay home and work to help bring in the funds needed to keep their families afloat. Those that made this heartbreaking decision had to sacrifice their futures and happiness for the safety and well-being of their families.

The pressures of politics have always been wishy-washy for me. I felt the pressure to agree with candidates that my peers and family members choose, but I never had the chance to dive into what I believe. For others, they were bred from a young age to think only one way of thinking or political belief is right. When they made their college decisions, many felt pressured to find a campus where most of the students shared the same political beliefs as them. Some wouldn’t care themselves, but would rather find pressure from their parents to attend a certain college because it was supported by the “correct” political party.

Politics also brings up that many in-state schools offer financial aid awards that are run by the state government. This aid keeps many students within the state because these schools will end up being the cheapest for them. Also, there is the fact that college costs so much because of the government. In some countries around the world, university is free which enables anyone that wants a higher education the opportunity to obtain it. However, for the countries that do not offer it for free, it makes it difficult for those from lower-income households to attend college.

Overall, the college expectation in my circumstance was impacted by myself, cultural standards, the state of the economy, and the political system. All I know is that I am where I belong, and that I cannot wait for all the memories I will make here on and off campus.

Meaghan Cadieux ’24 (she/her) is an in an intended Chemistry major. Contact her at mecadieux@davidson.edu.