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Why I'm Not Worried About College for My Kid

The new book "Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be," by Frank Bruni, is challenging popular opinion about how much the particular college you attend actually affects your overall success in life. Bruni, a columnist for the New York Times, says that the college your kids go to won't decide their destiny, and he's got the facts and figures to back that up. For instance, contrary to popular belief, most CEO's and politicians in our country did not graduate from Ivy League schools.

At face value, this may feel like generic consolation for kids who got rejected by their first-choice school, or maybe something written by an envious state-school grad trying to devalue the competition. But the book is much smarter than that. You can watch an interview with the author here, and I definitely recommend reading the book.

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The mistake we make, Bruni says, is that we equate a college's exclusivity with quality—when it's just not true. How do these things get so out of whack?

You could blame the test prep industry or blame the colleges themselves, as they artificially inflate their rejection rates in order to appear more exclusive. Rather than worry about blame though, I think the message here is that parents and kids can all just relax a little bit about college acceptance letters.

If you ask me, the idea of a college alma matter defining a person's career trajectory will be irrelevant by the time my almost-2-year-old daughter is entering the job market. Here's why:

College is an industry and tradition that's in the middle of tremendous change. New ways to be educated and measure education are changing what colleges look like. The idea of attending a brick-and-mortar college for four years used to be standard but is now becoming an unnecessary (though fun) lifestyle choice.

Maybe my opinion would mean more to you if I was writing it today as a rich woman, having made myself famous for being wildly successful.

I know there are still companies today, in many fields, who only hire from a select few universities, no matter what. But that way of doing business seems antiquated in a world where any ambitious student with an internet connection can access learning materials, interact with experts and independently learn to excel in almost every field imaginable.

I chose to go to a state school even though my college placement test scores had Ivy League Schools courting me. Then I didn't graduate from that state school, despite being on a full-ride scholarship and consistently on the Dean's list. So, not only am I not Ivy League, I'm without a degree even from the school I attended. Basically, I am way, way off this preconceived path of "how to find success."

And I have no regrets.

I have been supporting myself solely through creative freelance projects like video blogging, writing and directing for the past 10 years. "Video blogger" wasn't even a thing when I was in high school. Neither was a web series creator or most of the other job titles I've held. I wonder what opportunities will invent themselves in the next 20 years for my daughter's generation?

Maybe my opinion would mean more to you if I was writing it today as a rich woman, having made myself famous for being wildly successful. I haven't done that, at least not yet. But I have loved my work, and, more importantly than that, I have been content with the opportunities and choices that were available to me along the way. The path I took wouldn't be advisable to most people, so I'm not telling kids to discard college education entirely. I am saying that it's worth being fearless and going after what you really want in the way you want to go after it.

Ivy League certainly didn't hurt them, but I don't believe it made them either.

There is value in the resilience and self-reliance that comes from rejection from a larger school or having to prove your ability in a job field based on your merit alone. There is also value in having a voice, a perspective, and a set of personal experiences that are true to yourself and perhaps different than the typical professional in your field.

I should mention that I have several close, extremely brilliant friends who graduated from Ivy League schools. I have a suspicion that these friends were on an inevitable path to be successful (which they are) based on their wonderful personalities and high intelligence, although they would tell you they have a lot to thank their college years for. Ivy League certainly didn't hurt them, but I don't believe it made them either.

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If 16 years from now my daughter Beatrice wants to go to an Ivy League school, and she's accepted to it, then I'll be thrilled for her— if she's going for the right reason. Which is not because she is hoping it will give her elite status or make her better connected, not because she's hoping it will make things easier for her in intangible ways on paper and behind closed doors.

Instead, I would hope she chooses a school simply because that school the best place to learn what she wants to know.

Image via Twenty20

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