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I Don’t Care About Harvard or Yale and Neither Should You

Before I start, let me be completely transparent. I am privileged. I am a white male who grew up decidedly middle class. I went to college and earned a Master’s degree. My parents have been married for 54 years. I have never experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. I have never witnessed domestic violence and there is no history of substance abuse or mental illness in my family. No one in my family has ever been incarcerated. I am the definition of white privilege. Yet, the latest college admissions scandal has hit home for me professionally, as a school counselor at a large public high school in a diverse, urban school district. So much has been written these last few weeks about the inequity, the unfairness, the racialized norms and continuous institutionalization of our young people of color that we can now officially confirm what we already knew: the uber-selective colleges, i.e. < 10% selectivity rate, are truly only accessible to the top 1% of the top 1%. So as educators, parents, and high school students, why are we still talking about Harvard and Yale as if their decisions somehow legitimately affects any one of us? It is like me sitting in the stands at a Major League Baseball game and getting emotionally heated over a game I cannot control. None of us spectators are playing and we aren’t getting into the game anytime soon. Deep breaths, this isn’t about you. You want the truth? The odds of any college applicant getting into Harvard or Yale or Penn are slim to none. Valedictorians across the country spend their entire lives going for the gold only to be rejected in one fell swoop by all of the Ivies on Ivy decision day. Frankly, the way that the Ivies coordinate their decisions, as if their renderings ought to be recognized as a national holiday simply so they can deliver a roundhouse gut-punch to 35,000 teenagers, is abhorrent. Which brings me to my real point. With so many terrific four-year colleges spread throughout the country, why then do we continue to focus on the select few that consistently treat even our best and brightest so poorly? Why do major news outlets continue to beat readers over the head with story after story about the same few colleges, only adding to the college admissions hysteria in the process? Why, when so many other institutions are offering a terrific education with less fanfare while getting the same results, are we forced to pontificate the goings-on at campuses almost no viable applicant will see or get to know without a visitor’s pass? We are better off reading stories about Bigfoot; at least we will be entertaine When Frank Bruni wrote his book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, he set out to debunk the myth that one had to go to an elite college in order to achieve high levels of professional success. What he found was that there are countless leaders across industry who graduated from excellent-to-ho-hum colleges, enjoyed them, and still went on to have vast professional success. Go to any section of the New York Times this week and you will find a who’s who list of individuals who obtained their undergraduate degrees from colleges that do not have admissions rates in the teens. Kamala Harris, senator and presidential hopeful (Howard University), Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice (Holy Cross), Logan Green, Co-Founder of Lyft (University of California, Santa Barbara), Bret Easton Ellis, bestselling author (Bennington College), and the list goes on. I am tired of talking about, reading about, and answering questions about Harvard and Yale. Let’s discuss Le Moyne and Ithaca or Penn State or Fordham. Are you interested in super selective colleges that also admit students at a reasonable rate? Then let’s talk about Bucknell and Carleton, the University of Richmond and NYU, Boston University and Trinity. Let’s talk about all of the amazing colleges, dotting the country, offering supreme educations in every corner of every state. But for me I would just rather not talk anymore about Harvard or Yale or the handful of other alien spaceships that will almost certainly never land on our students’ front lawn, because to be honest, I don’t care about Harvard or Yale and neither should you.

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