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Success Despite College Rejection 436

Posted by michael
from the i-think-i-can dept.
selan writes "Are those who are rejected by prestigious schools destined to lead mediocre lives? Or are great people more likely to succeed if they were rejected by top universities? An inspirational column in the Washington Post discusses the "Spielberg Effect", a theory that it really doesn't matter where you went to school."
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Success Despite College Rejection

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  • for my PhD... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stonebeat.org (562495) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:02AM (#4993239) Homepage
    I would go to the best college, that I can afford to go to. I dont think UnderGraduate studies matter that much. It is for the higher degrees that you need to go to the prestigeous institutions....
    • Re:for my PhD... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MonkeyBoyo (630427)
      But you have a much better chance of getting into a top graduate school comming from a top undergraduate one. And this is just not snob factor. You are more likely to find professors who can tell you what the leading edge and issues are in your field there.
      • Re:for my PhD... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by stonebeat.org (562495)
        I personally think, that it is better if one gets some industry experience (2-3 years) after their undergraduate, before getting into any graduate program. If you have currently working in a industry, graduate schools look at your work experience, and not much at your Bachlors degree. Atleast that is the case for the technical/engineering program, I don't know about other fields.
        • Re:for my PhD... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by lrichardson (220639) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @11:42AM (#4993673) Homepage
          It varies immensely depending on your field. Some like your standard degree. It's good enough.

          Some - acturial sciences springs to mind - have a serious negative towards masters (and, heaven forefend, PhDs) without real-world experience.

          And then, of course, there's math ... where one degree leads to the next leads to the next leads to an academic position ... ;) (Actually, this holds true for certain University positions - e.g. English, History - but is completely reversed for others - e.g. Engineering - where they pretty much won't touch you without a good deal of real world experience (which was learned the hard way when the professors came staight from the ranks of the grads for many generations, and were teaching steam engines when the world was running on IC)

          More seriously, sometimes continuing on the 'education' track is easier without taking time off ... you don't lose the mind-set. And sometimes (oh, Engineering and certain Sciences) the 'education' following your first degree becomes indistinguishable from 'work' (i.e. research)

          There is a growing trend, in certain fields, for 'continuing' education. The acturies mentioned above generally follow a fairly rigid timeline ... degree and certification, two years work, masters, two-three years more work, PhD. Life Insurance has the LOMA series (which is taken concurrently with working, and averages four or five years to complete). And I can't remember the number of times I've smiled politely and declined when some !@#$ suggested I take an M$CE/SA/xy course.

          Best advice I have was originally coined awhile back ... "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

      • Re:for my PhD... (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Fact: The majority of National Academy of Sciences members went to state schools and small liberal arts colleges, not the Ivies, Caltech, Stanford, etc. So it depends what you mean by "top". And going to a good (not great) state school for my Ph.D. han't prevented me from publishing in Cell, Nature, etc.

        In short: don't believe the hype.
      • Re:for my PhD... (Score:5, Informative)

        by sasami (158671) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @03:49PM (#4994524)
        But you have a much better chance of getting into a top graduate school comming from a top undergraduate one.

        Please back up your assertions. This is completely false. I speak as a college counselor with about 8 years of experience.

        It does matter what undergraduate college you go to, but reputation, prestige, and ranking have nothing to do with it. Here is the principle:
        It is nonsense to judge a college by who they ADMIT.
        Judge a college by who they PRODUCE.

        When you look at results, most of the prestigious schools are defeated, beaten down, and put to shame by a relatively unknown class of schools, the small liberal-arts college. The mechanism should be obvious: small classes; professors who love to teach, have no research burden, and take an interest in your work; broad education that teaches you mental skills, not just job skills.

        Since we're talking about grad school, let's take the percentage of graduates from college that eventually earn a PhD (from any institution, not necessarily the same one). So we're talking about your personal chances of getting a future PhD as a result of undergraduate college choice. Here's the top of that list:
        Harvey Mudd, 257 students, 40.7% Ph.D. production

        CalTech, 1818 students, 40.0% Ph.D. production
        Reed College, 968 students, 25.3% Ph.D. production
        MIT, 5438 students, 20.9% Ph.D. production
        Swarthmore, 1418 students, 20.9% Ph.D. production
        Haverford, 683 students, 18.8% Ph.D. production

        I'll leave out the rest. Buy Loren Pope's excellent book Looking Beyond the Ivy League if you want the rest of the chart. Interesting to note, Princeton is the first of the vaunted Ivies to make this list at #21 (11.7%), and only because it is the one that behaves most like a small college. The next Ivy to show its face is Harvard at #37 (9.0%). Three of the Ivies and Stanford don't make top 50.

        The list plays out the same way whatever measure you choose: MCAT scores, grad/med/law school admission rates (often 30-100% better than the prestige colleges), leaders and prominent figures produced, you name it.

        Although their population is collectively tiny, the small liberal-arts schools produce half the professional scientists in this country. (Don't be fooled into thinking you need a technical school for a technical education.)

        And now, here's the real kicker: many of these schools are not very selective. Reed, #3 on the list, will take you if you've got a B+ average, around 1300 on the SAT, and some demonstrable intellectual curiosity. But they will invariably turn out graduates that surpass those at famous schools.

        Schools like Harvard deserve no credit for admitting "successful" people and then graduating "successful" people. I went there, and it improved me not at all. It's much more impressive to see a school take in an average student and make them great; or a good student and make them stellar.

        ---
        Dum de dum.
        • Please back up your assertions. This is completely false. I speak as a college counselor with about 8 years of experience.

          Sure. I'm the process of applying to graduate school. Purdue was the most upfront about admissions out of all of the schools I've applied to:
          General background. Applicants must have a four-year bachelor's or equivalent degree. We place great weight on the quality of the institution.
          http://www.cs.purdue.edu/grad-info/gradinfo/2003/a d.html [purdue.edu]
          Other schools I've looked at have said similar things; we take into account where you got your degree from, essentially.
          • Other schools I've looked at have said similar things; we take into account where you got your degree from, essentially.

            They are scaring away applicants o purpose. Ph.D. admissions are generally done by the professors that might advise you. The admissions criteria fluctuate from year to year depending on who is doing the culling. One year numbers will be used to cull the list to a manegable amount before it is sent to the professors in the sub-field you're intereseted in, the next year someone who reads every application will be in charge and students who didn't finish their BS/BA but started a leading company in the field gets his application read and gets in.

            When I applied I got into every school but my safety school, I think that tells you how arbritary it is. Once you realize that they are not even trying to be fair rejection letters don't have a huge effect on you. They are just trying to build a class of students that will satisfy the professors...and by in large they succeed at that goal.
        • by anthony_dipierro (543308) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @05:15PM (#4994893) Journal

          It is nonsense to judge a college by who they ADMIT.

          Judge a college by who they PRODUCE.

          I hear NYU has a high rate of student pregnancy. Guess they PRODUCE a lot of our country's best.

          C'mon. Colleges don't produce people. Sex produces people.

        • Re:for my PhD... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rigau (122636)
          I don't know about Harvey Mudd and Reed but i do know that MIT, CalTech, Swarthmore, and Haverford are extremely selective schools.

          I think that the story behind the percentage of graduate students might be a little bit more complicated than the one you present.

          It is true that small class environments are better. One has to think about the kind of student that decides to go to one of these "lesser known"1 schools over a more famous one. Most of the time these students will be people who are more interested in the work they will be doing in school than in the self-promotion value of the degree. Thus they see their college education as worthwhile in and of itself instead as just another requirement to fullfil on the way to success.

          1 I use quotation marks because while most people don't know about schools like swarthmore or haverford people who make decisions in graduate schools do.
        • Re:for my PhD... (Score:4, Informative)

          by paiute (550198) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @09:43PM (#4996210)
          To compare the eventual Ph.D. production of whole institutions is misleading in the case of MIT. MIT is hevily weighted towards the engineering degrees, unlike the liberal arts schools like Mudd or Reed. In engineering, the BS is the terminal degree. These people get snapped up and put right to work. They don't need to get an advanced degree. A better comparison would be of chemistry departments, say, where one must get a doctorate to avoid being just a lab servant.
    • Re:for my PhD... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zer0vector (94679)
      Being an undergrad applying now for grad schools, the best advice I've gotten is "Don't go somewhere because its a 'good' school, go there because they do what you're interested in". If those to things coincide thats great, but being miserable for a couple of years is not worth the price of a nice school name on your PhD.
    • First of all, it's a waste of money to "pay" for a PhD. Only enter a PhD program if they give you a fellowship and a stipend. It's not cost-effective otherwise, and your money would be better spent paying for med school or law school.

      That said, the experience I had as an undergrad working with professors is what helped my PhD chances immensely. But the most important thing is having a good mentor. Some professors who are "top in their fields" might be located at schools whose undergraduates student bodies are considered mediocre. However, if you churn out really good research with a good advisor, it doesn't matter, even if the school might have been considered "second-tier" when you were 18 years old.
    • It is for the higher degrees that you need to go to the prestigeous institutions....

      And "prestigious institutions" don't mean much for graduate work; it's the departments that matter. Many ivy league schools have some mediocre graduate departments, while some public universities with mediocre undergraduate records have world-renowned graduate departments in certain subjects.
  • Since (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:02AM (#4993240)
    it's coming up to the start of a new academic year I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain how lucky you Americans are to have a fraternity system.

    English Universities are so dull by comparison. Like most students in England I had to rent private accommodation for my second and third years, but it never occurred to us to build a whole culture around collectively renting a rather dilapidated house in Clapham. It wasn't even single sex accommodation, so we couldn't engage in the fun and games of para-homosexual activities - Girls just don't have the same grip on your loyalties as your Greek brothers ;-). And while cliques certainly form in English Universities, the are all much too boring to come up with the idea of hazing. I fondly recall diving off a weir and almost drowning when I was 12 because everyone said I was chicken. If only it had been possible for me to gain respect in later life through similar tests, and if these tests could have been combined with pseudo Masonic rituals culminating in the awarding of a little badge, then that truly would have made my time at University worthwhile. And while I still have friends from University, these friendships seem so hollow compared to bonds of fraternal brotherhood since they are not based on solemn vows of fellowship, mutual sacrifice, group solidarity and owning the same poxy little badge.

    Then there's sheer joy alcohol seems to bring fraternity members.. By the time I went to university the delights of getting dangerously drunk at parties had started to seem mundane. But to American students in fraternities, the bravado of excessive alcohol consumption is a an exciting new and illicit game where you can prove yourself worthy to all your male friends and simultaneously circumvent college alcohol policy - thereby proving what a rebel you are too. Gosh.

    I am also rather fond of the references to ancient Greece. It reeks of a history far nobler and grander than anything a British University can instil its students with, and the wearing of togas must make it seem as authentic as a ploughman's lunch.

    I think what I am trying to say is that Fraternities give young Americans the chance to grow up in their own time, and that it is regrettable that no similar opportunity is afforded to European Students. In particular, I find it sad that even some American students forego the opportunity to wear togas and claim to be Greek. Really this should be mandatory, so every graduate will be secure in the knowledge that they have gained something much more valuable than a degree from an American University - a little badge with some Greek letters on it.

    Although I am not American, I admire the system so much that I would dearly love to become an honorary member of a fraternity. I have set my heart on becoming an alumni of Theta Omicron Sigma Sigma Epsilon Ro Sigma. I do so hope this is possible
    • Re:Since (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's stupid. Most fraternities are just a bunch of retarded jocks who aren't secure enough to live by themselves. They need to join a group of other retards who are also scared to be independent. Safety in numbers. Most college students in the US are not members of fraternities or sororities.
      • Re:Since (Score:2, Funny)

        by fellini8.5 (517017)
        I guess another thing lacking in UK Universities is the ability to communicate directly without humour, wit, or sarcasm... we Americans are apparantly are unencumbered by such subtlies.

        :)
    • I went to manchester and I had a great time. I became an alcoholic and had lots of "para-homosexual" activities. I think it depends where you go. I think the point of throwing you out to the real world during your second and third years is to ensure you are prepared for life. Also it depends where you go. Where did you go to in "England" (prenounced UK).
    • Re:Since (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Artifex (18308)
      It wasn't even single sex accommodation, so we couldn't engage in the fun and games of para-homosexual activities
      ...which you dearly missed from your public school days, and the all-but-institutionalized homosexual relationships you forged with your cohort and masters. Only those privileged enough to attend Catholic school here are guaranteed the opportunity to get the benefit of that experience.

      If your wicket's not already sticky in reverie, I have two more words taken from the British Boy's Own Lexicon: soggy biscuits, a treat seemingly unique to the cuisine of that northern island country of queens.

      I'm not serious, of course - I love England, and we'll pretend I didn't wish I could have spent my formative years in boarding school there, myself. The point is, you're making (ethnic?) prejudicial slurs against "the Greeks", begging comparison back to your own quirky system. In the U.S., the partying buffoons are allowed to expose themselves, have a good time, burn out, and eventually become used-car dealers and fast-food restaurant managers; in yours, they seem rather more likely to become "captains of industry." That's only natural, since you've had a few hundred more years to build up the Old Boy (bedsheet) Network.
      • If your wicket's not already sticky in reverie, I have two more words taken from the British Boy's Own Lexicon: soggy biscuits, a treat seemingly unique to the cuisine of that northern island country of queens.

        I am aware of a Canadian variant called "Cream the cookie", which I learned of in summer camp (and, thankfully, never participated in).
        • I am aware of a Canadian variant called "Cream the cookie", which I learned of in summer camp (and, thankfully, never participated in).


          I'm sure it was the "English" Canadians, though. The "French" Canadians would have called it "biscuits du creme fraiche," or something like that :)
      • Re:Since (Score:3, Funny)

        by smithmc (451373)

        In the U.S., the partying buffoons are allowed to expose themselves, have a good time, burn out, and eventually become used-car dealers and fast-food restaurant managers

        ...or President of the United States, even.

    • Re:Since (Score:4, Informative)

      by satanami69 (209636) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:19PM (#4995874) Homepage
      Wow, the infamous "OH HOW I ENVY AMERICAN STUDENTS" [google.com] troll [demon.co.uk].

      Either way, I haven't seen it in ages. This one is good enough for PhysicsGenius [slashdot.org]
  • by mathe_an (580461) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:19AM (#4993267)
    I was brought up the traditional way fir a reasonably educated family in England. Led to believe that you go to school, college then university. It was never questioned and always assumed that this is the way it goes. If you want a good job, you go to uni. So I went and did it, at a decent uni too, came home and now, 3 years after leaving, I'm working in some crappy tech support job for peanuts. Meanwhile, the people I used to look at with pity that left school at 16 to take on some government youth training scheme have been working for almost 8 years. They've worked their way to a higher employment status than I'm at now. I assumed that since I had the degree I would quickly be able to progress past these and all the years of studying (well, partying) would become worthwhile, but I'm finding this isn't the case. To employers, I'm just another kid out of university like the thousands of others. The other kids though, the ones that left school? They're seen as valuable workers that have years of experience on the job. I don't regret going to uni, but occasionally I feel the bitterness rising :)
    • You need to wait a few more years, and perhaps you need to more actively make value from your education. By the sounds of it, you're expecting the rest of the world to pay you back - life just doesn't work that way.

      Take interest in professional associations, ensure that in your work assignments you make use of the skills you learnt (analytical, critical thinking, good judgement), retain connections with your peers in the industry from university, etc. Make better use of your education.

      Studies show that after 5-10 years, university educated students catch up and surpass those that didn't go to university. University pays off eventually, but you have to make it work for you.

      • What utter nonsense. I'd like to see some sources for these "studies". Anyone who manages to get the foot into a career without the piece of paper (more and more difficult as the economy tanks) will do just fine after 5 to 10 years. On top of that, the skills you mention are alot more likely to come from work experience that university.
    • Get a new job?

      Nobody is forcing you to work there for that amount. That's like saying "I'm the king of spain and I'm stuck shovelling pig shit for a dollar a day, boy being king sure sucks!"

      You are equating university degree with your crappy job and let me assure you, it's also possible to find many crappy jobs without a degree as well.
    • Successful people work for a very short time in "crappy support" jobs before moving on to better things. Successful people don't whine about their crappy job, they go out into the big, scary world, and work, push, cajole, and sweet-talk their way into the kind of job they realy want. They take risks. They take action.
  • Qualifications (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brejc8 (223089) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:20AM (#4993269) Homepage Journal
    I demonstrate at Manchester University and there are people I know would be better off if they went straight to a job. Some people are planning to be HTML writers and have no desire to learn about computer architecture. They are wasting 3 years of their life during which they could get vital experience of a real job. People coming out of university cant get jobs because emplyers think they will want to move onto something better very soon after.
    • Some people are planning to be HTML writers

      OK, but what do they do when HTML becomes obsolete? I know it's a hackneyed point, but education really does - in my experience - broaden the mind. After a degree in physics (because that was what I found interesting) I got a job in electronics without too much problem. Others, with more vocational electronics qualifications, found it easier. Since then I have moved fairly easily into systems design and control systems; some people who (over-) specialised in electronics are now struggling.

      • Simply sticking out the four years proves you can at least finish a project. A degree opens doors, but it is what you do once in the door that counts. Hopefully, getting your degree has taught you how to learn - something you should expect to do for the rest of your life if you expect to excel in your feild.
    • They are wasting 3 years of their life

      First I would never consider an education a waste of time, but you do bring up a good point about what the job focus needs. At least in America businesses often require a degree and experience. Granted most of these job descriptions are used as deterrence rather than a true representation of what they really need. But to get a good job in the Technology industry it is an unwritten law that you need a degree. At least for some one whom is just writing a bit of HTML I would say should take at least associates in a related filed? Many people who teach them selves c++ with book don't know the true way to format or how and what to program. Nothing like a good school can teach you. Not going to college is kind of like playing a piano without ever learning how to read the sheet of music, or even the basics of music. You can get some great musicians, but they are few, and in our society would really ever make it that far just from the discriminations of people who have gone to college and have achieved a certain level in the job market.
    • One of the things that I tend to tell people is that your degree should be a solid foundation for what you want to be doing in 5 or 15 years. Yah, if all someone wants to do is code HTML for the rest of their life, any computer-related degree is probably unnecessary.

      But usually when someone says they want to code HTML for the rest of their life, what they really mean is maybe one of:

      a) code online user interfaces for the rest of their life. To this person I might suggest a degree in art or psychology;

      b) write and format/typeset online content for the rest of their life. To this person I might suggest a degree in english, or some other solid foundation that a journalist might take; or

      c) develop online markup languages and data representations for the rest of their life. Here you might really want a good solid computer science degree, with a thorough understanding how how everything works together (since that's what a markup language is, really: glue)

      So you're right, not every computer-related job necessarily needs a "computer science" degree. But instead of recommending that they just go out and get a job, and rely on work experience to carry them forward, I would suggest that they at least consider a good, solid foundation in a related field so that when HTML becomes obsolete, they don't go obsolete with it.
    • I think you have hit upon a problem that is characteristic of how technology has complicated the educational goals and potential in the job market for college/university graduates. You are right, no one needs university qualifications to write HTML. Any junior high school kid can become an expert. It is that way for a lot of computer related technology fields. The field of IT is very fuzzy. IT is not engineering but many folks will try to blur the line to make it sound like they have or need all kinds of fancy education to do what is really a technician/mechanics job in IT. It was a lot easier when a technically oriented person went to college to study the traditional engineering and science fields. You knew what you were getting !

  • huh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Graspee_Leemoor (302316) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:24AM (#4993275) Homepage Journal
    I think you need to look at the definition of "succeed" in this instance. I'm betting that it will come from the same kind of place as all that "having a life" and "making the most of yourself" nonsense.

    E.g. if you become the head of a medium-sized business selling widgets worldwide then you have "succeeded". Big Fucking Deal.

    The point of life is to have fun. That's it.

    I recommend not working. Why give most of your life to an unfeeling corporation ?

    I also recommend not getting married. It always ends in tears.

    Forget what society expects you to be. Ignore what your parents want you to be. Be what you want to be- for yourself and no-one else.

    graspee

    • Re:huh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dgb2n (85206) <.dgb2n. .at. .comcast.net.> on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @09:32AM (#4993402)
      Ok, I'll bite.

      There's an old saying that if you want to be happy you need three things.

      1. Something to do - Usually translates to some sort of job. You'll never be happy if you don't contribute to society and waste the gifts you've been given.

      2. Someone to Love - Go ahead never take a risk because it ends in tears. Marriage also ends in tears of laughter. I've shed tears in my marriage but I can't imagine my life without her.

      3. Something to look forward to - Without hope, life is pointless. You sound like you need something to look forward to.

      A couple of more thoughts on your less salient points.

      E.g. if you become the head of a medium-sized business selling widgets worldwide then you have "succeeded". Big Fucking Deal

      I hate to break the news to you but the Big Fucking Deal of being the head of the medium-sized business isn't the glamorous challenge of selling widgets, its the lifestyle which such a position would afford you. It means a comfortable house, a car more enjoyable than a used Hyundai, and the resources to travel and enjoy a few vacations.

      The point of life is to have fun. That's it.

      If you think thats the entire point of life, you're missing the point. Perhaps the point is making a difference in the lives of others. That head of a business employs other people and in a small mundane way, probably makes the world a better place.

      Having fun is much easier with a job. I enjoy skiing. Lift tickets cost money. I enjoy gadgets. Gadgets costs money. The irony is that if you make money your goal, you're doomed to unhappiness and you won't have any fun. A money centered or self centered life will guaranteee very little fun and very little joy.

      I choose joy.
      • Re:huh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Gyan (6853) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @10:02AM (#4993450)
        First, mod parent up (#4993402)

        Comment : The point of life is to have fun. That's it

        Reply : If you think thats the entire point of life, you're missing the point

        I kinda disagree. IMHO, there's no ordained point to life. You decide what the point of your life is (depending on your outlook). No obligation or duty is imposed on you to make any difference in anyone's life, even your own. But that's not going to work out very well.
        • Having found nothing here I want to spend my last two mod points on, I will obey your tagline :)

          The point of the article seem to me to be NOT anything to do with the value (or lack thereof) of a name-brand diploma at all. It struck me as being about how *driven* a person can be, and how that can lead them to succeed despite not having top-level "credentials".

          • "It struck me as being about how *driven* a person can be"

            I cover that in my root-level comment "Personality matters".

            I was just replying to the immediate parent's reply to its parent.
            • Musta missed that one... Anyway, it ultimately inspired me to a much longer post, so here's a tip o'the keyboard to ya :)

              Finally spent those last two mod points over in the sysadmin discussion, which strikes me as being oddly in parallel with this one, except there one should substitute "mindset" for "driven".

              Or maybe just genericize it to all fields, with "insert your talent here".

    • Re:huh (Score:3, Insightful)

      In other words, you have a crappy job, no prospects and women can't stand the sight of you.

      Therefore, you define happiness as containing none of those things.

      Boy, that sure is profound.

  • by trance9 (10504) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:24AM (#4993278) Homepage Journal

    I've come to the conclusion that school doesn't matter at all except for three things:

    1. You might learn something, but NOBODY will know that except you. If it helps you--great. Maybe you could have learned on the job or from a book too.

    2. Some idiotic people require you to have a degree, but they don't care from where. There are a lot of these people, some of them will wield a great deal of power over your life.

    3. You might make some friends. You friends might help you to get a job or some important break some day. If you go to an expensive school you might wind up with expensive friends who can get you an expensive break.

    So going to a "good school" I think boils down to getting "expensive friends" and if you think that will be important to your career (obviously it would help Spielberg get his first film out) then maybe it's worth paying the $$$ and working your ass off to get in.

    I've also heard that the programme at Harvard, etc., really isn't any more difficult than at other schools. The tough part is getting in.

    So...

    It doesn't surprise me at all that there is little difference between going to a good university and going to a "bad" one. It wouldn't even surprise me much if someone wrote up a study showing that there wasn't a lot of difference between going to university and not going.

    The same argument would work: maybe the kind of people who apply to universities are the "good people" who will succeed--and if they don't actually go to university they will still be good people who will succeed.

    In my work experience (computer related) I found that my education was pretty critical getting the first one or maybe two jobs. After that people only cared about my experience--so whatever the value of an education is, it's short lived in my career. I can imagine it's the same everywhere.

  • by StandardDeviant (122674) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:30AM (#4993283) Homepage Journal
    in his novel the Diamond Age, namely that the people that end up having the most effect on society (in his writing, implicitly a good effect; this need not be the case imho) are the people that have "interesting childhoods". the idea being that only through leaving the beaten path, forging one's own path through the multivariate options of life, would one gain the skills and poise needed to make a difference later on.

    i went to a place called TAMS (texas academy of mathematics and science; class of '96). basically your last two years of high school are your first two of college, so by the time you're 18 you've racked up 60 to 80 college credits (fully two thirds of my class were national merit scholars, we had five or six out of ~180 with perfect SAT scores, to give you a bit of an idea what the place was like). by any measure, this is the start of an interesting childhood... what strikes me as odd, perhaps proving mr. stephenson's theory, is that comparing the people I know who stayed in regular high school vs. the ex-TAMSters, the ex-TAMSters have a much larger deviation from "the beaten path"... Most of the folks I know from my old high school stayed pretty close to what they (or their parents, or society as a whole) expected their path to be. the TAMSters on the other hand, are all over the farkin' map. doctorates and dropouts, financiers and filmmakers... we're too young yet (24ish) to have had the time to make a big impact on society, but with backgrounds like these, i'm thinking something interesting is going to happen becuase of these folks
  • by Valluvan (564515) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:36AM (#4993299) Homepage Journal
    Why does this sound to me like "Observational selection" that Carl Sagan listed in his Baloney detection kit [skeptics.com.au] ? What about those who got rejected and did not exactly shake up the world later in their life ?

    The effects of a rejection could be positive or negative. There could be many reasons why Greg Forbes Siegman did what he did...too many variables and circumstances. "theorising" does not seem to be the right thing to do.
    • How about the number of people that got accepted but aren't worth the paper they received? I've seen plenty of graduates from top schools that might aw well stay home given what they actually contribute. In my opinion, education is what you make of it. If your lucky, the school you go to will point you inthe right direction as to what to learn. The learning part is up to you. Especially in grad school where you are expected to learn everything on your own anyway. School is not the solution, it is just a tool. Nothing is automatic.

    • That's why I made the observation I did (in another post) -- this article doesn't strike me as being about name-brand diplomas, or even about education at all. ISTM it's about people who are driven to succeed, which can occur at any educational level and with any or no trigger point (such as being rejected by some Ivy League school).

      The only thing the name-brand diploma (indeed, ANY diploma) changes, is your potential *entry points* of success. Example: if you're a kid who is naturally driven to make lots of money, but drop out of school in the 9th grade, you may well become the biggest drug dealer in your neighbourhood, because THAT is the limit of opportunity for success given the entry points available. Take the same person up thru a couple years of community college, and he may well become the biggest local MacDonalds franchise owner instead. Given an Ivy League diploma, he may become a partner in a big law firm.

      Whereas if you're a kid who is NOT driven to "succeed" (however you may define that, but I'll use money for the sake of consistency), and you drop out at the 9th grade, you may well be content with a nice steady janitorial job. With a couple years of college, perhaps with managing one of your "driven" buddy's MacDonalds franchises. Whereas if you did the Ivy League thing, you might be content with basic background legal work, with no thought of partnerships or pretigious accounts.

  • by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:47AM (#4993320)
    I work at a company that has several hundred employees, most of which of have PhDs in the hard sciences. (This includes myself.) Over the years, I've been on numerous hiring committees. From my experience I can say this, there is a broad tiering of schools -- community college versus major universities (including state schools and Ivy League). Which tier you attended can affect hiring decisions. Past that the specific school doesn't matter. Having discussed the qualifications of many interview candidates, I have NEVER heard anyone say hire person A over person B because they went to an Ivy League school. The discussions center around oral and written skills and personality. Specifically, whether the person's personality would be a good fit in the corporate culture. (Because of our work, we need to avoid the shy, introverted scientist. We need extroverts.)
    • The discussions center around oral and written skills and personality. Specifically, whether the person's personality would be a good fit

      Absolutely. In successful companies, labs, (whatever), you want people who are capable, productive, and can work and play well with others. For instance, it was once reccomended to me by our former chair of neurosurgery that you take the potential job candidate out to dinner. If you cannot eat with that person or are uncomfortable there, they will never work out in your business or lab and for the most part I have found this to be true. (another interesting bit....I have found that some of the best scientists are also pretty damn good cooks).

      As for the ivy league school bit you talked about earlier, it's interesting that it seems to get you into the door at many places (especially in England and in certain places on the east and west coasts), but getting into the door is no guarantee of success. I have seen more than one knucklehead from an ivy league school suck up many resource $$'s before leaving for another position having accomplished nothing. As for me going to an ivy league school, yeah, I was accepted into Stanford based upon college entrance scores, but finding out tuition was going to be $25,000/year, I was shocked and dismayed as I did not know where I was going to find the money to go to a state school at the time. However, I am happy with my decision not to go as I did not have to take out loans and any extra money I did not spend on tuition simply went into investments. Would it have been nice to go? Yes, but not for $100k and financial aid was not guaranteed.

      • "As for me going to an ivy league school, yeah, I was accepted into Stanford based upon college entrance scores"....

        Except that Stanford isn't an Ivy League school =) Sorry.. I just had to bite and point that out.

        However, semantics aside, that doesn't really mean anything. Stanford is one of the finest colleges in the country and probably produces graduates just as strong, if not stronger, than a large portion of the Ivy League.

        For some people, myself included, the Ivies are actually a bit of a turnoff. In high school, I noticed that most people who were applying to Ivies were doing so soley because they "needed" to go to an Ivy... not because they actually liked the school or thought it was a good fit for themselves. I can't tell you how many of these people applied to _every_ Ivy, without having even visited most of them. At that point, I decided that I definitely didn't want that. I had dealt with people like this all of my life - there was no way I was going to do it again for the next four years.

        Now, I'm not saying that all Ivies student are like this. While visiting friends at Ivies I've met a lot of very nice kids who I really got along with. However, at the same time, I've perceived a very definite aura of pretentiousness with the oh-so-familiar, "Oh, so you don't go to an Ivy?", etc.

        There is even a phrase used by some to describe people who share my views - "Ivy Envy." And you know what.. the people who use that phrase are the very people who I'm talking about. But to each his own. Some people want that and others don't.

        Although the college you attend may help you in your first step out of college (whether that is law school, graduate school, or your first job) in the end, it doesn't really matter. If in ten years people are still judging you on the college you went to, instead of the person that you are, then I'd say that you're probably surrounding yourself with the wrong people.

        But that's just my 2 cents...
    • I have NEVER heard anyone say hire person A over person B because they went to an Ivy League school. The discussions center around oral and written skills and personality. Specifically, whether the person's personality would be a good fit in the corporate culture.

      Thus the best course of action would be to goof off by socializing where-ever you can. Socialize, socialize, socialize. Go to a cheap school and save yourself the money.

      Jobs that one can do without much interaction are slowing being shipped overseas to people who are paid $2 an hour. The lone geek is going the way of the factory worker.

      That's just life.
  • one factor.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pamri (251945) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:48AM (#4993322) Homepage
    ..that separates the haves(college-educated) and have-not's(drop-outs) are 'risk'. Most of the educated people are generally averse to risk, in the sense that they whatever subject they learn, be it management or engineering they are taught to manage risk. While I am not saying that educated people don't take risks, but people who haven't gone to college maybe less prone to over analysis and take the plunge in following their vision.Ok, I am being overtly simplistic and may be generalisations, but it's not entirely false.
    Let's look at the facts:
    From a forbes article [forbes.com]: The vast majority of the 234 U.S. billionaires whose education level is tracked by Forbes magazine through 1999 finished college; 100 have some form of advanced degree, but 41--that's 18%--never got their college diplomas and two never even finished high school.
    The world's richest man(i don't have to stress here :-) ) is a dropout, India's richest men: Dhirubhai Ambani(Reliance founder), Azim Premji(Wipro) are all great examples. One IIMB professor told me that 10 of the richest people are dropouts or have basic education & the 11th(i believe ballmer) works for the 1st(bill). I haven't verified it though, so take it with a pinch of salt.

    The point I am trying to make is not that education doesn't help you or isn't necessary, but rather bookish/college education is not the be all or end all in making a person a great individual or entrepreneur or leader.

    • Drop out of school, did you read that anecdotal evidence? Wow that's powerful stuff!

      Now where is my billion dollars?

    • Yes, if you want to make it to the very top, then you probably need to accept a lot of risk. And, people who don't have much to lose are willing to accept a lot of risk.

      A good education gives you a choice: you can limit your risks and your rewards, or you can accept a lot of risk and possibly make it to the very top. Most people apparently do the rational thing given this choice: they limit their risk and their rewards. Most people are happy with a decent income, a nice family, predictable work, and reasonable success at their job. Most people deep down don't really desire to be Bill Gates or Steven Spielberg.

  • by Gyan (6853) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @08:57AM (#4993338)
    If your makeup is that of someone who is entrepreneurial, creative, takes initiative/risks and works at it, college just becomes a formality to please the business mentality at large when you're starting. You're likely to succeed anyway.
    The college you go to doesn't matter*

    *Elitist wall-street and legal firms not included.
    • I think you should probably expand on those categories which are excluded from your statement. You cant underestimate the value of having a highly visible school when looking for jobs and internships. Two example i have seen are
      1. when it was time for me to look for a summer internship which could hopefully lead to a job many large companies aggressively marketed themselves to CS undergrads in my department this was in stark contrast to some of my friends who went to larger schools but are doing the same work and are absolutely equally qualified.
      2. One person I know at princeton was able to get in touch with senator Frist through the university because of his envolvment with our student government. That's the kind of access that can only help when trying to get your foot in the door in any field.

      But before you call me elitist I should say that I dont think the name of your school should come into question when deciding where to apply in the long run picking the school that's right for you based on the environment you want and the fields you want to pursue is far more important.
  • Im 32 years old and moved 24 times in my life, most of it as a child and teenager. I attended 5 different schools and lived in the states, germany, scotland and germany again. Along the way, as you can imagine, I grew somewhat emotionally independet of the judgement by academic authorities over me that at points I often came to disbelief at how so many people, especially in my homecountry germany, can take the system for granted. Only gradually are things changing to a more unconventional way of dealing with this. That's one of the rare things that are actually *good* to be copied from the US.
    Everything that article says is so very true.
    And there is still one thing I might want to add:
    The reason for going to a University should be that you want to learn, not that you want a degree. If you can't gain that amount of self esteem (spelling???) without a degree it's almost shure a degree isn't the right thing for you. That probably is more so when studying an art.
    If I where young again (gee I'm 32 now...:-) ) I'd be even more reckless. I'd pick the masters I've allways considered the best of trade, let's say for instance Frank Miller the comic artist, back a backpack travel to him, knock on his door and ask him to let me help him with anything I can offer for free and therefore let me look over his shoulder while he's drawing. For now I don't give a shit what papers or titles people have. They hardly mean zilch apart from showing their ability to walk the treadmill.
    What counts is what ones self is willing to do and what ones self considers a great achievement or a poor performance. It's difficult, requires honesty but in the long run get's you farther. I bet that's the common demoninator all the people we call 'originals' have.
  • by NovaX (37364)
    I've been looking at many of the ivy-leage schools for graduate school, and so I've been glancing at their undergraduate degrees for a basis of what they expect. Guess what, they don't teach a lot to undergraduates. Actually, its pretty average. I was pretty surprised at first, even though I go to a great school its not a 'name-brand', but some are just pathetic.

    Most college rankings seem to rely on reputation, peer-review, famous faculty, research, and the education recieved by graduate students. Instead undergraduate is by and large who you are and how much your worth, not brains. And to top it off, and this really got me, a large number of the 'best-of-the-best' schools use a partial or full pass/fail system to hide GPAs. This means that if you pass (usually 50-65% on course webpages), you get a pass - equal to a 3.0 when converted to a GPA by the school. Quite a nice trick, especially for those that use a partial system to hide tougher courses where GPAs would fall.

    And the graduate programs aren't all that great at times. Many take 1 year to complete, not two. I actually laughed when I looked at UC Berkeley's for Computer Engineering: 10-11 crh (out of 24) can be applied to any 100-level or above course. Okay, okay, its not ivy-leage, but the school has a good rep.

    So ivy-leage schools having great reputations is false, and I can tell you numerous stories related to me by PhD graduates from them. The thing is, for some people reputation is just as or more important than the education - like the MBA programs. Stanford and many others don't actually release an MBA student's grades to potential employers, but the key aspect to their program lies in the connections built in, advice from famous CEOs, and the education. The mere fact that Stanford is on your resume determines your salary.

    So repeat after me: reputation does not equal education. And the article shows this, the name attached to his degree didn't make much of a difference. You just have to decide what mixture you want, obscurity vs fame, hardcore vs. hand-holding.
  • With all the articles going around putting focus on the college admissions process at top schools and how flawed it is im glad someone finally realizes the truth. That the importance of the name of your school is a distant third in my opinion to first what you make of your experience there and second to whether it's the right school for you. I know people at my school who are throwing away their four years drinking and partying. I also know people at Dartmouth who are miserable because they really wanted the environment that a large city school would provide but they chose Dartmouth for the name value (not to say that there arent others for whom living two seconds from miles of hiking and skiing isnt heaven.)

    I wish more parents would think about this when theyre pressuring their kids to do after school activities that they have no interest in and take AP classes which arent right for them.

    That said you cant totally discount the advantages to going to a big name school. But these advantages have less to do with the curriculum than they do with the people you can come in contact with both while at the university and after you graduate. For example there arent many places where you can take a course from ed Felten on IT and the law, and a course on programing from Kernighan while at the same time studying photography with emmet gowin. But like I said before having a prestigious faculty to work with doesnt do you any good unless you put the time in to get to know them.
  • The reporter wrote:

    "Dale and Krueger noticed something odd. In many cases, they found that applicants who were rejected by brand-name schools did as well in later life as those who were accepted."

    Not so.

    What Dale & Krueger noted is that people who were accepted by highly selective schools, but chose to attend less selective schools, later enjoyed the same level of professional success, on average, as their peers who did matriculate at the highly selective schools.

    It may also be worth mentioning that D & K found this to the case only when the less selective school was only moderately less selective (so, for example, Harvard might be foregone in favor of, say, NYU, but not Remedial U.)
  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @11:22AM (#4993641)
    In all my years of interviewing candidates for programming jobs, I have found that educational background is basically irrelevant. As long as you went to college, thats all I want to know.

    Everything else depends on how you answer my programming questions. If you have an MIT Ph.D, what good is that if you don't know answers to rudimentary programming questions? I don't care about "capacity to learn" at this point, I want someone who can produce. Being a big thinker is far less important to me than the ability to crank out good code fast. In fact I have found the big thinkers to be more useless than the humble trench soldier.

    • by Magnus Pym (237274) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @02:26PM (#4994215)
      OK, I'll bite.

      I am currently working for a company in which the director of software, who has a major problem with Ph. D.s, feels like this. He proudly says that Ph. D. are useless and that he would not trust them to code unsupervised.

      Well, over the past few years, he turned down lots of resumes just because they had "Ph. D." on them. He hired a bunch of people with BS from no-name colleges because of the experience listed on the resume and their supposed familiarity with currently popular coding methodologies and paradigms.

      This guy turned down people so brilliant that, in a just world, he would have been cleaning their socks.

      However, one of the team leads here had enough political clout to resist this, and he packed his team with people with advanced degrees from good schools. Despite being specifically warned by the said Director of Software that he would be fired if his team slipped. The salaries offered to these people were up to 20% less than those offered to the "experienced programmers".

      As you might guess, I am in this latter group. For my sins, I have a Ph.D from a good school.

      Well, guess what happened?

      It took longer for the Ph.Ds to "boot up", as it were, to become familiar with the development environment, to learn the finer points of C++ etc. But once that happened, they started outperforming the rest so much that it was not even funny. They delivered faster, their architectures were so much better designed, and their code had far fewer bugs.

      Finally, when the product deadlines started slipping, the same Ph. Ds (whose component had less than 1% of all the filed bugs) were put to work to help the others pull their shit together.

      I worked on fixing bugs in several components filed by the so-called experienced programmers. What I found was an appalling mishmash of poorly thought-out, poorly designed code held together by glue and duct tape. Race conditions and memory leaks abounded.

      However, I also found that these "experienced programmers" were masters of political maneuvering, deflecting blame and of the ignoble art of covering their sorry asses. They had a good excuse for every bug found in their code.

      However, over time, it became obvious to the higher management as to who are the really valuable people in the Software group. When the layoffs came (as they have done everywhere), they hit mostly the "experienced programmers". The Director of Software is now on the run trying to cover his ass for his choice of hires.

      Magnus.
  • I think the way the question is posed, or thought about is all backward. Of course it matters where you went to school. Just not in the way that most people think.

    A great person will be great no matter what. Charasmatic leadership will not be stiffled by a degree from a state school, or even no degree at all. Strong technical abilities will shine in the work place, if you went to a tech college or the best engineering school in the country. A truly strong and/or smart person will simply not be held back. It can't happen, otherwise they weren't that great or strong to begin with.

    Even if the extremely talented individual doesn't land a job with HP, ATT or Cisco doesn't mean they won't invent the next best thing. If that person lands in some po-dunk firm, and he is truly great, he will make the next best thing, and make his company the next big IPO. In fact, I would argue that the smaller the firm that person lands in, the better the chances of that person being allowed to invent something special.

    Now, the question should be asked, does the school a person goes to allow a mediocre person more success than they deserve. In this case, I think it is obvious that the school matters. A mediocre lawyer that went to Harvard is going to do a lot better for themselves that a mediocre lawyer that went to NY City college night school.
  • by mrm677 (456727) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @12:26PM (#4993783)
    It has nothing to do with comparing the quality of instruction at one university versus another. At my undergraduate school, which is top ten in many areas, instruction was usually lousy and was carried out by graduate students who were overworked and often weren't fluent in English.

    However when you go to a top school which has higher admission requirements, your peers are generally smarter or harder working than at a local community college. Guess what? This matters when classes are graded on curves as you compete and learn from your classmates. This is what really matters.
  • If all you want to do is get rich quick, please by all means dropout, sell newspapers and work your way up to a multi-billionaire. big deal.

    There are some things which a university, or rather, the life around the university has to offer which are not so obvious. It allows people to 'find themselves': to become a lot more 'relaxed' in life. it allows one to experiment, to find things they like, to learn how to live with people. it builds character. It's a weird thing, which is not easily put into words, but believe me: there is time enough to work later on. There are people at my university which spend all time studying and there are those who still live with their parents. Those people wont learn anything. Sure, they'll probably get A grades, but they will have missed SO MUCH.

    A reason people are more eager to hire people from a university is not because they 'know' more, it's because they have proven they are able to finish a job. This is why credentials are also important later on.

    Success in life lies not with how much money you make, it's character and personality which will decide how 'successfull' you are.

    Just my 2ct rant.
  • by NateKid (44775)
    "I joined the service after high school because the dropouts had all the jobs". Same thing goes for college too I guess...
  • We've all heard a bunch of people from IT who talk about how they don't care whether the people they hire come from good schools or have fancy degrees. Fine.

    What about the rest of the world? What about Investment Banking positions? Do they care about academic reputation when hiring (anecdotally, I'm guessing they do) ? How about law firms? Management consulting? Are these the sort of places that only recruit at top-tier schools?
    • I know a high-school dropout who went into the Army, got out, got a GED, went to the University of Maryland, then University of Baltimore Law School, and now has his own law practice.

      I know a maid from El Salvador who came to this country with nothing, and now owns a chain of restaurants.
  • I'm not complaining about Slashdot posting this, mind you... but are there really a lot of people that think the school makes the (wo)man?

    I'm a highschool dropout. I have no college edumacation whatsoever. I make plenty of money and have a good time - in both cases moreso than many of my college grad friends. I've worked with a couple other dropouts who kicked ass, too.

    I certainly don't think school is bad - if it's what you want, and if it's the way you learn best than go for it... but successs comes from within.

    Cheers.
  • I know everyone has a choice in where to go after high school, be it college, the work force, back to your parents' house, etc. I applied to a few schools, 1 being large, 1 being medium, and 1 pretty small. The largest one's campus is bigger than the suburb I lived in but had pretty good programs. The medium one was a good size, but the culture was probably not for me and their classes were pretty generic for the first couple of years. The small one was incredibly small but the classes looked really interesting.

    Why does this matter? Well, no one had ever heard of the small one. So that made me unsure at first, even though I decided to go there. What ended up happening is that my profs recognize me by name and not "a kid who is in one of my classes." No teacher aides, no 3 mile walks to my next class, etc. Also, being that close to the school has given me some great opportunities to do things esp. with the labs there.
    I'm hoping that a future employer will look at what I've learned, my experiences, and most importantly, me when evaluating me for a position, and not the name of the school I went to.
  • If you have two people, both equally qualified, yet one has a degree from a "better" school, you'll take that one first.

    If you have two people, both equally qualified, yet one has a higher GPA than the other, you'll take that one first.

    But...

    If you have one person with a great degree and a great GPA who has spent five years in a junior position and one who has an average GPA from an average school who has spent five years being promoted rapidly to positions of responsibility, you'll take that one over the "educated" one.

    If the great GPA/school has spent five years bouncing around "Dave's Home Web Publishing" and other unheard of, now out of business, little companies while the average GPA/school candidate has worked through companies that you respect in the same field, you're more likely to take them.

    So, GPAs and the school you go to help but they're by no means essential. What you quickly find is that it's only your last qualification or two (including where you worked) that count.

    Also, how you word your resume can hide almost anything: "2.0 GPA from Cornell" can be "BSc from Cornell" while "4.0 GPA from University of BFIowa" can be "BSc Computer Science - 4.0 GPA" Either one of those gets you "in the door" to an interview. After that, it's just down to how well you can sell yourself.

    And remember, by the time you've finished your second job: "Managed $2m project with a $12m return on investment plus a staff of 10" looks a lot better than "3.9 GPA from Berkley" to most corporate suits. My degree only takes a single line of my resume now - my last two jobs take five to ten times that.
  • My father immigrated to the United States in the early 70s. He had the equivalent of perhaps a 5th grade education. He learned to speak English by watching the Flintstones in his tiny flat while working construction for some company. He eventually saved up enough money to move his family here too.

    In the late 70s he was laid off. Since then, he has run a fruit store, partially owned a Pizza place, and today he runs a construction company. In my opinion, he provided very adequete shelter, food, and clothing for his 4 kids and wife remarkably well under the cirmcumstances, and is now financially well off that he owns and rents 3 houses, and has a sound retirement plan, and can still give his kids a boost if they need it ("Dad, can I borrow $85,000 to buy a house?").

    My dad also helped my eldest sister go to college. She trained to be an architect, worked for someone else for about 10 years, and very recently started her own firm. She also agrees that school is meaningless bullshit, but regrets that it was required for her choice of career.

    My second eldest sister received a GED after dropping out of High School. Since then she has been a hair stylist, a pastry chef at some top rated restaurants, a stock broker assistant, a mother of two, and is currently pursuing a successful graphics design business which services the culinary industry.

    My older brother dropped out of High School when he was 16, and worked construction with my father until about 28. After that he went to work for a construction supplier, grew his department by perhaps 500%, and eventually started his own construction equipment sales business which seems to be doing him well.

    Myself? I graduated High School, skipped college, studied computers, worked MCS at Dean Witter, then worked at an ISP for 3 years, and now I run my own computer consulting practice which I think has remarkable potential.

    When you're in High School it's easy for those sadists to make you think you're going to be a fucking loser for not obeying their rules. Sadly, it can really get to some of the students. While the white kids who shoot up their schools make the news, there are thousands of others who take their own lives every year who you never hear about.

    But the truly disturbed people are the ones who believe the mantra, and devote their entire lives to fanatic pursuit of the straight A's, who craft every action in their life so that it appeases the all powerful college admissions, and then the big corporation which will employ them. These are the people who I feel for now. They believed that the formula for success was to follow the rules, take no risks, do as you're told, think inside the boundaries. They are wrong, this is the formula for mediocrity.

    It's not until maybe a year or two after you're out of school that it occurs to you that you've spent years of your life putting up with bullshit, that everything that your teachers swore would happen has in fact been a lie, and that your life isn't really over. In fact, more the opposite, you find that your life is now beginning.

    If you're in that situation now, please don't let it get you down. Everyone is shouting at you about how important it is, but if you have any intelligence at all, it's really not. Once you exit the hell that is education, a sudden sensation of freedom will wash over you. For awhile you will be terrified, afraid, but soon you realize that what you mistook for fear is in fact something you've simply never experienced until now: Unlimited potential.

    The piece of paper? It is an inferior substitute for experience, intelligence, and creativity. If you already possess one of these essential traits, you don't need to waste your time trying to obtain a superficial surrogate.

    Do something worthwhile with your time. Anything you do is the right decision--the only truly wrong decision you can make is deciding to do nothing.

  • What school you went to (or whether or not you got a degree) matters until approximately four seconds after you get your first job. Then it's all about your performance (including, under performance, your ability to play office politics (and including, under your ability to play office politics, your ability to act as professional as the job requires)). Many of these things can be shaped at college, but whether your degree says Harvard or Oakland University matters not one shit once you've gotten a job in your chosen career track. I've been in the workforce 10 years and no one has asked what school I've been to since my first job interview, even then, it was my ability to intern for free for three months that got me the gig, not the fact that I went to some school on the east coast.
  • Is Harvard Worth It [mygradnet.com]
    Dale and Krueger compared the earnings of students who were admitted to the same colleges but made different choices. This ensured that they looked at similar individuals. In other words, because the students had been admitted to the same schools, they would have had equivalent SAT scores and "unobserved" traits.

    Krueger and Dale concluded that smart, talented kids who attended less selective schools did just as well in their careers as their counterparts at elite colleges. There was no difference in average earnings.

  • It only "really doesn't matter where you went to school" if you didn't get into a "prestigious" one.

    Otherwise it matters!

    Besides, I thought the /. party line was that school is irrelevant. Or did that notion die with the dotcoms?

  • I did read the article. And it is true that people succeed without Going to fancy schools. In fact, success often comes (at least in America) from hard work. That's the american dream. And I agree with the intent of the article. Just because Harvard or (in slashdot land ) Cal tech rejected you and you had to go to Cal State Northridge, does not mean you will be a failure (far from it).

    Now, the article did not argue that university is useless, or that the best schools are bad. But there are those in this thread who seem to think because famous person x did not graduate from college, therefore a college degree is useless. This is just absurd.

    I have a degree in film production from the school that rejected spielberg. [usc.edu] I am also a worthless film director. My student films are incoherent crap. I heard, over and over again from the people that didn't get in the story of Spielberg's rejection. It is always cited as proof that school is a waste of time, the USC production program is stupid, etc. I asked my advisor about the Spielberg effect. He told me that that's what USC film uses to describe people who insist on measuring their success against the wunderkind like Spielberg. The fact was that Spielberg was rejected because USC cinema had nothing to offer him. He was already a talented film maker. He didn't want to learn the craft, he wanted to direct films. Film school would have done nothing for him.

    I am obviously biased. But I am very glad I went to school and got an expensive degree. It was worth every penny, not because it put me in a position to be a super successful and famous film director. You can't teach that. But you can teach the sort of universal skills that I use every day in my work. School was useful for me. I specialized in cinematography and also did a lot of computer graphics learning on the side. I had a chance to learn from some amazing teachers(and some bad ones too of course). I got my hands on equipment you can't just play with on your own. And I got to learn the way things are done and why, instead of having to go out and screw up on my own. I was very prepared for my career. (I work as a 3d artist) A one semester cinematography course from Woody Omens was worth the price of admission.

    Universities are not designed to create the super succesful. Those people are not created, they are born. Universities are intended to teach people a broad range of information, to create well rounded individuals capable of success in any aspect of their future careers. In school I learned to speak french, the history of japan and how to draw. I also learned the basics of editing, cinematography, animation, sound, direction and acting. I am terrible film director. I don't feel bad about that. I am not going to be Steven Spielberg. Nor am I going to be Hemingway or Nabokov. University is not for the geniuses. Its for the rest of us. So put it to rest. Just because people who don't go to university are succesful does not mean that universities are useless. If people that didn't go to high school learned algebra on their own, would you claim that Universities offer nothing? No, a degree is not necessarily an indicator of future performance. But it will often be useful to YOU in your career.
  • by akookieone (530708)
    right. either an ivy league degree is a golden ticket, or it is useless and it is better to be a drop out. i am tempted to believe that since most people don't go to ivy league schools, most people have an interest in knocking them for their own self image, but I think that is probably not the only reason people like these stories. people love the underdog, the rag to riches horatio alger tale. it is very american. also, I would point out that success is always a journey, and for some people it peaks with high school football fame, and for others it builds over a lifetime to finally result in winning a nobel prize at 90. folks who get in to an ivy league have a sort of early success, but no monopoly on success beyond 21 years of age. tomorrow is promised to no one, ivy league or little league. I went to one, learned alot, made moderate grades, and found out that I had been a big fish in a small pond all my life. that alone was worth the trip. the connections thing has done nothing for me, but I got alot more interviews with a big name degree. it also meant to some people that I probably knew how to communicate well, think on my feet, and be adaptable as time goes by beyond knowing all the intricasies of the JDK or every arcane perl syntax. no, I wasn't taught to be a critical thinker, but when you are in a seminar of 6 people and the whole point is to be guided by a prof with years more experience to form and communicate your own opinions on the works studied, you get good practice, and feedback. you also get confidence and experience in thinking for yourself, and taught the lesson that that way of thinking is the commonality to your course of studies. in the tech zone, there seems to be especially little repect for academic knowledge and for a liberel arts education where you learn useless things like art history instead of how to hack linux onto NES. look, I code for a living, and love it, and chose it over IB and strategic/management consulting, but I appreciate that having studies other things in school, there is a real difference in studying some things at a great school - like literature, philosophy, etc. b/c at such schools you find the leaders in studying these things, and you find other students who really get it and can challenge you. besides all that, the real reason to go to university is to learn something, become a well rounded person, mature and "actualize" - blah - it's droll, but I was exposed to worlds well beyond IT and science I would never have touched on my own as a high school grad. the point is not to make a bunch of money when you get out - that's what MBAs are for - the point is to take a few years to learn more about the world and to hopefully learn to think, what's important to you, and to deal with other preople. there are plenty of people making more money than me, but I still feel like I am better for having gone to a good college and broadened my knowledge and interests, and getting the background in intellectual concerns so that I can approach on my own nearly any topic and get somewhere in understanding it. I also learned what is important to me, and it isn't being richer than you, it is being rich enough to do what matters to me and my family, and then getting on with living not just being more 'successful'.
  • True greatness. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by leereyno (32197) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @06:04PM (#4995189) Homepage Journal
    The thing that struck me about this article is just how obvious its conclusions should be. The article starts of as if the rational assumption is that your destiny and accomplishments are somehow pre-determined by what some ivy league university thinks of your application. I'm sure the ivy league universities would just love it if everyone believed that, but it is patently false.

    I really shouldn't have to be saying this, but the things that lead to sucess are character and hard work. Where one goes to school makes no difference at all. The ivy league schools get a good reputation because they are able to pick and choose applicants who they believe have the character and intelligence to suceed. From there it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Going to Harvard no more gives you character and discipline any more than not going there deprives you of them.

    When one looks at history it is evident that most of the great discoveries and accomplishments were achieved by those with mediocre academic records. Einstein was working as a patent clerk because he couldn't get a teaching job. Edison didn't even have a sixth grade education. Both Newton and Maxwell were undistinguished prior to their major discoveries.

    Once upon a time people understood that it is character and hard work that lead to greatness, why our culture has forgotten that I just don't know. Nowadays people seem to think that success is some kind of trick, or is achieved though one's image. So people chase after degrees from the ivy league because they think that if other people think that they are great then they will be. Sorry Charlie, the most someone with that approach will achieve is the ability to con everyone including themself. True greatness comes from within and it is not something that can be bought, faked or manufactured.

    Lee
  • by jhylkema (545853) on Wednesday January 01, 2003 @07:12PM (#4995572)

    For my chosen profession, law, where you went to school makes all the difference in the world - and it matters not a hill of beans.

    If your goal is to end up on the U.S. Supreme Court, well, five of the nine current justices went to Harvard Law (Darth Bader graduated from Columbia but went to Harvard), two went to Stanford, and the other two went to Northwestern and Yale. Roughly the same goes for most federal district and appellate judges.

    Want to work for Bill's daddy at the 213-attorney Seattle home office of Preston, Gates and Ellis? Ask yourself, where do they do on-campus interviews? Aside from the local schools (Seattle U. and the Universities of Washington and Oregon), PG&E recruits from Bezerkely, Columbia, U of Chicago, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Northwestern, NYU, Penn, Stanford, UVA, and Yale. Only about a third of their hires come from the local schools, and most of those are from the ultra-super-mega-hyper-prestigious (just ask 'em, they'll tell ya) UW. In other words, your chances of being hired by them are about zero if you did not attend any of those schools - and this firm is based in Seattle. I would submit that most large law firms have similar hiring practices.

    Before giving up hope, though, consider what it's like to work there. Sure, the pay is good and the resources are near infinite, but the hours are long - 100 hour weeks are the norm rather than the exception. What are you doing then, practicing real law, representing real clients? Hardly. Most of the work involved is adding a few more zeroes to the end of some already-obscenely-wealthy white guy's bottom line. Finally, the careers there are generally quite short - a select few make partner, but most are cut loose after a few years.

    Okay, so what's a young non-Ivy JD grad to do? Practice real law, of course. Represent ordinary people in real-world disputes and actually go to court once in awhile. Most attorneys make their living this way and their clients don't much care where they went to law school.

    In sum, the black-and-white answer is that there is no black-and-white answer.

The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form. -- Stanley J. Randall

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