Where your kid goes to college doesn't matter as much as you think

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/13/2019, 11:36 a.m.
Before you "help" your kid get into an Ivy League school through various methods of chicanery, take a very deep ...
There probably is an ideal school for your child out there, but it's also likely that it isn't one of the more elite universities, despite their promise of delivering students the good life. No college holds a monopoly on success. And who's definition of success are we talking about anyway?

By David G. Allan, CNN

(CNN) -- Before you "help" your kid get into an Ivy League school through various methods of chicanery, take a very deep breath and consider why it's so important to you that they get into an elite school.

If your reflexive answer is, "Because my kid wants to go there," then consider who may have influenced that desire. There is a reason you both share it.

A much less fraught start to the college scouting process would be a values exercise. As you and your teen consider what's most important in life, use those factors -- happiness, purpose, power, wealth accumulation, adventure, knowledge, creative freedom and expression, etc -- as a filtering device. Stanford, Harvard and Yale may not be ideal for some of those values.

Along with the quality of a school's individual degrees, you should seriously weigh other happiness factors like financial debt size, distance from family, a school's culture and politics, where friends are going to college, and where the school is located on a map. Some kids will love living in New York City, some will hate it.

More prestigious colleges offer access to great professors and help fast-track a career (especially financially). But with those advantages may come greater performance pressure or more access to craven temptations. Remember that no matter where you go to college, what you get out of it is mainly determined by what you put into it.

There probably is an ideal school for your child out there, but it's also likely that it isn't one of the more elite universities, despite their promise of delivering students the good life. No college holds a monopoly on success. And who's definition of success are we talking about anyway?

A few years ago, a Gallup-Purdue University poll of college graduates found that "the type of schools these college graduates attended -- public or private, small or large, very selective or less selective -- hardly matters at all to their ... current well-being." And furthermore, graduates of public colleges and those from private colleges were equally "deeply involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work." College factors that actually improved those scores, according to the poll? Whether students had professors who cared about them and the job experiences they had outside the classroom.

And even if we're talking about traditional notions of success, an elite university is not a prerequisite either. Many rich, famous and powerful people (not that those are qualities which to aspire, though some do) went to small colleges you've likely never heard of. Ronald Reagan went to Illinois' Eureka College; David Letterman went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana; Tom Hanks went to Chabot College in Hayward, California and George Lucas went to Modesto Junior College in California. Maybe it helped that they were all white men, but they also didn't need their parent's money, secret societies or connections to the pillars of power to make a name for themselves.