Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Myth of College Admissions

Reading this absurd story about people charging up to $40,000 to families for advice of college admissions reminds me of something about which I feel very strongly:

Where you go for your bachelor's degree doesn't really matter

OK, that's not exactly true. Yes, if you go to Yale and have the money to get into Skulls and Bones, you are going to make a lot of connections.

For a graduate degree, one needs to get into the best school possible. But as someone who has attended three public institutions and teaches at a private school, I think I can say that your undergraduate degree flat out doesn't matter. Yes, there are things about private schools that are great. And perhaps in certain fields (music performance for instance), there are exceptions. But you can get a great education at a fraction of the price at a public institution. You have to be more motivated and it's easier to get lost in the crowd. But it can certainly be done and many people have gone on to great careers in their field after having attended really second-rate public schools.

Moreover, the idea that parents should pay tens of thousands of dollars for consultants or that the decision for an undergraduate institution is so fraught with danger that students need to spend years preparing to make the right call is completely ridiculous. If you are smart and rich enough to get into Yale or Kenyon or Princeton or Barnard, then the chances are that you will get into one of those schools, even if you don't get into the other three. And if you fail and (God forbid) you have to go to a public institution or a private school not in the top 20, you can still have just as successful a career.

A little rational thought on these issues would really help.