The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


Opinion: The paradox of college preparation at Castilleja

Even though Casti is a college prep school, worrying about the future shouldn’t consume our underclassman years
Ruby Dowling
Even though Casti is a college prep school, worrying about the future shouldn’t consume our underclassman years.

Sometimes it feels like Castilleja students have been thinking about college since they set foot on the bright green fake grass of this hallowed circle. Casti is a college preparatory school, and so it’s not unreasonable that we have college in mind from day one. But sometimes that preparation feels like it creates students who are too excited for what the future holds as opposed to the present.

I feel like I was a unique freshman in many ways, because college hadn’t even entered my consciousness outside of the occasional class meeting. I didn’t know that I was “supposed” to be filling out applications for college prep summer programs or piling on extracurricular activities, so I didn’t.

Instead, I discovered the joy of a place called Younger Lagoon in my hometown of Santa Cruz.I used to ride my bike there and sit as the sun set over the lagoon that led out into the Pacific.

I don’t share this anecdote to claim that I was superior because I looked at the ocean as a freshman. Instead, I want to give you an example of what my priorities were on days like that when things felt simpler.

Sophomore year was when college became a blip on my radar, and I, like several underclassmen I know, was thrilled about it. There are so many first in sophomore year. I got my drivers license, I turned the quintessential high school age of 16 and I felt like I had solid friends for the first time in my life. But it was also the first time I was stressed about grades for the sake of college. Every English essay or chemistry lab felt like a huge deal.

Believe me when I say sophomore year isn’t the time to stress about your future. You will do plenty of that in the next two years as you go into junior and senior year. I wish I would have known that.

Junior year is when it feels like you are constantly thinking about but never talking about college. It’s as if a switch flips and you and your friends are no longer talking about your futures as lunch, what you want to be, and where you want to go. Suddenly your future feels so real that it becomes taboo.

The one thing about Castilleja’s college process that seemed genuinely odd to me walking in was that switch. Younger students seem so much more open and curious about this process, as if they’re running headlong into it, whereas older students are reserved about it, as if they’re suddenly scared. You go from sprinting toward your future to tip-toeing toward it like it’s some kind of angry animal. Both of these approaches undeniably have their flaws.

I can’t claim to be an expert at senior year, since I’m right in the middle of it. But I can say that I feel like endless college essays and meetings to ensure that I’m going where I want to go in the future have given me a healthy dose of perspective.

On the one hand, it’s exciting! I’m going to be 18, an adult. I’m going to move out and figure out who I’m going to be. On the other hand, it ranges from mildly to majorly terrifying.

These days, there is forever something college related on my to do list. I know my college counselor reads my Counterpoint pieces (Hi Ms. Tom!), and I know that I’m excited to start this new chapter of my life. But if I could tell Castilleja as a whole one thing it would be this: your future is coming, I promise. There is no use in rushing it, and I know for a fact there is at least one thing, big or small, that you can enjoy about high school in the moment.

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About the Contributors
Avery Neuner
Avery Neuner, Editor of Opinions
Avery Neuner ‘24 is the Editor of Opinions for Counterpoint. She has been writing for Counterpoint for three  years and has been a writer her whole life. In addition to journalism, she is a published author in short story and poetry.

Ruby Dowling
Ruby Dowling, Editor-in-Chief
Ruby Wright Dowling ’24 is an Editor-in-Chief of Counterpoint. She attended the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute in 2023 and is now an editorial intern at the Los Altos Town Crier. When she’s not reporting, Ruby enjoys scorekeeping at baseball games—especially when the Red Sox are in town.

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