Ask Collegewise: What do you have against the highly-selective colleges?

Travis asks:

“It would appear that there is a consistent theme on your blog encouraging students to look away from the best colleges like the Ivies.  I was curious what it is about those schools that turns you off to them and why you think a student would be better served at a lesser college?”

First, I disagree with your premise that the Ivy League schools are “the best,” and that anything else is “lesser,” but that really gets to the heart of your question.  We have nothing against the most selective colleges.  In fact, we work with students every year who go on to all of those schools and end up blissfully happy.

What we’re trying to share with our families at Collegewise, and here on our blog, is that the famous colleges don’t necessarily offer better educations or experiences than the less famous schools. A lot of people assume that selective is inherently better, but that’s just not the case. It’s like a student saying that he will only be happy if he can date the head cheerleader whom everyone wants to date. There may be nothing wrong with the head cheerleader.  She may be smart and funny and totally deserving of her popularity. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other equally smart, funny and datable girls in the class.

There’s no evidence to support the assertion that students who attend highly selective colleges end up smarter, happier, more successful or better looking than those who attend less famous schools. It’s what you do while you’re in college that counts.

And the mistaken belief about the inherent superiority of highly selective colleges causes a lot of the problems with college admissions today. Kids don’t feel good about their college prospects. They feel inferior if they don’t have perfect grades and test scores. They believe the only validation for all their hard work will be an admission from one of the chosen highly selective colleges. People aren’t enjoying the ride to college like they should be.

So we have nothing against famous colleges; we just don’t think they have the market cornered on great college experiences.

Thanks for the question.  If you’ve got one of your own, send it to us at