Editor: Thomas A. Smith
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
By Tom Smith
College rejection letters. They vary.
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I've never really understood the handwringing over college admissions. Some students act as if the decision of a given university to accept or reject them will have an immutable, dictatorial and lasting effect on every facet of their futures. As Harvard College pointed out in its ding letter, this is simply not true.
Fancy-pants universities do not create successful and talented people; rather, successful and talented people populate fancy-pants universities. At the same time however, the _majority_ of such people choose for a variety of reasons to attend lesser-known schools.
Posted by: Commodore | Apr 30, 2009 3:38:39 PM
Yep, it's true. OTOH it's also true that if you can go to Stanford or Harvard you have a leg up. But on the other hand still, if you plan to be a doctor, lawyer or other professional sort, then it's more a question of getting into a decent medical or law school, then getting your first job, than it is getting into a top 10 or 50 undergraduate school. And after your first job, it is much more about how hard you work than where you went to school. An exception to all this may be academic careers. Academics really do seem to care quite a bit about institutional prestige, not surprisingly.
Posted by: Tom Smith | Apr 30, 2009 5:15:50 PM
(Sigh.) Unfortunately, I can speak to the academia exception from personal experience. Went to an undistinguished university for my undergraduate work, got good (but not fantastic) grades, did well on the LSAT, and got into a semi-prestigious law school. On the whole, did merely okay (middle of the class; since my law school didn't rank students, I can only guess as to where I was exactly). At the end of my 3L year, I was approached by a couple of professors and told that my academic writing was good enough that I should seriously consider trying to get into teaching law if I was interested.
But, they said, since (1) the law school was only semi-prestigious (apropos to the original point under discussion, the professors didn't seem to think that my undergrad institution would really hurt me), (2) I didn't graduate at the very top of the class and (3) I wasn't a member of an under-represented minority, I'd probably need to get a PhD in economics or something else arguably law-related in order to have a decent shot at a tenure-track position. And the PhD really needed to be from somewhere prestigious (Yale was specifically mentioned as the ideal location). They left open the possibility of me landing a position at, say, a Tier 3 or Tier 4 law school without said PhD, if only because they really didn't know what the hiring standards were like at such schools. Perhaps after getting a few more law review publications, I might be somewhat marketable, somewhere.
Posted by: Janus | May 1, 2009 6:44:38 AM
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