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How do I get over the idea of 'prestige'

egganogegganog 5 replies19 threads Junior Member
The stupid thing is, when I think about how I'd feel if I don't get in to one of my first choice schools, the first thing I think about is what other people would think of me. Since my school has the IB program, there is a really competitive and probably unhealthy environment between the IB students where people are constantly comparing accomplishments, talking about who got into what schools and so on. I feel like I really need to find a way to ignore this because it's making me put so much pressure on myself to try and get into a super prestigious school.
What are your thoughts? Does the prestige of the school really matter that much? Will I still be able to find work, get a good education, and be successful elsewhere? Also any tips on how to deal with super competitive student atmospheres?
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Replies to: How do I get over the idea of 'prestige'

  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 515 replies2 threads Member
    Probably shouldn't post this in the Ivy League forum (College Selection would be a good fit,) as you're obviously going to receive biased answers.

    IMO, it's much more important that the school you're going to is collaborative (especially if you're premed, going to a school with grade deflation/curves is not going to be fun,) has a school culture you like (I personally didn't want a large state school after going to a large public school, so smaller colleges were a better fit for me,) and actually offers the major you want (I applied for Public Health, which is offered at few colleges, so I had to apply broadly--and you should do the same, and evaluate your choices after acceptances/financial aid offers.)

    Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10871 replies136 threads Senior Member
  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 3743 replies91 threads Senior Member
    Plenty of posters will have a lot to say on this topic. Here is my two cents:

    Not every high schooler is in tune with the financial aspect. There are many students attending colleges that are lower on the rankings than they might otherwise have qualified for in exchange for a hefty scholarship. If you're dealing with a super competitive environment, just tell your friends you are seeking merit aid and are going to the highest bidder. Be proud about it... there is a lot to be said for graduating debt-free, or being able to afford graduate school if that's your desire.

    There are examples all over the place (if you look for them) regarding colleges that punch above their weight when it comes to certain programs... think UIUC for CS or GWU for political science. I read an article yesterday that made a great argument for your in-state flagship being the hands-down best college to be at if you want to go to law school later (it keeps undergrad costs down and you benefit from a vast alumni network).

    Less than 7% of the world's population holds any kind of college degree. That means you're on your way to being in a pretty elite group no matter where you attend.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6816 replies10 threads Senior Member
    Read the book Excellent Sheep. Or even just the first 50 pages. I think it’ll give you some comfort about breaking out of the prestige race.

    The short version is that for people caught up in this, you end up excelling at getting things that are highly selective, often at the expense of what you really want. Your desire to keep your record clean keeps you from taking risks and makes you fear failure in a way that can be unhealthy. It's really hard, if you are in this milieu, to turn your back on it. Kudos to you for doing your self-examination now!

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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 25282 replies20 threads Senior Member
    Think back to last year's class. Do you even remember where certain students ended up? Do you know how many applied to Harvard or MIT or UCLA? Did they get in or just choose somewhere else?

    It really doesn't matter in the end. You need to find where you'll be happy, and that includes a school you can afford. My kids were not superstars at their hs but they found schools that were right for them. Both received a lot of "Where's that?" but it felt good to them to be able to say "Oh, I got a scholarship!" The Val in their class went to UF while others went to much more prestigious schools. The student who got the most attention went to the Naval academy and hardly anyone knew her as she didn't take a lot of classes at school (playing the tennis circuit so took virtual classes).
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  • eb23282eb23282 942 replies25 threads Member
    Read the book Excellent Sheep. Or even just the first 50 pages. I think it’ll give you some comfort about breaking out of the prestige race.

    Or the passage about Big Fish/Little Pond in Malcolm Galdwell's David and Goliath.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6827 replies2 threads Senior Member
    One thing to keep in mind: The other students in your high school are, well, high school students. They have not yet worked in a professional job. They do not have as much experience in the world as most of the people who are commenting here on CC.

    When you get out in the working world, you will discover that the vast majority of your coworkers will not have attended a prestigious university. A small number will be jealous or hostile towards anyone who did. A small number might be impressed by anyone who did. The vast majority of coworkers and the vast majority of hiring managers will not care. In most cases you will have no idea where anyone else went to university.

    What you do when you are in university is much, much more important than where you attend.

    One daughter was the top student in her high school, and decided to attend a small university in Canada (we live in the northeast of the US). Her friends in high school were saying "why?" and "where?". I told her that as soon as she arrived in Canada this would change to "great school". We flew up for an orientation. At customs the agent said "why are you here". We said "for a university orientation, she starts university in September". He asked "what school". She pointed to her t-shirt. His exact response was "Great school". It did not take very long! The check in guy at our hotel said the exact same thing. Three years later she is getting a great education and some great opportunities for original research.

    Similarly, there are hundreds of colleges and universities in the US that as soon as you arrive anywhere near campus the reaction is going to be "great school", and they will be correct. There are hundreds of colleges and universities where you will get a great education and have great opportunities for research and/or internships.

    As I said in the threat linked by @momofsenior1, I got over caring about the prestige of universities by going to two prestigious universities (one undergrad, one for a masters), and then working for a living. There are some downsides of attending a prestigious university. There are some activities that I would have wanted to participate in as an undergraduate student that I did not get to do because I was too busy studying. For a top student from high school it can be stressful to show up at a school and discover that you are suddenly average or below average. There are also lots of very competitive students at the top schools. I still remember one student at MIT who thought he was better than the rest of us because he was an MIT student. I still wonder where he thought the rest of us attended university.

    "really competitive and probably unhealthy" is a good way to describe the atmosphere at many high schools. We put too much stress on our high school students in the US. Do as well as you can and try not to let other people get you down. There are lots and lots of opportunities and you do not need to attend a "top 20" school to find them.
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  • scmom12scmom12 3252 replies21 threads Senior Member
    edited September 14
    Is it prestige or “I don’t want my HS friends to think I’m a failure”? Or are you at a HS that has an academic signing day and makes a big deal of kids who get into top schools as part of PR for the school?

    I suggest getting out of the loop and don’t tell anyone where you are applying. Several of Ds friends knew she had applied and gotten in Top schools but she picked local full ride. She got grief for it from friends and a few teachers. She had 0 debt. She is in Ivy PhD program. She had a blast in college and had rigorous classes with lots of interaction with professors. All at star flagship honors program.

    Where you go will mostly not make or break your career. Whether you graduate with lots of debt can seriously impact your future. (Not sure how important the financial side is for you). If you are Ivy level competetive, you will have plenty of chances to thrive at any school and there are smart intellectual kids at most schools.
    edited September 14
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