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Posts Tagged ‘Princeton’

Princeton
A college freshman wrote to me with some questions on Ivy League schools: their merit, their policies, and their preferences. My responses follow.

1. When interviewing my head of school, who attended Penn approximately 20 years ago, he told me “no one graduated without a job”. This obviously has changed, but why do you think that is? Do you think it is the quality of Ivy League schools that has gone down?

That certainly may be part of it, but it’s not the whole story. The first question is, what do we mean by a “quality” education? What makes one school better than another? Is it the practical (i.e. professional) value of the education? The challenge it provides? Perhaps it’s the social experience, or the values the university conveys? I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a dramatic demographic, socioeconomic, and political shift in the Ivies over the past fifty or so years, but that doesn’t necessarily imply anything about the quality of the coursework. My general impression is that many elite private universities have rather academic curricula compared to their public counterparts, in the sense that they aren’t geared to train students for the “real world.” I’m not opposed to taking courses out of personal interest, but I think most students who are fresh out of high school are hoping to gain some vocational skills as part of their education, and in that respect I think many top-rated private schools don’t deliver.

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Larson

One might think that America’s best universities would be intent on recruiting the top minds in the nation, but that’s often not the case. Instead, many highly-ranked private schools provide special preferences for anything but stellar academics. Brace yourselves: If you want a place at one of America’s elite universities, the answer may not be to study hard and get good grades, but rather to be born into the right circumstances – i.e., to be of the right race, religion, socioeconomic background, legacy status, or athletic ability.

Affirmative action – or just plain racism?

Not long ago, Harvard was charged with ethnic discrimination against Asian applicants. The following article discusses this issue at great length and suggests that the accusation is indeed well-founded. It additionally reveals a pattern of discrimination against gentile whites (Euro-Americans), as well as arbitrary favoritism toward Jewish students. Harvard employs an affirmative-action program to ensure that it has an abundance of ethnic minorities, but in the process knocks out some of its would-be best and brightest. How good can America’s top-rated university be if it’s not even meritocratic?

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AmherstMAHPI received this today:

“Dear Clayton,

My name is [redacted] and I am a rising freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in computer science. I came across your blog after doing research for a final AP macroeconomics project on college grad unemployment. After being done with high school and information to be filled out as requested by college, I finally had the time and thought to write to you.

Your blog posts are well-written even if they rant – it is very hard to give logical arguments in the midst of anger and misery. Your collection of elite education “warning stories” are rich and convincing. Most importantly, think back to your past words:

“In the end, my goal is to help people make better decisions and to avoid making what could well be a catastrophic choice purely out of ignorance and naïveté. This is something my academic advisors never did for me, and I paid the price. It sickens me to see this happening to other people, and I want to put an end to it. My cause is as noble as any can be.”

I believe that you did what you intended to do with your blog, for me.

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princeton-university

In a few weeks, I’ll be setting foot on campus at Princeton as a freshman. Luckily, with financial aid and scholarships, my education turns out to be more than free, so I’m not overly worried about the prospect of undergraduate debt. However, I would still like, when I graduate, to be marketable to some extent so I don’t have to incur mountains of graduate debt. What advice do you have for someone in my situation? What would you have done differently?

My response:

Thanks for writing, and congrats on the scholarships. You’ve dodged a major financial bullet and one of the most compelling reasons not to attend a private school.

Some of the advice I would offer depends on what you study and what you choose to pursue as a career. It depends also on what you’re looking for in a college experience, and what you want your life to look like afterward. But I can at least make some general suggestions, based on what I like to think is 20/20 hindsight.

1.       Remember that, for all its fame, Princeton is still just a school – nothing more, nothing less. Whatever your experience ends up being, remember that it’s only four years, and regardless of what happens, you will have options in the future. If you’re bright enough to get into Princeton, then you’re bright enough to shape your destiny beyond it. So if for whatever reason you find you’re not enjoying the experience, don’t let it get to you. Your life is not over if you don’t get straight A’s, and it does not reflect badly on you if you find the experience less than stellar, or don’t fit in with your peers and professors, or don’t enjoy your coursework. I took college far too seriously, and wound up totally burned out and miserable by the end. The intense classes, the competitive students, the blood, sweat, and tears that went into getting my diploma – they just weren’t worth Ultimately, I ended up hating the classroom and resenting formal education in general, which is really not a healthy perspective to have.

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unemployment-line

Still dreaming of a spot at Princeton or MIT? Still believe that a diploma from Stanford or Yale will make all your dreams come true? Here are a few more links that might change your mind:

Ivy League Graduates on Food Stamps

http://www.nationalreview.com/phi-beta-cons/276106/ivy-league-graduates-food-stamps-nathan-harden

Graduating into unemployment

“Nikki Muller, known for her viral YouTube video, “Ivy League Hustle,” still can’t make more than $14 an hour… [she] graduated from both Harvard and Princeton.”

http://www.diamondbackonline.com/opinion/article_9563b87c-26f4-11e2-9ab4-0019bb30f31a.html

Is an Ivy League Diploma Worth It?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203733504577023892064201700.html

Ivy League degree, no job

http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/17/news/economy/recession_lost_generation/index.htm

30s: Ivy League Unemployed

“Good-bye, Rat race. Good-bye, Bank Account.”

http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/bizfinance/finance/features/n_7941/index3.html

Unemployment Stories, Vol. Three: ‘Absolute Hell’

“I am a mid-30s female with an Ivy League graduate degree. I just received my third layoff in a little over four years.”

http://gawker.com/5930119/unemployment-stories-vol-three-absolute-hell

Unemployed Banker and Ivy Leaguer Reaches All Time Lows

http://www.ivygateblog.com/2009/09/unemployed-banker-and-ivy-leaguer-reaches-all-time-lows/

Scamployment! The e-mail inbox of an Ivy League unemployed

http://scamployment.wordpress.com/

Is the Ivy League a waste of money?

“Princeton professor and economist Alan Krueger set out to prove an Ivy League education paid off. He wound up proving exactly the opposite.”

http://money.msn.com/college-savings/is-the-ivy-league-a-waste-of-money-weston.aspx

From Ivy League to Unemployed: How College Grads Should Approach the Job Hunt

http://onecubicle.wordpress.com/2009/09/16/from-ivy-league-to-unemployed-how-college-grads-should-approach-the-job-hunt/

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