For a broader perspective on prestige in the context of college counseling, please read the prior article. Suffice to say, my college counseling efforts are designed to align with the goals of my clients. The following story simply illustrates the point I made regarding “an asset to be leveraged.”
As always, all names and identifying detail about my college counseling clients have been altered.
Kyle was one of my students from Waterford High School. He had a distinct goal: get rich! He asked me how he could do so. Among the possibilities we discussed, investment banking seemed to be the one that made the most sense for him. “How do I get hired by an investment bank?” He asked. I gave him the most honest answer I could: “you likely have to attend an elite undergrad institution…” Kyle was one of those smart students who also had a lazy streak. His freshman grades were spotty. When we started to work together for SAT prep, I realized he was an underachiever. Now, we had a “hook”. He dug in through his sophomore years for both grades and SATs and he ended up attending Penn’s Wharton School of Business, arguably the number 1 feeder school to investment banks. Kyle ended up at Goldman Sachs. And, yes, he’s rich.
Kyle has kept in touch through the years, in part because he remembered my urgings to “give back” and “to make a difference” with his gifts. When he does charitable work (he’s in his thirties now), he often sends a quick note. In one of our recent conversations, he thanked me for telling him about the unofficial screening mechanism related to top colleges and investment banks. “No one ever told me about the ‘good school head nod’ or how good schools are assets to be leveraged.”. He noted that he likely would have continued to on his path of sometimes doing well/sometimes not doing well if I had not explained the connection.
He also verified that prestige still matters to this day. He now gives talks to high school students as part of efforts to help others and he says “you cannot wish away reality”. Specifically, he is well aware that many parents tell their children that prestige doesn’t matter. Kyle – who is a bit harsher than me! – will say “that’s utter BS!”
To be clear, Kyle is in the epicenter of the prestige world (New York-investment banking) and I’m sure he would agree that prestige does not matter for many local jobs in Branford or Guilford or Madison or Old Lyme, or Essex or East Lyme or his hometown of Waterford, Connecticut. Nonetheless, his point should be well taken for some.