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In Defense Of Expensive, Impractical And Unconventional College Choices

Diamond Yao By Diamond Yao Published on November 27, 2015

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It's college decision time and all kinds crazy things are popping up on the ever-so-charming Internet, like this piece in the Time. 

As much as I like the Time, I have to respectfully disagree with the author of this article. Where you go to college DOES matter, in a very indirect but nonetheless extremely important way. His argument is based on the fact that employers don't care about which school's name is stamped on your degree; they care about what skills you have. And he's probably right. The content and quality of the courses at different colleges might be exactly the same. Therefore, it shouldn't matter much where you study, right ? Wrong. 

First of all, the author says that students who attend elite schools and those who had been accepted to elite schools but chose "moderately selective" schools instead have almost no difference in income later on in life. To that, I'm inclined to say "duh": motivated people are going to succeed no matter which system you put them in (something that isn't true with their less-motivated peers.) Furthermore, this kind of statement seems to restrict the ultimate goal of education to earning a good salary, which is entirely false. Obviously it is important, but it is far from being the only goal of education. Getting educated also means having the opportunity to grow as a person and develop your sense of self with your own personal culture and ideas. It shapes you into who you are. 

When choosing schools, you're not only choosing what you'll be studying. You're also choosing the kind of students that will be accompanying you during your studies. You're also choosing the kind of school atmosphere you'll be living in. You're also choosing the kind of student culture you'll adopt. You're choosing much more than classes and programs. You're choosing your way of life for the next few years. And that is something unique to every school. College is much more than a choice of studies. It's a choice of experience. And what you get out of it completely transforms you as a person, becomes part of your individual makeup, which is then clearly reflected in your skills (what employers are looking for). So maybe the courses you took won't be so different from those taken by another student of similar academic performance at a different college. But since you two come from different schools, you had completely different college experiences and therefore learned different "unquantifiable" things out of it (for example: how to have a global worldview, how work in teams, how to treat other people, how to surmount difficult challenges, extra personal culture/background, how to think critically, how to cope with negativity, how to manage stress, how to be more open-minded, etc.), your skills sets are different. Your college environment is absolutely crucial.  

And if it really didn't matter where you went to school, as long as you had the right credentials, then why are some people shelling out thousands of dollars to attend private liberal arts colleges ? Why would anyone go for the trouble of studying abroad ? Why would people go live on campus in a school far away from home when there is one perfectly good college offering the same program with the exact same courses right next door ? 

Your choice of school matters. Whether you like it or not, it is going to define you as an individual for the rest of your life. Choose wisely. 

I am a serial Post-It user with a poet's heart and a logician's mind. If I am not busy trying to (pointlessly) perfect the art of juggling a million contradictory ideas at the same time, you can ... Show More

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