Right at this moment, there are high school juniors and seniors hoping that their applications to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton will amount to something. They’re maintaining 4.0 averages, joining the right extracurricular activities, and wishing desperately that their Ivy League dreams come true. For most of them, they won’t, and it will take time for them to realize you don’t need to go to a top-tier school to get a great degree.

Elitism vs. a Solid Education

Ivy League educationImage via Flickr by wallyg

The truth is that, as a whole, students who go to Ivy League schools attend because they’re Ivy League. Perhaps they’re legacy students, whose family attended for generations. Perhaps they think they’ll have a leg up in the job market. Elitism is no reason to attend a college. While many great professors work at these schools, they’re no better than the hardworking, passionate professors at countless others.

Going to a school because you think it makes you better than other students sets you up for disaster. Even if you’re the nicest kid in the world, that attitude alienates you from your peers. Pick a school because you think you’ll get a top-notch education, not a top-tier reputation.

The Diploma vs. the Degree

Similarly, at most Ivy League institutions, the letterhead on the diploma is far more important than the actual degree. Just because you major in Philosophy at Harvard doesn’t mean you’ll somehow become more marketable. If you get a business degree from Utica College, have a solid GPA, and learn valuable assets in the business world, you’re just as equipped as your Princeton counterpart. Click here to discover just why the degree and the knowledge matter most.

Class Acts vs. Class Wars

There’s a feeling that only the richest, most influential young adults go to Ivy League schools. In fact, the belief is that you can’t get in unless you’re wealthy enough to buy your way into the school. Certainly good grades are necessary, but a lower- or middle-class student from Iowa who needs a scholarship is far less likely to get an acceptance letter to Yale than a wealthy student from Boston or New York.

In line with elitism, most people further believe that the Ivies only let in students from certain demographics to fill a quota. While that offers excellent opportunities to many deserving students, the truth is that they aren’t exactly chosen on their academic merits. Who wants to go to a school like that?

Tuition vs. Teaching Quality

It’s hard to get a full scholarship to an Ivy League school. This leads back to the idea that students from the upper class are the only ones who can afford to go. While student debt is a given, no education needs to cost that much money. A school offering a scholarship isn’t somehow less than an Ivy League institution. There’s no reason to go into that much debt to get your degree, especially since it’s just as worthwhile from a more affordable school.

In recent years, the Ivies have lost some of their reputation, with tech schools and even online colleges becoming more popular. How do you define a good college?