Elite Colleges are Overated

Roshan Mehta, Executive Video Producer

I am a junior in high school.  And like the millions of other juniors planning on attending college, thoughts regarding my future cross my mind constantly.  I am 99% sure that I haven’t gone a single day this year without thinking about college.  No, that is not an exaggeration.  I worry about where I will go, if the school has a good education, and if it’s well-known; basically, I worry about whether I will go to an elite university or not.  And despite being told this for years, I have finally accepted that none of that matters because elite colleges are overrated.  Their financial costs outweigh their education, the name doesn’t matter in the long run, and they aren’t a reflection on your self-worth.

It’s no secret that college education is expensive.  Average university tuition is increasing by around 8% each year, and that figure is only going to grow.  These college expenses are generally the highest at prestigious schools; the average ivy-league tuition is around $50,000 per year.  The average annual cost of a public, in-state college is around $10,000, meaning there is a 40K difference between these two levels.  

What’s more, is that these elite universities are raking in their money through corrupt practices. On January 9th, a lawsuit was filed against some of the nation’s top colleges: 6 ivy-leagues, as well as other universities, such as M.I.T., Northwestern, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, and more.  The suit claimed that some of these colleges were violating the federal antitrust law that governs them.  According to the regulation, these universities are allowed to collaborate on financial aid distribution, as long as the ability of the applicant to pay is not taken into consideration.  However, the latter clause has been disregarded by accounting for the finances of wait-listed students, favoring the children of donors to the universities.  The truth is, elite universities just want money, and they are going to skew admissions for those who can give it to them.  

Now, it’s true that some of the hefty elite college tuition is due to the education at those institutions.  However, this supposed “better” schooling falls short in value to other, cheaper universities.  For starters, most college professors have a doctorate in their field, regardless of the college they teach at.  This means no matter which school you attend, you are going to be taught by a qualified scholar.  Furthermore, at smaller universities, hundreds of thousands of  attendees have stated that throughout their college life, they formed several strong ties with their professors.  Despite attending a local university, they had tight connections with their instructors, arguably one of the most important parts of education.  

And finally, possibly the most notable part of all of this, is that the college someone attends is not nearly as important as their individual character.  In a series of studies by Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale from Princeton University and Mathematica Policy Research, it was found that later on in life, there was virtually no difference in income between students who got into elite colleges and didn’t go, versus those who got in and attended.  In other words, the individual capability of the student played a bigger role in their success rather than the college they attended.  And even those who don’t get into elite colleges often end up making a suitable living, as the education at smaller universities is still high quality.

Lastly, this is probably the part that people need to hear the most: the college you go to is not your defining characteristic, nor is a determination of your self-worth.  The college admissions process is largely random.  You can have a 4.0 GPA, 20 extracurriculars, and have discovered the cure to cancer, and Harvard still might reject you.  But that’s okay!  There is so much more to a person than their resume.  I would much rather hang around a kind person without a college education, than a person with a P.h.D. from Columbia who acts like a jerk.  The college you go to is not a reflection of you as a person.

I know it’s hard, but if you are struggling with this, for the next few days, make a genuine effort not to worry about your future.  When any unwanted thoughts come to you about this topic, just remember that you as a person matter more than your education.  I overcame this barrier, and I know that you can as well.