What if it didn’t matter what college you went to?

student walking on road representing if college mattersIt’s the new year and I’m in a sort of philosophical mood. I just finished reviewing the most popular posts on my Facebook page and it got me thinking–what if it didn’t matter what college you went to? Because it seems to me that the posts that get the most traction have to do with either how to get your kid into the right schools or articles telling parents that there is no such thing as a best school, at least not one for everyone. So try it as a thought experiment, how would your student’s (and your family’s) life be different if it didn’t matter which college you went to?

Now I’m not saying that your major doesn’t matter or that what happens at college is irrelevant. In fact, it’s likely that they’re more important than the actual college you attend.

10 Things not Enough Kids Know Before Going to College

One of the top performing Facebook posts was a link to the “10 things not enough kids know before going to college” where Christopher Blattman talks about the things that students need to do at college. I suspect most people click because he starts with “I’m a university professor, with teaching experience at University of Chicago, Columbia, and Yale.” Yeah, some serious name dropping going on.

But the interesting thing about the 10 suggestions is that they are in no way unique to the schools at the top of the US News Best College Rankings. Every single one can be accomplished at virtually any college, or in the author’s case, the University of Waterloo in Canada. Not a single suggestion had anything to do with getting into the right college.

 The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates

I wonder if those who clicked on the title found themselves disappointed with the advice. Maybe they were expecting something more along the lines that all the hard work to get into the right college was worth it. If so, they were probably not happy with the Atlantic’s article The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates where Derek Thompson highlights the findings of a Chronicle of Higher Education on what employers want. The short version:

But when employers recently named the most important elements in hiring a recent graduate, college reputation, GPA, and courses finished at the bottom of the list. At the top, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, were experiences outside of academics: Internships, jobs, volunteering, and extracurriculars.

Another vote for what you do once you get to college is more important than where you go.

 The University of Alabama over Harvard?

Now I don’t consider this definitive evidence for choosing the University of Alabama over Harvard. But if you go back to the thought experiment, would your teen be taking as many AP classes if it didn’t matter which school she got into? Would your son be getting more sleep and maybe have more time to find out what he’s really interested even if it doesn’t result in extra points for his GPA? What if your daughter could spend her Saturday mornings daydreaming instead of with the SAT tutor?

 A parent’s guide to AP classes

Unfortunately, for far too many families, this will only be an experiment at best. I say this because one of the other top performing Facebook posts was the Los Angeles Time’s A parent’s guide to AP classes. The article offers parents helpful advice including

Students who haven’t taken many AP classes can also use written portions of college applications to explain why, and to explain other factors that may have affected their high school performance or the classes they took.

Just think, if teens didn’t “need” to get into specific schools to be successful at 18, there wouldn’t be any need for the article.  But that’s not the reality which explains why What’s Happening to College Students Today? was also a top performer on my Facebook posts. It’s really time for parents to start making the thought experiment a reality.


How would students' high school activities change if it didn't matter which colleges they went to.

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