Yes, the school you go to is important. To a point. Maybe your school of choice has a really great program in your interest area, maybe it has a team you want to play for, maybe you like its extracurricular opportunities. This is all good and fair. But there’s a difference between wanting to go to a school for actual reasons and desiring to go to a school simply because it’s a ‘good school’. And the reason this distinction is important is because this is when people start making assumptions about the quality of not just a school, but those who attend the school, by how it stacks up in reputation.
Now don’t get me wrong. Schools have built up reputations through the quality of their programs, through their education potential, through research notoriety; all these factors that do contribute to a solid reputation. But just because a school does not have that legendary seal of being a top-ranking institution does not necessarily mean it’s not worthy. And it does not speak to the value of those who attend.
You can’t judge a book by its cover. Well-established schools with big reputations are great in their own way, and students who go there do often acquire quality educations. They do have many opportunities to succeed. But the concept is not mutually exclusive; it doesn’t mean that students who don’t go to a top 10-ranked university are of less value or less well-educated! You might become great if you go to one of these top schools, but you could go to a different school and do the same. It’s where you go to an extent, but what matters more is what you do there. How you play with the cards you’re dealt.
If you’re a prospective college student, I get that you can feel the pressure of this idea that you need to get into and attend school X, Y, or Z. But just remember to bring yourself back down to earth- why do you want to go that school? Make sure you are clear on the real reasons, and that they are self-fulfilling, rather than catering to society’s ‘expectations’ of your reputation in tie with where you obtain your higher education. Or rather, what you think are society’s expectations. Don’t judge your own self worth through external means. This way, you can better understand what it is that you truly want and need.
With a shrinking middle class and ever-rising costs of attendance, more students and families seem to be moving away from this idea that a quality education can only be found at certain schools, often those with glossy price tags or big names. Folks are trying to be economical and practical, but still strive for substance. But at the same time, the amount of competition for the limited number of seats at these schools is growing, with more students doing more academics, more extracurriculars, more, more, more. So remember, it’s about having a balanced perspective. Make your educational experience, from primary and secondary through higher studies, about YOU and what will bring you closer to your goals. Focus on the how, not just the where. And you will get there.