Mike Shafer

AP Language & Composition


The White Hats, the Fat-Cats, and the Pathfinders

        It’s funny how different people look towards college.  Upon our return from a relaxing spring break, the ubiquitous chatter on campus revolved around where people had been accepted, where they were headed, and where they wish they were headed.  But no matter where our classmates were bound, each one fit into a predefined category describing their attitude towards their college education.
        First off, you’ve got your “white hats.”  These are the jocks.  They tend to drive Jeep Grand Cherokees, play lacrosse (or “lax” as it were), and wear white baseball caps sporting the name of some university where they probably won’t go (hence the inventive sobriquet).  Now, I don’t have anything against these guys; some of them are bona fide jerks, but I can easily get along with most of them.  When I’d talk to any random white hat about college, chances are he would say that he doesn’t know what he wants to do academically, but he does hope to drink heavily and continue playing his respective sport.  Unfortunately, since we attend a Preparatory school, some of these guys won’t have to worry about starting a serious career in their future.  Not all of them, but a small percentage has extremely wealthy parents.  “Big Daddy” will always be around to support them, they reason.  They see college as one big party, liberating them from such impediments as curfews, parents, and authority.  Ultimate freedom for four years!
        On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the guys who know exactly what they want to major in and what they want to do.  I call these guys the “fat-cats.”  They tend to apply for early decision, and, after being accepted, have to twiddle their thumbs for the rest of the year until school ends.  I respect these people.  It is hard for me to imagine how they could already know at seventeen or eighteen what they wish to do with the rest of their lives.  But, alas, they have already locked onto some discrete path.  They’re departing next year with full knowledge of which classes they need to take, how long they’ll be there, and how much effort will be required.  These guys are the doctors, the lawyers, the business suits.  They are the capitalists who hope to make a lot of money doing something they enjoy.  More power to them.
        And then there’s a middle category, where I take my stance.  We know what our interests are, at least right now, but we aren’t exactly sure what we want to major in.  We apply to many colleges that are respected in the fields where we hold interest, and then we decide after receiving our decisions based on the factors of location, special programs, and financial aid and scholarships.  We know that we are going to have a lot of fun, but that isn’t our primary objective in college.  It seems to me that we have the toughest choice.  The white hats go out there for fun, the fat-cats go to pursue capitalistic aspirations, but we, the “pathfinders,” go without a defined course.  We have to make our own path.  We hope that in college, we’ll discover who we really are and what we are destined to do.  From my own experience, the pathfinders make up the majority of college-bound students, and white hats tend to defect to the pathfinders after they’ve sobered up from their first few years in the big college world.
        White hats become pathfinders.  Pathfinders envy the fat-cats.  And we should.  But later on we’ll realize that being a pathfinder has its advantages, since it leaves the road to the future open.  No paths are nicely luring us down their way.  We might take the way frequently marched, or the road less traveled.  The future is unset.