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 CollegeBoard.com. 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!

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