One of the most prominent students leading the fight for stricter gun laws got meetings on Capitol Hill with top lawmakers, airtime on prime-time cable news and a key speaking spot at one of the largest marches in recent years.
But David Hogg, who is a survivor of the mass shooting that killed 17 people at his Parkland, Fla., high school in February, did not get into two of his top choices for college: the University of California at Los Angeles and at Santa Barbara. He's now encouraging young people to remain an influential group in the political conversation — whether or not they have higher education.
“We have a heavily impacted university system in America. And I think there’s a lot of really good candidates that don’t get into college. And I think it goes to show that, regardless of whether or not you get into college, you can still change the world. The hardest part is just believing you can and continuing that effort to change the world, because you eventually will,” Hogg said Friday on CNN.
Given his reported high grade-point average and leadership skills, quite a few people were shocked that he was not admitted to his choice schools.
But Hogg’s response to the competitiveness of college admissions took an interesting twist Friday when he shared that he is considering delaying college this fall to take a “gap year” to continue his gun-policy advocacy. That reminded viewers that a college degree is not necessary to change the world.
Gap years are a popular option for students who want different experiences between high school and college. The concept attracted increased attention when Malia Obama took a gap year before enrolling at Harvard.
Hogg’s comments shifted the narrative from one student’s inability to get into the colleges of his choice to a challenge to all youths to get involved in policymaking regardless of their academic credentials.
College could surely complement student activism, but history has shown that some of the leaders and activists who revolutionized America didn't complete formal higher education, such as Malcolm X and labor activist Cesar Chavez, and more recently, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, all three of whom dropped out of college.
The power of the Parkland students' activism was on display this week after Hogg challenged advertisers to boycott Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who taunted Hogg for not getting into his preferred schools. While Ingraham later apologized, about a dozen advertisers cut ties with the show.
Students have become among the most vocal identity groups in the gun-rights debate after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and that has landed them on the receiving end of some conservative criticism.
There has been significant interest in how long this movement led by the Parkland students will last, especially given the short attention span of Washington. Hogg’s comments seem to challenge young people to remain engaged, whether they are from an affluent suburb or urban area, college-bound or not.