Opinion: What is a “good” college?


Credit: Tess Alongi

WSPN’s Tess Alongi discusses what a “good” college is and explains what the college admissions process looks like at WHS.

Tess Alongi

“Top-tier” colleges don’t guarantee success. When it comes to post graduate achievement, connections, motivation, social skills and luck are more important than an “elite” college degree. A “good” college is one that offers the best learning opportunities and social environments for a specific person no matter where it ranks in the “U.S. News Best Colleges.”

The application process in high-achieving towns like Wayland is very toxic. There is a common mindset that the entire purpose of high school (for some students this mindset starts even younger) is to get into an “elite” college. Many students believe that wherever students end up for the next four years will determine the entire trajectory of their lives.

Many parents think that where their kids go to college is a reflection on them as the ones who raise their children, and they like to boast about their child’s experience. In reality, this problematic behavior not only adds more pressure onto their child, but it is also contagious throughout the entire student body. This mindset has made school seem more like a contest than a place of learning. Most students care more about doing better than the person sitting next them than actually learning the material.

There is a perception, especially at WHS, that state schools are “less than,” and are not worthy of a strong student’s application. I have heard numerous people say that their parents “would never let them go to a state school.” Do they think that the academic rigor of state schools is inferior to all private schools? Many state schools offer diversity, more areas of study and cost less than the average private institution.

As someone who applied to a majority of state schools, I feel a sense of judgment when I tell certain classmates about my plans for the future. I have worked extremely hard throughout my high school career, but I feel as though people will view me as an inferior student if I decide to go to a state school.

Out of the top 500 companies in the United States, 10% of CEOs received undergraduate degrees from Ivy League colleges. More of these CEOs received their degrees from the University of Wisconsin than from Harvard. Does this mean that the University of Wisconsin is a better school than Harvard? Not necessarily, but it does mean that the pressure that is put on students to go to “elite schools” is extremely unnecessary.

A lot of schools like to brag about their under 10% acceptance rates. Just because a school is hard to get into, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to get a better education, or that the classes are more rigorous than the other less “elite” schools. A lot of colleges experience a spike in admissions when they have a sports team, specifically football and basketball, that wins a national championship. This means that because there are more applicants, they reject more people, therefore, lowering their acceptance rate. Does this make it a better school? The answer is no. The acceptance rate of a school isn’t a measure of the type of education one will receive.

We need to have a broader, more open mindset about the purpose of college and the importance of where we end up. Students need to go to the place that allows them to flourish, not just somewhere that has a fancy name and a prestigious reputation.

Success varies for different people. Some measure success by the money in their pockets, others by the happiness they possess. However you measure success, no matter where you go to college, with a good work ethic and the ability to confidently interact and communicate with others, you are setting yourself up on a good path for success.