“It’s not where you go to college, it’s what you do while you’re there.”
I say it in different ways, but the overarching message is always the same.
I believe that principle. It’s why I started Collegewise and why I am still here 19 years later. But the message has never been, “Just pick any college and go.”
Much like choosing a best friend, partner, job, etc., haphazard college selection is a terrible idea. This is your education. It’s four years of time and money. It’s an experience and an opportunity that will almost certainly not repeat itself. Of course it matters where you go.
But great experiences and educations are available at many, many colleges, not just the prestigious ones. You need to do the research and the soul searching to find those that might be right for you. There will be no guarantees, and there’s no such thing as a perfect college. Go into your college experience with eyes open, ready to take advantage of what’s available to you and to be resilient when things don’t go as planned. Treat it like you would any investment—financial, personal, or educational—as something worthy of your care and attention. A college experience and the subsequent outcomes are a product of a relationship, one between the student and the college. And even the best relationships still require work.
But if you do those things, it will matter a lot less whether you’re at Harvard or Haverford, Michigan or Mizzou, Hampshire or Hendrix.
As he has done so many times before, Patrick O’Connor explains an important college admissions premise with the insight and care worthy of his counseling expertise, this time with, “Of Course It Matters Where You Go to College.” My favorite passage:
“A well-developed college list reflects the student’s best understanding of who they are, what matters to them, and how they see the world. Telling them now they’ll be fine no matter what college they go to disrespects their aspirations, their understanding of self, and their investment in the college search. The college selection process started with the student’s vision of what success looks like. It’s best to use that as a guide until the process ends.”