The Absurd Lies of College Admissions

Today I read an article at the “Daily Beast” by Megan McArdle that really struck a nerve, entitled “The Absurd Lies of College Admissions”. It begins…

A high school student has penned an open letter to the colleges that rejected her, published in the Wall Street Journal.

“I also probably should have started a fake charity. Providing veterinary services for homeless people’s pets. Collecting donations for the underprivileged chimpanzees of the Congo. Raising awareness for Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter Syndrome. Fun-runs, dance-a-thons, bake sales—as long as you’re using someone else’s misfortunes to try to propel yourself into the Ivy League, you’re golden.”

I highly recommend that you read the whole thing.

I don’t agree with everything this high school student wrote – for instance, the type of thing she describes is more characteristic of some Ivies than others – but there is a lot of this at certain Ivies and one in particular that I won’t name.

For that matter, I don’t agree with everything Megan McArdle added. But I think there is an important thing for any high school student to consider: What do you want to get out of college, and do I need a degree from an “elite” school to get it? For instance, do you want to own a home? Get married? Raise kids and be able to pay for their weddings or college degrees should they be interested in going? Do you want to create things? Will people pay for the things that you create?

And will the label on your diploma affect any of these greater goals? Because after four years, nobody cares where you got your degree. An engineer with a B.S. from Princeton or Cornell will work side by side with engineers from UT Austin, Penn State, Rutgers, RPI and Georgia Tech, make the same amount of money and have the same career track.

If you don’t have those greater goals that allow you to calculate a “return on investment” for your college – and more importantly, major of choice – you may have bigger long term problems than concocting fantastic stories about extracurricular activities. Keep your eyes on the prize!