College T-Shirt Day, and Rethinking Our Traditions

Leah Brody, Op-Ed Page Director

Every April, a multi-year-long tradition makes its way back to Mamaroneck High School (MHS). Aptly dubbed “College T-Shirt Day,”  seniors wear merch from the schools they plan to attend come fall. This tradition has always been a fun way for students to get excited about their future, learn where their peers are headed, and for seniors to show off their achievements from their years at MHS. However, as our generation grows more aware of past mistakes from our society, it’s worth asking ourselves–is College T-Shirt Day an insensitive tradition? As it stands right now, the answer is yes.

Many MHS students view College-T-Shirt Day as an unnecessary aspect of the senior experience, including senior Juliet Zucker (‘22). As someone who wasn’t sure where she would attend college on April 28th (this year’s College T-Shirt Day), she had firsthand issues with this tradition. Her isolating experience prompted many peers to ask her where she was headed, a question that caused discomfort and stress.  Zucker “bonded with several students over not knowing where they were going yet, and wore a plain white t-shirt to school that day amongst the sea of collegiate merchandise.” Choosing a college is, for most, a very personal decision. Facing an imaginary deadline for a tradition may not be the most productive way for many students to make that choice.

Not-yet-committed students aren’t alone in their issues with this tradition; seniors who aren’t headed to college are also left unrepresented. Whether struggling with the cost of college, holding different aspirations, or any other unique circumstance, not all students view higher education as the next step in their lives. There is already a significant negative stigma surrounding these other paths in life. This stigma is only perpetuated by MHS’s practice of College T-Shirt Day.  Mamaroneck should aspire to be a community that celebrates the unique roads taken by students, rather than forcing them to fit into a specific box.

There are students that take another stance, however. Arielle Herz (‘22) did participate in College T-Shirt day, along with the majority of the senior class. Herz noted that as the day approached, “there was definitely a bit of talk just about different people’s emotions towards the tradition.” That being said, Herz added that she “didn’t notice anyone in particular who showed that they were outwardly uncomfortable,” though they tried to dilute some of the typical spirits around those who weren’t involved. By making subtle modifications such as this one, traditions can live on in a more positive manner. 

 College T-Shirt Day is a tradition MHS can adjust. While the joys of college are definitely ones to be celebrated, they can be done in an improved manner. For instance, not branding the day as one where everyone must participate can vastly impact the feel of the event. While still encouraging a fun day for seniors, particularly in their last few weeks, it shouldn’t feel like a specific obligation. In addition, the data can be pushed to the last day seniors are in school—by doing this, there’s a possibility that more seniors have chosen their school (if that is applicable to them).​​ This day can also be extended to future plans other than college, such as where someone will work, or what their career path or travel plans may look like. Although finding merchandise representing non-college future plans could prove difficult, welcoming other paths for students is crucial. We should practice our progressive MHS values as much as we can, and reforming College T-Shirt Day is one easy way to start.