Thursday, October 12, 2017
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I grew up in a working-class family and while I did not graduate from an Ivy League school I did graduate from an elite state college. I turned down Princeton for a full scholarship to a top state college that paid for most of my undergraduate expenses. I now feel that the full scholarship was a double-edged sword. On one hand, I saved money by going to a state school. On the other hand, it took me nearly a decade longer for me to gain a top management position than it did for a number of other colleagues who attended Ivy League schools. It is never lost on me that I am the only public college graduate among my associates. Is this something that students should take into consideration as they decide between the Ivy League or a top state school?
Tough choice awaits students deciding between Ivies, other colleges
In essence, you are saying that you can get to the same place in your career by attending a state school but it may take longer. I appreciate your frankness. You also make an interesting point about the value of an Ivy education that is strengthened by your personal experience in the workplace.
This experience should be especially enlightening to first generation college students from working-class families, who must choose between an Ivy League school and a less expensive state college. The media is full of stories about underemployed and unemployed college graduates. The truth is, with a college degree your average lifetime earnings will be higher and the probability of unemployment is lower. It is also true that a lifetime salary edge often goes to the Ivies.
At a majority of the Ivies, the most popular career fields for graduates are economics and finance, business consulting, and education. Some schools, including Harvard and Brown, also provide world renowned Computer Science programs and have a large portion of students jet off to Silicon Valley or other tech epicenters post-graduation.
Regardless of how bright and talented you are, if you opt to attend an Ivy League school, you will soon realize there is almost an invisible stigma attached to schools outside of that world. This is expressed in the arrogant euphemism that anyone educated "West of New England" must be looked upon as a reminder of the ongoing class struggle that meritocracy was supposed to have ended. While this is an exaggeration, a bias still does exist on the part of many students who arrive on an Ivy League campus from the privileged position of an elite boarding school on the East Coast. For many working-class students, it is a culture shock to find out that your roommate is the son of a famous billionaire, and that he skis in Europe and summers in Hyannis Port.
There is no getting around class privilege and distinction. It does not take long to learn which group you fit into and with whom you feel most comfortable socializing. It is unfortunate that intimate friendships do not always form easily across socioeconomic lines. There are complex social dynamics taking place that rarely get talked about or worked through.
As you pointed out, these issues are often played out in the workplace several years after graduation. Many jobs and careers are directly linked to understanding these relationships and being able to deal with the realities. Students must decide if the advantage that the Ivies give graduates is worth the cost. Where careers are concerned there is evidence that the diploma and social connections that come from an Ivy League education may be worth it in both graduate school admission and the workplace.
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Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
866-687-8129 (toll free)
+ 219-781-2372 (cell)
Colleges and Universities, College Consulting, International Students
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