I have just completed my first year of college after attending WW-P schools for my entire life. You could say I’m pretty tired. But after being back home for a few weeks, I have begun to reflect on how home has shaped my experience in college.

I should probably state that my college experience thus far has not been a traditional, smooth-sailing event. I have transferred from my original college to a different institution after some problems arose. I think my experience can resonate with students nonetheless.

I attended a small, women’s liberal arts college in California. It’s hard to think of a more different institution than WW-P. After getting deferred from my early decision school, I applied ED2 there and got in.

I thought applying there was the right thing to do—it was in beautiful southern California, I thought it would be a great fit for me socially, it had my intended major(s), it had small class sizes, and my chances of getting in ED2 were fairly high.

Many of these expected positive aspects did not manifest into a positive experience for me, but that is a different story. Because of my unhappiness with my college, I was forced to ask myself why I really applied. What drove me to apply ED2 to a school that ended up being such a bad choice?

Turns out, I was scared after getting deferred from my top choice. I was afraid I had aimed too high, that I had overshot and I wasn’t going to get into any of the schools I had applied to.

In WW-P, the culture is competitive. Whether that is the fault of the schools or not, students seem to always be comparing themselves to other students.

Many do not let this control their actions. Unfortunately, during my college application process, I let the competitiveness get the best of me. I applied ED2 to a school where I had a large chance of getting in just so I could say I got in.

That is not to say there is anything wrong with applying to schools where you know you can get in. It’s a necessary and important part of the application process. In my experience, WW-P counseling did a great job of emphasizing just that. Regardless, I made the wrong choice for myself, and I had to deal with the consequences.

The impacts of WW-P played a part during my time as a student at college. Academically, I have no complaints. At South, I challenged myself with lots of honors and AP classes, and it paid off. I tested out of my math requirement, I made the dean’s list, and I ended the year with a 3.83 GPA.

In fact, one of the reasons for my transfer was I felt the classes weren’t rigorous enough. WW-P classes are challenging, and my college’s classes simply did not meet my high expectations.

Part of the reason for the clash in expectations could have been the laid-back mentality of southern California juxtaposed against my intense, raised-by-New-Yorkers personality, but the message is still the same. WW-P schooling doesn’t just expect you to challenge yourself, it gives you the desire to push yourself academically, to always learn more.

While WW-P’s legacy is strong academically, it certainly isn’t flawless as a whole. During my first year of college, I also had an epiphany that, maybe, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

It was terrifying. Something that I was so sure of since the seventh grade was gone in an instant. It still terrifies me. And I believe this is something the culture in WW-P schools breed.

The need to know your 10-year plan. The need to have a singular career path in mind. The need to have everything figured out.

I came to the unfortunate realization that I am, in fact, 18 years old and I have nothing figured out. But that is perfectly acceptable.

Having interests and passions and goals is a great thing, but I have realized I shouldn’t let just one limit me. I am bigger than a major or a field of study, and this is something I think WW-P could say more.

Changing your mind or discovering new interests—it’s the best thing a high schooler can do for themselves. It means growing and learning, and it will get students a lot farther than shielding themselves off to one discipline.

I’d like to end this with a thank you to WW-P, for there is another thing I took away from its schooling: when you see a flaw, don’t just live with it.

WW-P encourages its students to complain when they don’t like something. It’s ingrained in the culture of the schools. Whether you effect change or not, WW-P wants its students to advocate for themselves.

Without this lesson, I may have taken my unhappiness with my college in silence. Instead, I stood up, tried to make amends, and when no resolution was in sight, I made the choice to search for change. For that, WW-P, I say thank you.

Sara Gronich

Gronich is a 2018 graduate of High School South and is currently attending Northwestern University.