The Name Game
Once upon a time, the name of the university that you attended was very important. It could guarantee you a great job with a great professional future. Those days are over. Times have changed, as has our society. It is no longer about where you got your degree from, but more importantly that you have a degree. Yes, certain schools like the Ivy league schools and Stanford are considered prestigious but at the end of the day it is simply important that you get a degree. Most universities have alumni chapters throughout the country and have networking systems in order to help students get a job in the professional world. In fact in the last 10-15 years we have seen students earn degrees from Ivy league schools and other so called “prestigious” schools and still have a hard time finding jobs. This is due to the economy and ever changing job market of our society. Some Graduate level degrees from some schools can make a difference for certain professions, but overall your B.A. or B.S. (undergrad) degree will only help you, regardless of where you attended school.
Most of today’s push of the “Name Game” actually comes from parents. There are so many parents out there today who want their child to go to a “good school”. I hear that from students all of the time and when I ask them, “what is a good school?” they can’t answer. Many parents will rely on university rankings from publications to decide if a school is a “good school”. How accurate are publications that rank universities? Did they have someone who attended every college in the country? Can you really compare one person’s experience at a university with another’s at a different school and decide which school is better? Rankings are just someone’s opinion, they aren’t a fact. The same way the sports media ranks college football or basketball teams. They don’t know who the best team really is, they are just guessing. Don’t let someone else’s guess determine where you should go to school.
The reality is many parents want to brag about where their child is going to school to their friends. It has become a status thing and I have personally seen it happen in social settings. Some parents just want their child to apply to Ivy league schools, just so that they can drop the school name. Witness one exchange I heard at Back to School night, “where is Johnny going to college next year?” “We are so proud of Taylor, because you know she has a chance to go to UC Berkeley!” These exchanges are quite common and happen more often than you think. My advice is to not get caught up in the “Name Game.” Look at schools that you are interested in going to, not schools that your parents just want you to go to. Where are you going to be happy for the next 4-5 years of your life, not somewhere that your parents can brag about. I know this is easier said than done (“my parents are paying for my school”) but on the Your List page I will offer some advice.
The Magic Formula
Don’t believe it when some publication or some person tells you that they know how to get into a specific university. There is no magic formula. If there was, someone would have discovered it and written a book about it and become a billionaire. Trust me, I know I would have. The reality is at the end of the day, as a student you need to work hard, get the best grades that you possibly can and do the best that you can on the SAT or ACT. You do the best that you can and see what happens when you apply to universities across the country. Some universities brag about how many 4.0 GPA students or even valedictorians that they reject!
There are so many instances where students who have a higher GPA don’t get into a university than one of their peers from their own school. It happens all of the time, because there are so many variables that come into play when universities are looking at applications. The public will never know all of the factors that schools use when they accept or reject applicants. Some of the factors include: 1) how many applicants applied 2) how many spaces are available for that academic year 3) how much emphasis a school places on diversity. This can mean gender, race, socio-economic background, regional background, etc. 4) what an applicant’s community service or extra-curricular record is 5) how well a student wrote in their essay responses 6) what type of rigorous classes a student took and how well they did. All of these can play a factor and we will never know exactly what a specific school is looking for. I once had a student who was convinced that she was going to get into a certain school because a classmate of hers had and in her words her classmate was “under-qualified” according to the school’s averages. Well that was not what ended up happening. An average is just that, it means that some students score above the number and some score below. At the end of the day you cannot control the admissions process. The only thing that you can control is how hard you work on your grades.
You Have to Know
A lot of students will put pressure on their peers for them to know what they will major in in college. Choosing a major is a whole experience that I get into on the Your List page. The simple truth is that a) you don’t have to know right away what you want to major in and b) many people change their major. Now in your process for selecting schools to apply to, this can have an impact in your research. In recent years, some universities have decided that students cannot change their major once they start attending the university. This is important for you to look into when deciding where to apply to, because settling on a major is not an easy process and is rather important to your academic experience in college and your professional future. The Your List page goes into details as to why people change their majors once they start attending a university, but the idea of expecting a 17 or 18 year old High School senior to know what they want to major in without experiencing it first is quite unfair and has become quite controversial as well. As a student planning for their future, you should be aware if the school(s) you want to go to will lock you in academically and not give you the chance to explore your academic choices in college.