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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Name on the Diploma that Really Matters

My 17 year old daughter came home today telling me about a conversation she had with a couple of her friends. They are all seniors in high school, and are at the stage in life where they are discussing colleges and their future. We live in an affluent area, and our schools are highly ranked. The public high school my daughter attends is a Gold Medal School as listed in the Top 100 High Schools in the 2009 US News and World Report. The children reflect the values of their parents and peers, and it is maddening to hear what the children are saying as if it is coming from their own brain, but I know it is from their parents.

My daughter's friend inferred that her choice of attending a State College versus a private or UC (University of California) school meant she had less drive, less capability and less intelligence to get into a "better" school. It wasn't said in so many words, but it was implied by saying, "Did you know so-and-so is going to a more well known school, she's really serious about her major (and you're not). This other girl went to a summer program last year and the year before that (and that basically means she's smarter and more ambitious than you because you didn't)." My daughter took it all in stride, as a matter of fact I think she even feels she has as secret. And that is, more CEOs, more extra-ordinary people, did not attend Ivy League schools like you might assume. I like to reference this study by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. In particular, there is a study done just a couple of years ago that shows the declining dominance of Ivy League schools and the correlation between where the Fortune 100 CEOs went to college. Of the top 100 Fortune CEOs of companies in 2006, only 12 did their undergraduate work at an Ivy institution and 20 at a prestigious school. In other words, 88 CEOs went to other colleges, such as state colleges. In other words, the college does not determine success.

What I realize at this stage in my parenting is that children are not only influenced by name brand clothes, games and paraphernalia, but by "name brand" colleges. Another girl my daughter knows just got accepted to Stanford. Now that spells success in many ways. But when I had the chance to ask this girl what she wanted to ultimately be after she graduated, she said she might be a piano teacher. Now when was the last time you asked your child's piano teacher where she went to college? Did that determine who you chose for your child? Perhaps if you had a child prodigy it would, but then again, would you need a piano teacher if your child was a prodigy?

While I'm infuriated by the values my daughter's friend has, I'm also proud at the same time by how my daughter reacted and I realize my daughter is smarter than her high-SAT-scoring friend in ways that aren't measured by that test. And that's because she knows it's not the name of the school on her diploma that matters, it's HER name on the diploma that makes all the difference in the world. My daughter will leave a mark on this world with her artistic talent, and it's not because of the college she's attending or the label on her clothes. It's because she is true to herself, and knows it's not the where that matters.

Addendum: I just found this interesting post to share: Is College Worth it? by Michael Arceneaux

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