A good education, sure. A great education? What is an education anyway? Is it what you learn or what the outside world perceives that you have learned? Maybe it’s your skill level to tackle whatever issues come your way. If “great” means that when you graduate, all the investment banks are begging you to accept an offer, you’re not getting “great” from Podunk State (not a real school – don’t try applying there).
At Podunk, it is conceivable that you’ll have the same textbooks, same notes, same labs, same… just about everything as the kids at Harvard get. You might even learn the same stuff. But it kinda doesn’t matter as far as your career goes – at least not in the beginning.
Kids graduating Harvard have vastly more choices than kids graduating from Podunk. That’s the bottom line, whether your parents want to hear it or not. Snooty firms from Wall Street with career tracts to quickly be making a million bucks a year don’t recruit from Podunk. They most likely won’t even give Podunkians an interview (At least partially due to the intense rivalry between the Crimson and the Podunk Fighting Beavers).
At Harvard you’ll have just about every option under the sun, including moving on to advanced graduate school like Law, Medicine, Business and PhD programs. And much of the world will bend over backwards (and sometimes forwards) for you. They’ll pay you more money and will be generally nicer to you – because they’ll know that you have other choices. You’ll be the one with the upper hand. The perception of graduates from Podunk is that they simply don’t have a lot of choices, so they can be jerked around a lot more. Cold, cruel world, yes. But there’s another side to this story as well.
Why did Muriel get into Harvard and Betty Sue didn't? Well, Muriel studied her butt off. She won the state regional and national classical piano recital competition. She had almost perfect SATs – and she bothered to take the advanced classes in History, English, Spanish, Biology and Calculus. So she took 4’s and 5’s in all of those. And she helped old people. In Nairobi. During the war. Yes, Muriel is awesome. Don’t you just hate people like that?
You shouldn’t. You’ll be working for Muriel some day or if you were a football player, most likely trying to sell her life insurance some day.
What’d Betty Sue do? Well… less. If she did half of the things that Muriel did, she was probably still admitted into a decent school. If she just more or less showed up, got a bunch of B’s, one or two A’s and a few C’s, and no AP exams, then she’s probably at Podunk. Majoring in Please-Just-Let-Me-Graduate.
And that might be fine – Betty Sue may just want to sell real estate for a living – still not a bad gig. And maybe she’s the prettiest girl south of Norfolk (they got them some lookers up there in Norfolk). She might be a lovely person, inside and out – but she isn’t going to Harvard. She won’t rule Wall Street. She won’t become CEO of Procter and Gamble. She won’t be the Commencement Speaker at her school’s graduation in 20 years. A shame, too, because she knows the perfect Maya Angelou poem for the grand opening.
Fair? Well, Muriel worked her butt off. Betty Sue didn’t. Welcome to America. Land of the free, home of the buttless.