Thou Shall not Measure Thy Worth by a College Acceptance Letter

By Jinsil V. Kim, M. Div. / C2 Education of McLean

Contributing Editor: Douglas Cooper, Ph.D.

Dr. Cooper is a former professor at Harvard University, Chan School of Public Health, and was an elected Fellow of the Institute of Environmental Sciences. Dr. Cooper earned his A.B. in physics at Cornell with honors, M.S. degree in physics at Penn State, and his Ph.D. in engineering from Harvard. He published over 100 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals.

When we get so caught up in one primary goal, such as college admission, we may forget whether that goal in itself fulfills a larger purpose. The goal must be a means to an end and not the end in itself. Otherwise, the purpose loses its power, meaning, and significance.

As a college counselor, I have encountered students who are so fixated on getting admitted to top colleges that lose sight of the broader purpose of their education. Of course, students do understandably see earning the badge of their future college’s name as a form of approval, acceptance, and pride. However, if admission to top colleges in itself becomes the goal of higher education or a final stamp of approval, it will only serve to undervalue students’ college years rather than to nourish their growth. Such students would equate their identities with the prestigious names of the colleges they attended. Nonetheless, there is always a possibility that these students’ college experiences will fall short of their future aspirations. What if the colleges subsequently decline in their prestige and standard? What if the students’ academic performance does not reflect the qualifications that they are supposed to inherently possess from earning their prestigious degrees? And finally, does an impressive college degree assure future success?

To expose this fallacy, two Princeton University economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger published a research paper in which they found that students’ ability is a much better predictor of success than the colleges they attend. According to Dale and Krueger, “a student with a 1,400 SAT score who went to Penn State but applied to Penn earned as much, on average, as a student with a 1,400 who went to Penn.” In other words, the students’ talents trumped the brand names of the colleges they attended. Nonetheless, “a few major groups did not fit the pattern: black students, Latino students, low-income students, and students whose parents did not graduate from college. For them, attending a more selective school increased earnings significantly.”

In conclusion, although there are advantages to attending top colleges and universities, a student’s academic capability and capacity is a better predictor of future career success and true earning potential than the reputation of the college he/she attended. Ironically, students who are unaware of this contradiction and who believe their college brand will carry them through their entire lives and careers are likely to be disappointed.

Hence, students should view the letter of acceptance to a prestigious college not as a badge but as a great opportunity to grow the depth of their learning and understanding, to better their career development, and eventually, to attain a greater sense of fulfillment in their lives. Enriching their lives and the lives of others around them should be the purpose of attaining higher education. As Aristotle once said, “education is the best provision for life’s journey.”

Ms. Kim currently serves as a CEO of Joy & Joseph, C2 Education Franchise Group located in DC and in Florida. She joined C2 Education in 2007, and led
one of the most successful franchise groups in the nationwide company. She is a recipient of the prestigious Dean’s Scholarship Award from Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins University, and graduated with Distinction from UCLA Extension as a Certified College Counselor. She has three beautiful
children, Sebastian (6), Theodore (4), and Sophia Grace (2) with her husband Dr. Crutchley, whom she met during his anesthesiology residency interview
at Johns Hopkins. Finally, she attained a Master of Divinity in 2006 from Oral Roberts University, and her life desire is to please God and to love people

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