No one prescribed path to success

William Stixrud is a clinical neuropsychologist, a faculty member at Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University Medical School, and the co-author of The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. And while I take small issue with the title (more on that in a minute), I did enjoy his piece “It’s Time to Tell Your Kids It Doesn’t Matter Where They Go To College,” especially this portion:

“Many adults worry that if their kids knew that grades in school aren’t highly predictive of success in life, they’d lose their motivation to apply themselves and aim high. In fact, the opposite is true. In my 32 years of working with kids as a psychologist, I’ve seen that simply telling kids the truth — giving them an accurate model of reality, including the advantages of being a good student — increases their flexibility and drive. It motivates kids with high aspirations to shift their emphasis from achieving for its own sake to educating themselves so that they can make an important contribution. An accurate model of reality also encourages less-motivated students to think more broadly about their options and energizes them to pursue education and self-development even if they aren’t top achievers.”

I’ve learned that authors often don’t write the titles of their pieces in major outlets, and that may be the case here. But I’d be cautious about being so dismissive about the college choice to say that where you go simply doesn’t matter at all. Colleges are not all the same. The right college for one student may not be the right cost, academic setting, environment, etc. for another.

But the larger point is still an important one. Great educations can be found at many colleges, not just the famous, expensive, or prestigious ones. What you do in college will be more important than the name of the school where you do it. And there’s no one prescribed path to success.