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TANGLED UP IN IVY: Attending an Ivy League school comes with bragging rights and promising career choices--but what if you don't get in?

MANY college-bound seniors set their sights on getting into an Ivy League school. It is a noble goal to have and inspires students to get the highest grades they can manage. It also is a catalyst that pushes high school students to participate in many volunteer activities to help make their application stand out. The truth is, though, that may not be enough for a student to get into the school of his or her dreams, especially if that dream revolves around an Ivy League campus.

The applications to these schools are numerous and the spaces to fill relatively few. For instance, in 2017, Harvard received more than 42,000 applications, and admitted 4.59% of those students. However, the percentage of acceptance at Harvard and the other seven Ivy schools increases significantly if the applicant self-identifies as a person of color or a first-generation college student. For regular decisions, however, when judged only upon performance and resume (SAT and ACT scores, grade point average, volunteer work, interview results) the rate of acceptance remains quite low.

Why seek out an Ivy League school in the first place? The reasons may look something like this: people will be impressed that I was accepted into an Ivy League school; I want the prestige that a top school can give me; graduating from this university will give me advantages in the job market over lesser-known schools; I want to learn from the famous professors that are on staff; I can make connections with elites.

First and most importantly, your future is not dependent upon your bragging rights. What you do in college is far more important than where you go to college. The most-important thing you can do is to find a school that fits you. For instance, if you are a conservative, you likely will feel like a misfit in an Ivy League school. The Ivies tend to have a more-liberal mindset.

The prestige that you would receive from attending an Ivy League school matters less than what you do with your education. If you got into an Ivy League school and you struggle to keep pace with your peers, you might graduate in the lower half of your class. At a different school with less scholarly competition, that same effort likely would put you near the top of your graduating class.

Also, you need to decide what it is you want to pursue professionally. If, for example, your passion is graphic design, you will cam more prestige in your field by going to the Rhode Island School of Design--and the chances that you actually will be able to enroll there will be much better

If you want to be a politician or lawyer, having a degree from Harvard or Yale likely will give you an edge. However, if you want to pursue a career in business, where you get your degree is less important. According to the hiring records of Fortune 500 companies, the most-important trait is whether you will be someone who works well with others. Recruiters tend to value EQ (emotional quotient) over IQ (intelligence quotient).

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, summarizes these hiring preferences this way: "Personality always wins over book smarts. Company knowledge and job-specific skills can be learned, but you can't train personality."

When it comes to rubbing shoulders with famous Ivy League professors, do not count on it. Because so many of them are writing books to maintain their fame or doing research for prestigious scientific papers, you may find you spend much more time learning from graduate assistants. These are students working on their Master's degree who step in to teach classes for the professor on record. You will not be aware of this substitution until you sit down in the classroom.

As for making connections with elites, you can make connections with famous and elite people no matter where you go to school. This happens at conferences, during internships, and just by reaching out.

Multibillionaire Elon Musk, known for founding (that later became PayPal), Tesla Motors, and SpaceX, made a habit of reading the newspaper and picking out people from whom he wanted to learn. While he was a student at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, he wrote to CEOs of major companies and journalists of top publications and asked if he could interview them. Some did not respond; some said no; but others spoke with him and he built an amazing network of influential people. You can do that, too.

Of course there will be far more-famous people on the alumni list of an Ivy League school who you can reach out to, and this often is a valuable door-opener. However, do not underestimate the people you will meet on your college campus wherever you enroll.

John Lasseter was a student at the California Institute of the Arts where he met Brad Bird. The two classmates had a passion for drawing cartoons and got along well together. They took advantage of the training they received at Cal Arts under their professors that were veteran Disney animators. Years later, they teamed up at Pixar Films and, today, both men are worth millions as a result of their work together on animated films such as "The Incredibles," "Incredibles 2," 'Toy Story 3," and "Monsters, Inc."

Another couple of classmates at the University of Nebraska discussed an idea to make the use of a laptop more aerodynamic. Together they created a simple invention called The Prop. It is a portable laptop stand that tilts the computer to a more-comfortable typing and viewing angle. They posted their invention on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site, to raise the capital they needed to put it into production. After graduation, they expanded their line of office products. The Prop is a very popular seller on Amazon and their business website.

In both of these partnerships, the students went to institutions that do not have Ivy League status, but they valued the talent that they found at their schools and nurtured those relationships. There are multiple examples of highly successful business people and entrepreneurs who found their future partners and collaborators at their colleges--regardless of the status of the schools. However, you must be intentional about building those relationships.

An additional consideration when choosing a college is debt load. If you are traveling from another state, you will need to add the cost of flights or other transportation to and from the school for summer and holiday breaks. Choosing a local state college can save you thousands of dollars and lessen your stress upon graduation and repayment time.

Your college loan debt will determine where you live, what jobs you take, and what decisions you make. If you have an exorbitant monthly loan repayment it will delay your being able to buy a house, start your own business, and make it impossible for you to travel the world before you settle into a job routine. Keep the big picture in mind.

Your success depends upon you, not on the name of your school. Obsessing over getting admitted to an Ivy League college can set you up for failure. Spend more time preparing for life after college.

Research career options by searching Internet sites. You can find careers based on your interests and talents just by clicking a few buttons. You also can discover which careers are growing and which ones are shrinking so that you can build toward a career that still will exist when you graduate.

Once you have decided on the career that is most suited to your likes, reverse engineer which schools offer the major that is required for that job. Keep your mind open to schools that might not have an impressive tide but will give you the skills that will take you where you want to go.

Steven Spielberg's application was rejected at his college of choice--twice. He instead chose to enroll at a "lesser" school--California State University at Long Beach--and utilized the opportunity it gave him to take part in an unpaid internship at Universal Studios. He was such a good fit there that he was offered a seven-year directing contract. Spielberg dropped out of college and went on to win three Academy Awards.

If your heart is set on an Ivy League school, give it your best shot and send your application. However, if you are one of the many who receive a rejection letter, know that you are in good company. Find a school that fits you regardless of its tide and, if you absolutely must have Harvard on your resume, plan to take some online courses from its extension school.

You can use the money you save in tuition to start your own business and become the next Elon Musk.


Lindy Schneider is an independent college advisor. Her latest book, College Secrets of Highly Successful People, will be released in March 2019.
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Title Annotation:EDUCATION
Author:Schneider, Lindy
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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