Does It Matter Where Your Son or Daughter Goes to College?

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

Our local newspaper added a ton of heat to the controversy that rages this time of year about which college a high school senior should attend. The headline read: Forget the Ivy League: Most Valley CEOs Went Public.

Right now, high school seniors everywhere are polishing essays to impress those soon-to-be bleary eyed college admissions staff, many of whom will read more essays than ever before. Our children born in 1989 (4 million babies born) and 1990 (4.2 million babies born) are part of a boomlet almost as large as the late baby-boom year of 1961 when 4.3 million babies were born.

Consequently, colleges are seeing more applications than previously and turning down top candidates they would have welcomed just a few years ago. Admissions directors expect this to continue until the end of the decade.

Ever resourceful and upbeat, many high school guidance counselors are countering with the mantra, ” It doesn’t matter where you go to college. A top student can succeed anywhere.”

The MercuryNews article by Mark Schwanhausser seems to support that, too. The statistics on Silicon Valley CEOs does show that the majority attended public universities. Most have two or three degrees, though, with an MBA and/or a Ph.D in engineering being the most common.

The CEOs who were interviewed for the newspaper article often remarked that they chose their schools for reasons other than getting to the top of the corporate ladder. But, then the author threw parents everywhere a curve ball.

He asked recruiters for Cisco and Intel where they look for college graduates when they recruit for jobs. Both recruiters readily admitted that they do their searching at 30 to 40 of the “absolutely best schools in the United States.” Companies know that the tough screening process at certain schools makes their job easier. This quote from one recruiter is highly revealing,”Finding great talent at other schools is possible, but it takes more work.”

So if you want to work for one of the best technology companies, you’ll have an easier time getting an interview if you go to one of the “top schools” because recruiters focus their efforts there.

You can find a ranking of the top schools from US News and World Report. But, you’ll need to pay $14.95 for the premium online edition to see all of the ratings for all of the colleges. Another resource is the In addition to overseeing the SATs, the CollegeBoard has expanded into college planning, college search and college financing (beware of the sales pitches here.)

But, you may be asking, what about Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison? They both dropped out of college and are doing just fine. Does anyone really need college at all? Why not just get started on building up job experience? How the heck do you advise your son or daughter when they ask for your ideas about this?

Here’s my take on it: Attending college is an incredible opportunity to study something that interests you and to sample topics you haven’t tried before. (Steve Jobs credits a calligraphy class with igniting his sense for design.) Most careers today require at least a college degree. If you don’t have one, at some point you get passed over for promotions. Your teen should plan on a graduate degree if he/she has aspirations to climb the ladder of success in technology.

I believe that it is important to find the best ranking school with the best fit for your student’s needs. Definitely look at public schools but don’t ignore private colleges and universities because of cost. See my post on financial aid.

By the way, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Steve Jobs of Apple are both wildly successful without college degrees because both started their own companies and led them to major success. No one asks to see their diplomas. They have proven they can produce results.

But, a new college graduate will be measured by the name of the school on the diploma. America’s top corporations will all vie to hire from the so called top 40 or 50 schools. So, the answer is yes. It does matter early in their careers if they dream of sitting at a desk at any of the Fortune 500.

Ultimately, anyone can succeed with a willingness to work. My favorite no BS book on the subject is:Automatic Wealth for Grads . . . and Anyone Else Starting Out

Michael Masterson may not be as well known as Bill Gates but offers solid tips from his real life experiences working for others and owning his own companies. This former Peace Corp volunteer and college professor has insights that are right on target. You may even want to check it out for yourself. I did and learned a lot!


The Cure for Helicopter Parents of College Students

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

With the start of a new school year at universities and colleges in the US, there have been a flurry of news reports and newly released books discussing the problems that “helicopter parents” are causing. These parents are so named because they are still hovering around trying to take care of their students who are attending college.

But, it is not just a parent problem. It is a child problem, too. For many of these college freshmen, this is the first extended time away from family. If they are not used to using a coin laundry, locating and taking public transportation or foraging for food on their own, freshman year becomes a struggle to learn about living alone along with studying and adjusting to a new social structure.

Some students are natural adventurers, but others are not. The result is a very homesick son or daughter who just wants to give up and come home. Meanwhile, the parents, who really do want their children to succeed in college and in life, offer to help in ways that can range from minor to ridiculous.

Paul Wruble in his blog at suggests a solution that is straightforward and makes enormous sense. Your child needs practice being away from home. During high school (and even before), your student should participate in summer camps, student trips, visit distant relatives and go on trips with others.

Any activity (it doesn’t have to be expensive) that allows your child to learn about living away from your immediate home environment offers an opportunity for your son or daughter to test drive independence. By little bits, your child gains confidence and, seeing that confidence, you let go.

Summer camps or student travel programs are too expensive? What about marching band, chorus, speech and debate, science clubs, robotics clubs, sports and other school and community organizations that have trips funded by contributions from the community? And, of course, there is Scouting, Campfire, YMCA/YWCA camps and activities. Many organizations have scholarships for students whose families can’t afford the fees.

Let your child find the program that excites him or her. Don’t do the work, but don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer.

One of the skills my son and I worked on while visiting some college campuses and attending college interviews was using public transit. How do you look up schedules? How do you purchase a ticket from the machine or add money to ticket? How do you use the airline self-service kiosk?

We didn’t rent a car while we were in Boston. We walked everywhere except for the taxi to and from airport. In Pittsburgh, our hotel had a shuttle that dropped us off and picked us up.

Right before making the final decision on which college to attend, Number One Son took solo trips to two campuses on the East Coast. One trip was to attend a special event for newly admitted students. The college arranged for sharing dorm rooms with current students and had planned meals and events.

The other was a solo trip to a campus because he could not make their planned event. My son arranged to meet the brother of a friend who is attending that college and toured the campus on his own. He stayed on his own in a motel close to campus. An important note for parents: some states (New York in this case) have rules about students under the age of 18 staying alone in a motel room. I had to fax a permission letter to the manager of the motel before my son arrived.

The airport in upstate New York was fogged in when he arrived at that last destination, so they landed at another airport and traveled the rest of the way by bus. The trip back also had its weather problems. My son learned first hand how difficult travel could be to that location. He eventually decided that he wanted a less remote college.

None of this made saying goodbye at the airport on August 31st any easier for me or my husband when it was time for our son to begin college on the East Coast. But, we knew that he had done this trip before and could do it again.