You know you’ve heard the question and seen the anticipatory look; where are YOU going to college?
For most people in your life, this is an innocent and curious question. For others, it comes with a feeling of sizing you up and judgment, as if the answer you reveal implies something about your character or ability to succeed in life.
Sadly, many people succumb to the pressure of going to a “name-brand” school to impress other people, even when it isn’t the best fit for them. Or even more concerning, is how many people are willing to go into serious debt because they feel they must go to the prestigious college to be successful, over one they can easily afford.
This trend desperately needs to change.
Let’s pause and look at some examples of people from humble beginnings.
- Gary Vaynerchuck, the founder of Vayner Media, attended Mount Ida College, Estimated Net Worth- $50 million
- Oprah Winfrey, a talk-show mogul, attended Tennessee State University, Estimated Net Worth- $2.5 billion
- Guy Fieri, restaurateur and Food Network superstar, attended two community colleges before graduating with from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Estimated Net Worth- $8.5 million
- James D. Sinegal, co-founder and former CEO of Costco, graduated from San Diego State University, Estimated Net Worth- $2 billion
These people prove that the “name brand” on your diploma means far less than your ability to hustle, network, and build your skills.
My point is not to harp on top private schools. I was fortunate enough to win scholarships that paid for me to attend Vanderbilt University, and I loved my experience. However, I have friends who attended top schools and couldn’t afford it, and they will be paying for it for much of their adult lives. Even if they can testify to a great four years, many don’t feel it was worth the student-loan debt burden they now face. Nor did it set them much further ahead than their peers who went to public schools and took on great internships.
It’s time to change the tune on the uber-competitive, judgy nature of college admissions that encourages students to stretch their budgets beyond reason and stake their self-worth on an affiliation.
I hope that the wave of the future will make a debt-free degree far more desirable than a Top 50 label. I hope more CEOs, engineers, and top leaders will be vocal about their community college or state school that served them just fine in reaching massive career success.
Most importantly, I hope that you won’t give in to the weight and pressure of attending a school that won’t make financial sense for you in the long-run. Apply for scholarships, and do your best to shoot high. But at the end of the day, run the numbers and evaluate the long-term ROI, and then make a decision that is truly what’s best for you and own it. Someday, your success and financial freedom will speak for itself.