## College Isn't For Everyone

 Quote by twofish-quant I'd really be interested if you could get one of the people that author those reports to say "well now that I think about it, I would have been better off going to community college rather than Harvard." There is a conflict of interest here because the fewer *other* people go to college, the higher the chances of your kid getting in are. Well, maybe if you ask someone with a $100K + of student loans, and an education which does not justify it. The authors claim that(at least at the undergrad level), t the quality of the education was not too high; mostly T.A's, whom, however well-intentioned, had neither the time nor the preparation do a good job. The trouble is that he is defining advantage in economic terms. I think if you look at it in terms of "social power" you'll see a different story. You may make$120K as a policy wonk in a think tank, but you have a lot of social power in that your ideas influence for good or ill the lives of other people. But in Math, which is the area I know of, one finds a significant amount of professors at top schools got their respective degrees from not-so-great schools. So, at least academically, you have a reasonable chance to move up , if you do quality research. I admit I do not at this point remember the yardstick used to determine who has an advantage. I will check. On top of that, you do have very high-quality people in some of the not-so-great schools; at least in Math, which is the area I (somewhat ) know about. What I think would be interesting is to look at people that make a salary of >$1M and look at the fraction of people that went to the Ivies. Or look at the CV's of Supreme Court justices. Sure if you go to Harvard, your chances of being a Supreme Court justice is very low, but there is a big difference between very low and zero. I think to find those making$1M+, one should go to some of the top business schools, but I don't have hard facts. Do you think the title from top school makes most of the difference, or is the education there significantly better? Or are the applicants (excepting those who have been exposed to advanced academic training from early-on) really that much smarter or somehow better than those in other schools?. I don't know if this is naive, or if I am trying to B.S myself since I am not attending any of the top schools (mine is ranked around 15th, higher if you consider schools with equal rankings), but ,don't you think that with the educational resources available nowadays, anyone with an interest in a good education and willing to put in the time, can go basically as far as they wish? What obstacle prevents a bright and hard-working student from a good program from being as good as most of those in the top 10? But being close to a Nobel laureate makes a big difference. For example, one of the things that made me less likely to want to get a Nobel prize in physics was because I learned that Nobel prize winners sometimes have awful personal lives, and I learned this from TA gossip. Also, even small bits of contact can make a big difference. I think while I was at MIT, I only spoke face to face with Dean Margaret MacVicar for a total of no more than five hours, but she planted some seeds in my mind that changed my life. Why can't one have similarly valuable advice somewhere else? There are some Nobel prize winners at UT Austin that have no clue who I am, but just sitting at the same lunch table as them and watching them ask questions and think taught me a huge amount. Talk to him once he/she starts looking for a job.
I doubt she'll include it in her resume, which she's entitled to do, and the employer
 Sorry; I don't know well-enough yet how to use the quote function.

 But in Math, which is the area I know of, one finds a significant amount of professors at top schools got their respective degrees from not-so-great schools.
And in astrophysics, there is something that I call the Harvard mafia. Most people that I know have some connection with Harvard.

 Do you think the title from top school makes most of the difference, or is the education there significantly better?
I don't think it's the title or the education. It's the social connections. Once you know the right people, you can much more easily get what you want than if you don't. It's not so much that they manager will kiss you if you are from Harvard, but rather that if you go to Harvard, you are more likely to know someone that knows someone that can can your resume to someone.

Also there are what I call pseudo-objective criterion. They are criterion that *look* objective but really aren't. For example, if you go to an interview for an investment bank, there is a certain style of clothing that you are expected to wear. That's sort of objective since everyone is evaluated with the same rules, but it also sort of isn't because if you don't have connections, you don't know what the rules are.

 Or are the applicants (excepting those who have been exposed to advanced academic training from early-on) really that much smarter or somehow better than those in other schools?
Harvard and schools like it *define* what constitutes "smart" or "better". Once you *define* what is smart or better that gives you a huge amount of power.

 Don't you think that with the educational resources available nowadays, anyone with an interest in a good education and willing to put in the time, can go basically as far as they wish?
If you have 100 applicants and 10 positions, then 90 people are going to not get what they want.

Also, you can get a lot further if you understand the system, and the game, and learn how to play it. If getting ahead is all about social connections, then make social connections.

 What obstacle prevents a bright and hard-working student from a good program from being as good as most of those in the top 10?
The power elites defines good, and being human they'll define "good" in a way that they win and you lose. If you define "good" as "being like a Harvard student" then Harvard is going to win the game. So then you have to think cleverly about changing the rules.

 I doubt she'll include it in her resume, which she's entitled to do, and the employer is not allowed to ask
Yes they are. There are some things that employers are not legally allowed to ask about, but past educational experience is not on the list.

 Quote by Pengwuino I've never seen anyone derive a new field theory based off of wikipedia.
even the best college trained physicists can't do that. How many field theories are there versus the number of theoretical physicists?

Creativity can't be taught and it isn't found in the classrooms.
College classes & Wikipedia may give you the framework but the rest is up to you

Now that you mention wikipedia, it's a wonderful example of how technology can improve academic scholarship. People that criticize wikipedia for being "unscholarly" often don't understand how academic scholarship works.

For example, if I write a paper for Astrophysical Journal, I have to spend three to six months preparing the article. A lot of it involves going through and making sure each sentence and each fact is correct, and I have to invest a lot of time because I'm signing my name to the paper, and if I say 2+2=5, then I'm going to look like an idiot.

For wikipedia, because it's fast, I can spend ten minutes and fix some paragraph on general relativity that seems off, and because I don't have to sign my real name, if it turns out to be wrong, it's not a bit deal, and I've learned something.

When people see the libraries and journals, they are seeing the end product. They don't see the conversation in a hotel bar that led up to the idea.

 Creativity can't be taught and it isn't found in the classrooms.
Creativity can be taught and it can be taught in classrooms. There are reasons (and some very good reasons) why creativity *isn't* emphasized in most college classrooms, but that doesn't mean that it *can't* be. Teaching creativity tends to be expensive, and sometimes it's not important.

Classrooms in general are geared toward teaching conformity since that is often more important than creativity.

 College classes & Wikipedia may give you the framework but the rest is up to you
No it's not. A lot of it is up to people that you've never met that are making decisions about your life. The illusion that you have more control over your life than you really do, is one way that people with power keep their power. You think you have control over your life, but in fact, someone else does, and more likely than not, the person that actually does control your life has a college degree, and probably a degree from Harvard or Yale.