College Apparel Day Exposes Larger Issue

Event raises questions about more than just on which day it should fall

Artwork by Hannah Lachow: “Showing off our future college may be exciting, but what does it say about the commercial nature of the college process and our emphasis on rankings?”

Toward the end of April, the “MHS Class of 2016” Facebook group was set ablaze by a contentious debate regarding the timing of this year’s College Apparel Day. The “holiday” is a tradition on both the local and national level, as students across the country participate in the event every year. The concept of the day is relatively simple — every senior goes to school wearing apparel from the college that he or she will be attending. The day typically falls on the same date—May 1st—typically the day following the deadline to put down a deposit for a school. However, a problem arose this year as a result of May 1st falling on a Sunday. When multiple replacement dates were proposed, there appeared to be conflicts with each one. Between A.P. exams, internships and the actual deposit deadline, there seemed to be no simple solution that would allow every senior to fully participate in the event. The inexistence of a date that would work for everyone ultimately led to a heated Facebook argument. While the argument was focused on which particular day to hold the event, it also highlighted a much larger issue.

Seniors are typically eager and excited to participate in college apparel day. After completing the four year journey that is high school, it can only be expected that students will be proud of their hard work and accomplishments. As seniors prepare to graduate and head off towards the next chapter in their lives, it is a nice idea to have the senior class come together to partake in a group event that both highlights their accomplishments and provides a platform for which students can share their future plans with their peers. Yet for an event that is supposed to be a collective celebration, several aspects of college apparel day appear to be divisive and out of step.

If college apparel day is truly fulfilling its purpose, it should be an outlet for students to not only celebrate their decision, but to also feel excited about the next few years of their life. College apparel day does aim to achieve this purpose, but it is not without its flaws. The most obvious and basic problems surrounding the event are its ability to make students upset or dissapointed if they see their peers sporting clothing from a school that they themselves were rejected from. The event could also be deemed pretentious, with the potential for students to be seen as bragging or boasting about their college acceptance. While these issues are important to consider, the true problem is what college apparel day reveals about the college process in our current society. College decisions should always be about finding the right fit, and not simply picking the school that is more popular or has a better name brand. By holding an event that emphasizes logos and big names on eye catching apparel, we collectively endorse the notion that the college process is one that is incredibly commercial. Furthermore, college apparel day in many ways supports the idea that the school that one wears across their chest defines that individual.

College apparel day is not the cause of these issues—it is not the reason why the college process has become one large business, and it is not the reason why we as a society place so much emphasis on rankings and popularity. However, it is undoubtedly a symptom, and subsequently has exacerbated a much larger issue. While it may not be necessary to rid the event in its entirety, it is important to question whether dressing up in college apparel is an appropriate way to celebrate academic achievement and this significant decision in one’s life. For a decision that is so important and meaningful, the idea of parading around in a t-shirt seems rather immature.

Ultimately, students have the right to wear and support the school that they will be attending. Wearing apparel from the school that one will be attending is perfectly normal, and is even to be expected. However, by having a school regulated event that places an even greater emphasis on the name on the front of one’s shirt seems to only contribute to the many flaws that exist within the college process today. We can be proud of our accomplishments while being mindful of others, and simultaenously reject the commercialism and ultra-competitive nature that is currently fueling the college process. We should make sure we allow our personal preferences and goals guide us through the college decision process, not a bumper sticker or a comfortable tshirt.

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