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How do I break the prestige mindset?

skate17skate17 5 replies11 threads Junior Member
I've started building a college list and the more time I spend on it, the more I realize that I'm one of those kids who's stuck in the prestige mindset. I'm not ignorant, I know that there are some benefits of going to a less selective school over a T20, but I can't help but feel like this mindset isn't going to go away.

For a bit of context, I happen to go to a private HS that's pretty close to my state flagship. We send over 40% of our students there each year (another 35% go to the other big state school we have). The state flagship is no joke—it hovers around a match/reach school for most people, but just because of the area and how common it is for kids to go there, people have this crazy idea that it's a safety school. Not only that but in many Asian circles (especially immigrant ones) it's actually looked down upon if someone goes there (it's like they failed to reach their potential of going to an Ivy or something ridiculous like that).

Maybe it's because I come from an immigrant family so there's definitely a lot of emphasis and concern surrounding college, but I can't stop feeling like I need to go to a T20. How in the world do I break this mindset? I really don't want to be in a world of hurt if I get rejected by all my reach schools.
32 replies
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Replies to: How do I break the prestige mindset?

  • theconcernedkidtheconcernedkid 39 replies16 threads Junior Member
    I have that mindset as well, I don't know how to break out of it either, I hope someone enlightens us with their wisdom about this.
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  • eb23282eb23282 941 replies25 threads Member
    There are thousands of examples of people who have attended schools with 75% admit rates who have gone on to do fantastic things. I know two people who attended schools like this - one then went to Harvard Law, another received a PhD at Stanford.

    Google "Caroline Sacks" and read about the Big Fish Little Pond Effect.
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 6937 replies171 threads Senior Member
    edited June 29
    Look at the biographical and CV data of the professors at these schools you are looking at as your focus. So few would have attended the school itself or the target group you are discussing it’s enlightening.

    Dig deep. Show your parents. Get a better focus on things. Apply to these schools and attend if yoyu are selected.

    Apply with the current mindset to what you consider your match schools at your own peril. If a college is listed as selective or most selective and they arent on your usnwr radar. Believe it.

    Also look at Forbes rankings. I like it much better than usnwr because it combines all schools and sizes.

    I would say the top 100 on that list are all extremely competitive, widely respected and rigorous. It’s also the top 3 percent of all schools in the USA by being in the top 100.

    If you are in the top 3 percent of your class do you feel that’s an ok student or a top student?

    If you are top 4 percent now you are a slacker? That’s ludicrous. Apply that logic to this search too.

    Education is about information. It’s about perspective. It’s about facts.

    Demonstrate that fundamental truth in your search.

    Good luck.
    edited June 29
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  • jym626jym626 57907 replies3037 threads Senior Member
    Take a look at where many of the CEOs of major corporations went to school:
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  • rickle1rickle1 2752 replies23 threads Senior Member
    Good for you to realize this issue as it is one of the biggies in college selection. As other have posted, there are so many great schools. If you took the names off and drilled down a bit, you might find many of them interchangeable.

    I suggest you take this angle, approach. Start with you! What do you want to do? Where do you want to be? Type of school, location, size, vibe, academic strengths, etc. You'll wind up blowing by many of the T20s because they won't fit your P20 (personal top 20). You'll also find there are schools below common T20 ranking that are world class in your areas of interest.

    As an example, niece (top student in top school district) was looking for a strong Health Sciences / Occupation Therapy program. Her search led her to consider Quinnipiac. Turns out they are a major program for her specific area of interest but few would put Q at the top of any highly selective list. She looked at the staff of a very specific program within a leading children's hospital (one of the best in the world) and over half of the clinicians were Q grads. Who knew? She would be better off going there than Harvard for that specific program (If they even have her program).

    You'll find that to be fairly common if you dig deep enough.

    Prestige is about how others look at you. Be more concerned about you and what you do with your future opportunities.

    Good luck!
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  • whidbeyite2002whidbeyite2002 337 replies1 threads Member
    @skate17 , you’ve received excellent advice here.

    My own daughter was a bit focused on prestige (applied to 3 Ivies and eliminated 5), and shared that her classmates had never even heard of some of the other colleges on her list. This bothered her a little, but she did do the hard work of researching the programs, courses, and professors at each school and selecting those that appeared to best meet her needs. We visited most colleges on her list. As parents, we told her that Ivy League colleges were a bit overrated and thought small liberal arts colleges might provide her with a better education.

    Well...my daughter was accepted to Columbia University and other highly/extremely selective schools. Columbia best met her academic checklist, and she wanted an urban college, so off to Columbia she went.

    She learned a lot about herself in the past year. Although she wanted so badly to attend the most challenging college that met her academic needs, she had not thought enough about her environmental, physical, and social needs. She made a cluster of great friends, and she loved her classes, but the campus is tiny, and she craved privacy and quiet time. Big campuses with green spaces and opportunity for down time became very attractive. Smaller cities became much more attractive. She realized she longed to be closer to home (but not too close), nearer to her high school friends and family. She wanted a campus with a more traditional feel. She could not imagine living in NYC for 4 years.

    I believe my daughter learned that there is a lot more to college than the prestige and even academics. The US offers a broad range of wonderful colleges that can provide the “full package” experience for well-matched students. And these schools are unknown in regional circles.

    My own daughter has decided to attend her state flagship university. It might not provide the absolute best education in the humanities, but it will provide her more with the social and physical environment she wants and needs right now. To me, this means a lot. And she didn’t reapply to one of the LACs I recommended. ;)

    Good luck with your search. Please try to drop the prestige and focus on the full range of your needs in the college experience. If you can, look at Colleges That Change Lives, the Fiske Guide, Hidden Ivies, etc. If you must choose an Ivy to apply to, select one based on what you want.

    Wishing you the absolute best!
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  • Zinnia203Zinnia203 70 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Someone recommended a video to me recently. Malcolm Gladwell talks on why you shouldn't go to Harvard. Google His name and Zeitgeist. Interesting statistics--it's worth a view.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78828 replies3557 threads Senior Member
    edited June 29

    Is your family independently wealthy? You have indicated elsewhere on this forum that you want to be a doctor, and maybe get an MBA as well or something. Or maybe do consulting for a pharma company or research. Frankly, you are a little unclear in your career goals, but that’s ok...you are in HS.

    I would strongly suggest that you at least consider undergrad programs where you won’t have a dime if debt after undergrad school. I say this, because medical school is hideously expensive with precious little free money funding. Med school is usually paid with loans, loans and more loans. And we are talking a large amount of money in loans because you need to fund both Med school tuition, and living costs (I won’t even go into the details of testing costs, and applying for residency costs).

    The best way to not get sucked into the prestige hound circle...stop reading rankings. Just stop.

    Look at the things you want in an undergrad college. Not the rankings.

    And discuss the costs with your family right now. Even if they have tons of money, they might just have a limit on what they intend to spend annually on your college costs.

    And look at your instate public universities. See if they have honors colleges. Look positively at what they provide. Plenty of professionals graduate for state public universities....and are very successful.

    edited June 29
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  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer 1275 replies3 threads Senior Member
    edited July 3
    As already noted many times above, there are a large number of outstanding academic institutions which you may never have heard about!

    ...... REALLY?

    1. If a university/college has a entering class with an average unweighted GPA approaching straight A's, your classmates can help you.! (I.E. a 4.0 on an unweighted scale) The dialogue will be there and your faculty is used to it. Walk around the campus, meet the students and interact. This will tell you more about the university than a popularity (ranking?) score.

    2. Find out their job placements BY MAJOR. Do not compare English Lit BA incomes to BS in CS incomes. Note, many BS in CS majors do not forgo a high income for graduate school. Biology majors may need graduate school to find gainful employment. Where did those literature/history majors go to law school?

    3. Find out graduate school placements, if possible, by specific Universities. Many of the top departments in many fields are not found in the Ivies. By way of example, how about a PhD in BME or an MD from Johns Hopkins? Yes, they admit students from colleges you have never heard about.

    4. Many outstanding colleges/universities will never be showing their football/basketball teams on national television. They usually have the student teams on campus. Participation in sports or other activities are usually more often helpful than not... see if they have what YOU want and you will have a richer learning experience!
    edited July 3
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  • CalCUStanfordCalCUStanford 254 replies5 threads Junior Member
    @skate17: Be an independent and critical thinker. Why not create your own T20 (i.e., skate17's T20) based on your own observations, factors of evaluation and methodology? You may be surprised your list is quite different from other known rankings.

    Quotes from Angel Chernoff in the 18 Important Reminders About Living Up to People’s Expectations

    "Your needs matter. Don’t ignore them. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you and your life, not what’s best for everyone else."

    "Rather than being confined by opinions, you need to create your own reality."


    And good luck to your college application!
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