Dear Dr. Linda,
My husband and I are listening to all our friends talk about the colleges their kids are applying to. It’s almost as if they don’t even care whether their son or daughter is going to be happy at that school. It’s all in the name. All they want to do is brag about the college or university they’re visiting each weekend. They even put it on Facebook. My mother says it’s that old saying, “Keeping up with the Joneses.”
Both of our kids go to a nearby state school because they have the majors they want. We never thought of even looking elsewhere. It’s right here and the price is right. Are we doing something wrong?
Lily and Joe
Dear Lily and Joe,
The college or university one attends is a personal decision. There are so many criteria to consider. For many of your friends and a whole lot of others, the name of the school is one of them. Many parents and their children choose the most prestigious school they are accepted to. The school represents intelligence, wealth and success. Many people like labels for that reason. That’s a fact. Otherwise there wouldn’t be that much advertising for some of the most expensive things around. Are they better than average priced items? It depends on the product. Many times, it’s the same item with a fancy label, but in some cases, it’s a much better product.
Is that true for colleges and universities? Are schools with the most prestigious names far better than schools that are not as expensive and easier to get into? Students from more prestigious schools earn more than those who graduated in less prestigious schools. But is it all in the name or are those students more qualified for certain high-paying jobs because they attended those schools? Should your child strive to get into the most competitive schools?
It depends on what your child’s goals are. If one of them is to work at one of the most prestigious law firms on Wall Street, then the chances of getting a job there are greater if your resume lists an Ivy League school. But if that isn’t your child’s goal, and it is to be a local attorney, then most likely no one will ever ask to see their resume. On the other hand, if your kid wants to be a physician, he or she will probably want to hang their diplomas on the wall for their patients to see. (Most patients are reassured, whether rationally or not, when they see that the doctor they’re using attended well-known and well-respected schools.)
What matters most is, “Does the school have a degree in the subject area your child is interested in?” However, if a prestigious school with a prestigious name accepts your child and it does have the major your child is interested in, it certainly should be a consideration.
We all know people who attended the top-ranked schools and are now depressed because they did not achieve the success they were striving for. However, many of those that worked hard to get into those schools and stay there are living happy and successful lives. Why? They achieved their goal. This is the same for those who went to less competitive colleges. Some never reach their goals and blame the school they attended while others go far beyond their wildest dreams. It depends on the child and the school and whether they fit.
Remember, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard.