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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW

gerald_bradshaw@post.harvard.edu

Bradshaw College Consulting

(219) 663-3041


Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I will apply to several top colleges next year, and I have a question that, so far, no one has answered to my satisfaction.

If I am offered a full scholarship to a state college, should I accept it? If I gain admittance to a top college like Harvard or MIT, is it worth the extra money and debt to attend one of them over a state college?

My parents are encouraging me to stay in state and apply for a full scholarship, which I probably will get. That sounds reasonable, but my concern is what I would give up if I turned down the chance to attend a top-tier college. --Student

Scholarship or elite school?




Dear Student

— Each year, some students turn down the chance to attend a top-tier college because they feel the academic pressure to perform or the financial burden would be too great. Others might prefer to attend a college closer to home.

Whatever your decision, there are tangible benefits if you attend Harvard or MIT. Keep in mind, these are my personal views and may not represent the majority of college advisers.

A recent article in The Harvard Crimson carried this headline: “Dropping out of Harvard: A standard to aspire to.”

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg had returned to his alma mater for the first time since dropping out in 2005. He came back dressed in jeans and a sweat shirt to recruit students for his company. He also visited MIT on his trip in an effort to find more of the best and brightest students for his company — arguably the gold standard by which other companies measure their ability to attract the best candidates.

With Facebook starting salaries averaging $150,000 per year and a work environment built around brilliant and talented employees, Zuckerberg selects only the best. It doesn’t hurt that the popular movie “The Social Network” added to his celebrity.

Zuckerberg recruits at top colleges, he said, because he wants to have “the first crack at the stars before they graduate.” The Crimson added he was looking for “the next Bill Gates, who might be right in this room.” These comments often are not made about other universities.

In the tradition of other famous dropouts like Gates, Zuckerberg made no bones about being different. He encouraged students to take time off from their studies to explore what they really want to do. His talk was limited to only 200 students who were selected based on resume submissions.

Why did he stop at Harvard? Because Harvard is the most selective college in America. It accepted only 6.1 percent of all applicants last year. Harvard students ranked at the top of their classes in high school, and many turned down full scholarships at other schools to study there.

Gates and Zuckerberg charted a new course when they dropped out of college to become entrepreneurs. Their actions have influenced a generation of students to think differently about computer science.

Gates said computer programming lured him away from Harvard, but an early 1990s biography says he dropped out when Harvard objected to his use of university computers for private business.

I know my clients want to succeed and use what they learn in college to start businesses, and they write openly about their entrepreneurial goals in their applications. These are the students Zuckerberg wants for Facebook — before Google and Apple get there.

What would you give up if you turned down the chance to attend a top-tier school? Perhaps a chance to work at one of the greatest companies in the world, surrounded by the best and brightest students of your generation.



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