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 making sure your kid is successful but it doesn’t necessarily mean going to the most prestigious college. 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 your student went to?

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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. But with all the pressure kids endure during the college admissions process,  maybe it’s time to reconsider college admissions and what it means to be successful. While not all of these articles are necessarily popular for the right reasons, I think they’re worth reading.

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.

6 Common Reasons College Applications Get Rejected

For those with aspirations to the most competitive colleges, just skip reasons 1 to 5, there’s no way you would make any of these mistakes anyway if you’re serious about getting into Stanford or Yale. It’s the sixth reason that trumps all “The demand is much greater than the supply.”

If nothing less than the “best” will do, this article probably provides you with more false security than hope. After all, you read through the first five mistakes thinking you’ve got this. Then you get to number six. The numbers should be a wake-up call but US News just can’t bring itself to kill all hope and includes the Dean’s final statement to make sure they maintain their low acceptance rate, “Teens who clearly articulate their interests, goals and potential are most likely to be considered for a spot in the freshman class.”

Science says parents of successful kids have these 13 things in common

This interesting article is a mixed-bag in terms of whether or not it’s important where you go to college. It quotes one study that concluded “Parents who saw college in their child’s future seemed to manage their child toward that goal irrespective of their income and other assets.” Hmmm, does it mean that parents can get their kids into Harvard or does it mean parent expectations can lead to student success no matter where they go?

Parents with lower education levels and socioeconomic status (things 5 and 11) may want to hang on tight to the expectation part especially since the achievement gap has been widening over the past 25 years. But maybe it will give them an advantage in the learning “grit” department (thing 12) and isn’t that the latest characteristic that colleges want to see on student applications?

Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard

This article is over a decade old but still a top performer on my Facebook Page. With the title, it’s not surprising (I’ve got to work on my titles). The author has interviewed around 40 applicants and only one has ever been admitted. And no, the rejects weren’t “C” students as suggested by some. Read the article to find out what kind of students were rejected.

What I think you should pay attention to is his realization that

I came to understand that my own focus on Harvard was a matter of not sophistication but narrowness. I grew up in an unworldly blue-collar environment. Getting perfect grades and attending an elite college was one of the few ways up I could see.

Plus, he makes it very clear it was certainly easier for him to get into Harvard than it is for the kids he’s interviewing.

All AP? Not for Me! Why Gifted Students Shouldn’t Take the Highest Level Classes

While reading this, I wondered why should this only apply to gifted kids? After all shouldn’t all students have the opportunity to explore passions that don’t fall under the AP Curriculum? The author observes that “The fact is these students are stuck in a situation that most adults, frankly, would avoid: they are denying themselves something that brings them genuine, wholesome joy in exchange for drudgery.”

He isn’t suggesting that kids give up AP Courses completely. In his example “By allowing him to take one fewer AP class, Bill gets the best of both worlds: sufficient academic challenge where it matters and the chance to be, well, happier.” And we know that the one less AP Course isn’t going to make a difference in his college application if he just makes sure he clearly articulates his goals as mentioned in the US News article above.

My Son Was Accepted to a College He Can’t Afford. Now What?

This article is always popular for good reason but it still drives me nuts. The author is apparently a personal finance journalist and failed to realize that large state universities don’t generally offer a lot of aid to out-of-state students. This is something she didn’t learn even though she already has a son at Chapel Hill taking out more loans than he should. I don’t get it. (Please, please estimate your EFC before your kids start applying to colleges!)

Anyway, the reason to read the article is because after the financial rejection, the author actually does some research on her state university, “discovering just how well-regarded my state’s flagship public university is” which her son ultimately attends. I think this should be an essential goal of the college search process, “Dan began to feel proud of himself for making a wise financial choice. I’ve come to realize how many students like Dan nationally are grappling with these kinds of decisions.”

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

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