The value of the Ivy League

This article, on snake oily counselors with few credentials who charge a fortune promising to help kids get into top colleges, is disheartening. I'm glad the article portrays these people as preying on the insecure because either a) if it doesn't work, it was a waste of money; or b) if it does work, one gained an unethical advantage over those who are equally qualified, but who could not afford to pay such a counselor.

One assumption that is left unquestioned: is it worth a huge amount of money to get into one of these schools? Is an Ivy education that much more valuable?

I attended an Ivy League as an undergrad, and the main advantage I feel it has given me is the authority to say (without sounding as if I am defensive) that there really is not much of an advantage going to an Ivy League. You can get an excellent education not only at the Ivies, but at many major research universities and small liberal arts colleges. Look at the rankings of graduate programs in different disciplines, which is a more reliable indicator of faculty quality in those fields, and you'll see that it is often middling state universities that are on top (here's philosophy's rankings). A philosophy major would actually be much better off at University of Pittsburgh or Rutgers than at Dartmouth, at least in terms of having access to the best minds of her generation.

There are a few jobs where having gone to Harvard is a huge help (apparently, working in the Obama administration or TV comedy writing). Those are few and far between. Most career paths and graduate programs are perfectly accessible to those who excel at, say, state universities. Parents and juniors in high school: just calm down, and please don't give these scam artists any more of your money.

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