With college application season in full swing, the familiar buzz of stressed-out seniors has returned to high schools all over the nation. Personal statements, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and extracurriculars are now topics of discussion during lunch. This is all pretty typical. However, in those lunch discussions, there’s been an increasing tendency of me hearing people say things along the lines of “I need to get into at least one Ivy!” or “You’re applying there? Is that even a top ten?” and I find that very unsettling.
Now, the purpose of this article is not to look down on or discourage people from aspiring to go to college at more prestigious institutions. In fact, I think it’s great that people are looking at more selective schools; the education is fantastic, and financial aid is usually close to or better than what someone would get at a state school. Prestigious institutions are excellent, and if that’s where you want to apply to, go right ahead!
However, basing your self-worth on whether you get into Yale or not is not only very unhealthy but also misguided. I think that a lot of people believe that attending very selective universities is the only way to be successful in the future.
I understand why people think this: colleges that are more selective tend to have very accomplished alumni. President Obama went to Columbia (and Harvard). Toni Morrison went to Cornell. Shonda Rhimes (and Meredith Grey) went to Dartmouth. Janet YeIlen went to Brown. I get it. It’s very easy to see the correlation between success and prestigious universities. But, there’s also very successful people who went to college at places that are not as prestigious. Neil Armstrong went to Purdue University. Condoleezza Rice went to the University of Denver. Rah Emmanuel went to Sarah Lawrence College. Nancy Pelosi went to Trinity College. This isn’t to say that these colleges aren’t excellent institutions; the point I’m trying to make is that they aren’t necessarily the highest ranked or most prestigious schools, and a lot of the people who went there are doing just fine.
College is a pretty significant investment, so it’s totally understandable that you’d want the money and time that you’re putting into your education to be worth it. But, when looking at colleges, don’t put all the weight on prestige. Sure, Harvard has very knowledgeable professors and fabulous resources, but is it a good fit for you? Ohio State also has knowledgeable professors and fabulous resources, and it could be a better fit. It all depends on who you are and what environment you’d do best in. It’s not necessarily the college that makes a student successful. College is just a tool, and it’s how the student uses that tool to their advantage and the student’s drive and capabilities that determine whether they are successful or not.
Wherever you go to college, chances are, you’ll be okay.