No.

It doesn’t matter at all where you go to college. It doesn’t matter if you go to college. It doesn’t matter if you drop out of college.

People are under the mistaken impression that college makes you successful. This is simply not true. College doesn’t make you a success. You make yourself a success.

OK.

Fine

We got that out of the way.

But….because you knew there would be a but. It’s me after all, the person who was called “Yeah but” in her first post college job because I was always reinventing the wheel. And guess what made me successful in my first job? The fact that I was always questioning things. See, in high school and college, I was a slacker. I didn’t study unless I loved the subject. (Hence- English major. I love to read, so those classes were actually effortless) So, where I went to college, how much I studied, didn’t really matter. I made myself into a viable human….

But…

When my daughter was younger, about third grade (the year everything changes in NYC public school system, because here, standardized test scores matter) I told her some things. I told her that her grades didn’t matter to me. How hard she did, or didn’t study didn’t effect me at all- I don’t put her stats in my resume. I told her that what she did mattered to her. I told her that sure, I had a really nice job even though I didn’t work hard early on. But I also told her that I had to work really really hard to get to a higher position. I started about one step above the mail room, because that’s where people who slack off often start out, and I worked five times harder than anyone else. And got recognized. And then worked ten times harder than anyone else. And got noticed. And on and on, but you get the idea. I told my daughter that being successful in what you want was not going to be easy, but the more work and grit she put in along the way would create opportunities for her, opportunities that would not be available to a mere mortal. I explained to her that you work hard and do well so that you have opportunity.

Now here’s where the schools come in.

My daughter and I visited a “highly ranked” school the past two days for their accepted students day. (If you look at the US News and World Report rankings, you don’t have to go too far from the top to find this school.) How much does this name and this rank actually mean?

Here are my observations:

  1. Kids attended classes to get a feel of what being a student at this school actually entailed. My daughter sat in two classes. When I caught up with her later on she had a big smile of her face. She said it was exactly what she hoped to find at a school, exactly what her version of college was. Ten students sitting around a table, the teacher giving them talking points and ideas, and everyone batting things around.
  2. Kids attended panel discussions about research, intern, fellowship and study abroad opportunities. They pummeled the panel with questions and then when the panelists went to the four corners of the atrium they lined up to ask a billion questions about how to accomplish all these things.
  3. Advisors, both major related and pre professional, stood in rooms and explained to eager students how they will help them pursue their goals.
  4. Students organizations held a fair to talk about all the amazing groups the students could join on campus.
  5. Some upperclassmen talked about what they are working on while at school. If you ever want to feel inferior, sit in on one of these panels. When the twenty year old stands up at the podium and tells you that he is a recording artist who sells out small venue shows, started a foundation to bring clean water to places where they don’t have access, and is scheduled to graduate in five years with a Masters in being in charge of the world, or something like that, you kind of reflect on you life for a second or two.

So…

Does where you go to college matter?

No.

Unless you are one of these students who thrive on being in an atmosphere that nurtures their goals and dreams.

There are students who want to study at particular universities and colleges because these places quite simply hold the keys to their dreams. These institutions allow them the ability to think and learn and grow. They provide them with teachers who give them ideas to ponder. They provide them with state of the art equipment to further their research and learning. They help them write grant proposals and fellowship applications. They advise them as to which courses will help them grow as a student and a person. They help them see the possibilities that they didn’t even know existed.

This is why some students really want to go to a particular school. These students are the ultimate optimists. They believe in the value of their dreams. (that’s Eleanor Roosevelt, not my words) They believe there are dreams that they don’t even know about yet. And they believe that certain schools will give them opportunities.

Does where you go to college matter?

No.

Unless it does.

 

23 thoughts on “Does College Choice Really Matter

  1. How true. I think if you have a highly specialized major, you want to go to a school that is highly regarded for that major. Both my kids have had that experience and it has already made a difference for them. If their major was more common they would have had more choices and possibly cheaper ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An Absolutely Awesome blog! Perfectly stated.
    In life, people generally don’t judge others on the name of the college they went to. However, if you are in a specific field the university you attended often matters when applying for a job.
    But, as parents, we want our children to have an enlightened college experience, and that makes the difference. If your child finds his or her match, then that school is the right one. My oldest needed a specific university for his major. My youngest liked the vibe of one particular school and felt his experience there would be perfect. And it was. So yeah, sometimes it does matter. The key is, in your case and in mine, our children were involved in the selection and their input mattered. We weren’t parents who made the decisions for our kids or bribed people to get our kids in a school. I think parents whose children can pick a school of choice and be happy with their selection means we did our job right! It sounds like you did just that!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We hope we do the right thing! What’s hard in my daughters case is that after she didn’t get her first choice, she got got into two of her top choices, and on paper they are almost indistinguishable . It’s nitpicking at this point. We do the best job we can as parents, which means helping them grow and become adults.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. it Subjectively depends on your definition of successful.
    but to me
    College doesn’t matter if you’re going in for the humanities, hence the trope of the English major with 40,000$ in debt working at Starbucks, However, for STEM college choice does matter,
    having a degree with an ivy league school,
    it looks impressive on a resume and it opens doors that would have otherwise remained shut.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I tell several little people relatives of mine choose school curriculum subjects wisely, don’t even think of studying ‘Media Studies’, ‘Sociology’ or ‘Tourism and Leisure’ because they won’t help you find a job in the real world, possibly the single most important purpose of Higher Education. I say “why not go to a Technical College?” “Study to be a plasterer, plumber, gas fitter, hairdresser, beautician, electrician, brick layer……………..” , however does ‘Society’ look down upon subjects such as these?

    The plumber who comes to service my boiler once a year owns a Villa in Spain!!

    (Great post btw 🙂 )

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I’m all about vocations, but I think it comes down to the child. My daughter will thrive in an academically challenging school. For her, a brand name school actually matters because she will take advantage of what they offer

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great post! Your daughter is lucky to have you backing her up. I have one child with a Masters, one with a BA, one who didn’t finish. All three are happy, earning enough to take care of themselves. All three keep learning and growing. All three are great additions to this world of ours, and I am equally proud of each of them.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Going to certain schools does matter, at least living in the shadow of an Ivy League school. Almost everyone I know who has gone to Yale mentions it in conversation, no matter how brief the conversation is. When I asked a recent graduate why this was the case, she said it was because the environment was so special and she was around such stimulating students and professors. She said the “real world” was a disappointment by comparison. I think I get it. I don’t feel that way about my college, but bully for those who feel that way about theirs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My daughter will tell you the same thing. When I saw her, and the others, at accepted students day you get why kids want these schools. My daughter wants to be challenged every day, and these schools offer that ability. Choosing between two great schools is proving to be impossible

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very well put.

    When I was in junior high and high school, I couldn’t help but notice a huge gap between advanced classes and basic ones. The advanced were not always more difficult or demanding; but the students in them, teachers leading them, and interesting work involved were so much better and focused.
    In AP English we learned about composing essays, practiced various note-taking skills WHILE reading Brontë and Orwell, and acted out Shakespeare. In my regular history class the teacher took off for 7-Eleven and we watched a movie while filling out a worksheet.

    I feel college is the same. If you’re going to a school to get a degree, go anywhere and do not graduate in whatever you like. Get something that sounds marketable so you can get a job.
    If you’re going for success, connections, life-planning, and career advancements for your future; aim for the moon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s exactly the point I was trying to make. If you are a focused student you are going to thrive in a certain atmosphere. I watched kids eagerly rush to sit in in classes where there was no reward in sight. Line up to talk to advisors. It was a beautiful thing

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That was very well stated and interesting to read. Not too much thriving going on when you’re sitting in a lecture hall with 200 other students and no one knows your name. No wonder kids thrive at a more prestigious school.

    Liked by 1 person

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