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Is a Top College Really Worth It?
by Matthew Scandale

Many who graduate from top colleges are sometimes shocked to learn that the world isnít their oyster, theyíre not appointed Secretary of State, and they donít make a fortune with a startup company or a groundbreaking scientific discovery.  In fact, a lot of graduates of top colleges go on to have careers not much different from their peers who attended their local state universities, finding themselves grinding away in similar entry-level jobs, perhaps earning the exact same pay.  Many who graduate quickly realize that the material they learned in the ďivory towerĒ has no relevance to the real world.  So what is it all really worth?

1.  A degree from a top university is a lifetime marketing tool for your career.  A college with a respected name always leaps off a resume.  Itíll never guarantee you a better job, but it will usually help.  It gives a signal to employers that youíre more serious, diligent and/or intelligent than the average candidate.  Itís just one advantage, and itís up to you to use it to its fullest.

2.  It means youíre virtually guaranteed of being surrounded by more serious, diligent, and/or intelligent students for 4 of your formative years, and the influence and inspiration they naturally bring to you.  While you can always try to seek people like this anywhere you go, youíre going to be guaranteed to meet them all over a top college.  This is even more important than what you learn at college.  When learning the habits, values, and attitudes of successful people, youíre acquiring the raw materials to succeed in any endeavor.  And these last a lifetime.  And you may not even realize this transformation is happening to you.

3.  It means youíll always be guaranteed to work extremely hard, regardless of how you feel, because you will have no choice.  You can work hard at any school, but you canít stay for longer than 1 semester at a top college if you donít.  If self-discipline is ever a question mark for you, this will ensure you acquire it.

4.  It means youíll be exposed to people from a broader range of backgrounds.  At your local state university, youíll meet the better students and more ambitious and talented people from your city, and perhaps a couple others nearby.  At a top university, youíre going to meet the more ambitious students from around the country and even the world.  You will immediately recognize differences in geography and culture.  You will realize that there are life opportunities outside of your own geographic region, and that you can successfully take advantage of them.  As a high school student, you may never have dreamed of a career working with dolphins in the South Pacific or designing fashions in New York.  After attending a top college, you may realize that is something that you can easily achieve.

5.  It means exposure to better professors.  While professors arenít anywhere as important an influence as your peers while away at college, professors can be huge influences.  One particular inspiring professor can change your life: make you decide to choose a particular profession.  When youíre among the better professors in the country, youíll often be inspired simply to love learning more.  Many professors will be tops in their fields, and you can get to know them and realize that they are people just like you, and that you can probably even be like them someday.

6.  It provides connections in your career after you graduate.  When you meet up with a fellow alumnus, you instantly have a shared experience.  Some of your friends from college may become connections.  Since most colleges foster a school spirit by competition with other universities, youíll naturally feel a kinship with fellow alumni over those who attended other schools.

7.  It means youíll probably eventually get married to someone who is also successful.

Is a top college really worth it?  If you havenít travelled the world, been exposed to great minds, and learned the skills to succeed in any endeavor, then this is a doorway to those kinds of things.  Itís up to you to make the most of it, during and after.  But a top college will always provide greater opportunities for success.  Once you attend a top college, you will be changed.  If this is the kind of person you want to become, then this is the road you want to take.  Itís not for everybody, but nor does everybody have an opportunity like this.  Before you enroll, know what to expect.  It wonít be cheap and it wonít be easy.  It wonít guarantee you superstardom.  But once you open the door and go down the path, itís hard to go back, and things will never quite be the same for you.  Itís terrifying, but ultimately it often proves to be priceless for those who choose it. 

Matthew Scandale

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