“Just go where you will be happy. The name of the college doesn’t matter.” The parents who say this to their children are almost always well-meaning and almost always incorrect. (I say “almost always” in anticipation of the exceptions.)
I think our generation of parents was so well trained to be the anti-Dead Poet’s Society parent (the overbearing pressure type) that many soft-hearted types (of which I am one) focus so much on trying to keep their kids happy in the moment that they provide terrible advice to relieve pressure for the student-child (and often the parent).
In the last five years, I’ve built Career Counseling Connecticut. We work with hundreds of recent college graduates every year. The difference between those who attend top tier schools and those that don’t:
Those that have come from schools that are considered competitive or highly competitive have the problem of “what job/career path should I pursue among the different options I have?” No need to shed tears for the Yale grads who is not sure whether to head to a tech start-up or Wall Street or some interesting non-profit. But, they, too, “suffer” from the career challenge. Figuring out which career path to take is vexing. But it is truly a first world problem.
Those who come to Career Counseling Connecticut from schools that even me – as someone steeped in college counseling – can’t quite place have a different problem: they can’t get onto any career path. I have been working with a fair number of Connecticut college graduates who headed to no-name colleges down south because they wanted to go to school “someplace warm”. They thought that it would make them happy. Their eager to please parents agreed. While I can’t measure comparative happiness, I can say that their happiness from college seemed no greater than those who attended more competitive colleges.
I can, however, report with absolute certainty that they were less happy after college because they realized the name of the school really did matter.