December 6, 2021


It’s college admissions season, and as the father of a a son in the 12th grade, I empathize with anxious parents all over America. An acceptance letter from an elite school can feel like validation. If Sally got into Northwestern, I must have done a good job. Maybe.. but I worry that this is a mistaken fixation on branding. College is supposed to be about education and growing into adulthood.

Instead of worrying so much about where kids will study, we should focus on how they will study. Will they work hard and prioritize education over recreation? Will they make healthy choices about sleep, exercise, nutrition, alcohol, and personal relationships? Are they prepared to make the best of whatever opportunities lie ahead? This is what matters. There’s no point worrying about the rest.

I encourage my kids to work hard and set ambitious goals, but not to take the outcome too personally. College admissions is a notorious black box — often arbitrary and unfair, just like the rest of life. Getting into the “right” college sends the wrong message — that their value and future success hinges on being picked to join an elite club.

There are hundreds of schools where kids can get a great education. I’m not convinced that there’s that much difference between classes at an Ivy and those at a state university. Where my kids study isn’t nearly as important as the attitude they bring to campus with them. In reality, success is about taking full advantage whatever opportunities are available.

I say this not just as a father, but as an employer too. When Alliance is hiring, I would rather hire a hardworking University of Illinois grad over an entitled kid who partied his way through Harvard, no question.

My goal isn’t to boost my ego by sending my kids to a brand name school. It’s to raise them into healthy, happy, productive adults who can thrive under any circumstances. So, let’s all take a deep breath. College is a journey, not a destination. Our kids’ futures might be at stake, but it’s not about where they go to school.

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