At first glance, Billy Beane’s fourth Moneyball rule wouldn’t seem a good fit for the college application process: “Know exactly who you want and go after him (Never mind who they say they want to trade).” After all, it doesn’t seem likely that many students will convince colleges to change admission requirements or how much financial aid offered simply based on their determination to attend a specific school. I’m not saying there isn’t some leeway in the process that students can take advantage of. My point is that this is a much too narrow application of the rule, college isn’t the ends but just part of the means.
You probably can see it coming, but it’s true, it’s not what college you attend but what you do while you’re there that’s important. Failure to attend a specific institution doesn’t automatically shut the door on possible future careers. It just means that you’ll be taking a different path.
Start looking up some less popular colleges on Wikipedia and skimming the Notable alumni lists at the end of the entries. You’ll see plenty of successful artists who didn’t go to “the” art, music, or theater school. There will be people succeeding in establishing businesses or managing corporations without the benefit of “the” crucial alumni network. You’ll find inventors who got their ideas working and selling despite coming from a school no one had ever heard of.
Recognizing that there are multiple ways to reach your goals means that you’ve increased your chances of minimizing your costs when doing so. In other words, you don’t have to contribute to the student debt crisis.
Of course, there will be plenty of people and companies that will look to certain schools when hiring employees. This means that students will probably have to do more than just sign up for on-campus interviews to reach their goals. But once you begin to look around at the possible resources, you might be surprised at the possibilities.
There are various off-campus study opportunities that have nothing to do with leaving the country that can provide students with experiences beyond their own campus. You don’t have to be admitted to a college in New York City to build connections for a career at the United Nations. Students at small Liberal Arts Colleges such as Lawrence University can still find opportunities to work in major university research labs. Students from the middle of the country can gain experience in the entertainment industry through the Hollywood Semester. Colleges have semester programs in Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York.
You don’t have to attend a specific schools to get into a top law or medical school or get your PhD. While the name brand schools may dominate the lists of Rhodes and Fulbright scholars, they aren’t exclusive to such schools.
Ultimately, college is a tool. Students use it to figure out what it is that they want as well as using it to go after whatever “it” ends up being. Moneyball college admissions means that students go after the schools that provide the most value for them and then make the most of the opportunities available.