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How where you go to college may affect your life after college

Posted by John T. Reed on

A Facebook friend asked the following:
I would love to see one of your in-depth, unemotional and well reasoned analysis on the value associated with the three different schools your sons went to relative to each other. Columbia being highest ranked, Arizona in the middle, and ASU near the lower end in terms of academic reputation, where would you want your son to go all things considered? I’m guessing cost followed their reputations (with Columbia the most expensive and ASU the least).
John T. Reed No one in my family went to ASU. Two went to U of A. My middle son Steve Reed transferred to UC Santa Barbara after two years. He got a degree in business economics. UCs are too academically snooty to give a degree in plain business or business administration.

Where you go ranges from irrelevant to extremely relevant to your post-college life

My main point would be that in retrospect, where my sons went seems far less important that it did when we were selecting colleges. Top academic schools like the Ivies sort of do not allow either basket weaving or students who would major in that. My son Dan Reed graduated from Ivy League Columbia with a BA in computer science. So the whole place is pitched at a higher level and most of your classmates are probably trying to go to med school or law school and likely will. 
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Arizona was a surprisingly clean-cut student body which seemed to me to have a pretty good balance of enjoying college life and getting an education. An AZ education is what you make of it. My youngest son Mike Reed graduated from there with a business management degree.

UCSB party school?

UC Santa Barbara used to have a party school image. It is built on the site of a former Navy Base, i.e. on the ocean. Now, it is very hard to get admitted to virtually all UCs. The population of the state expanded far more than the number of UC student seats. But the town of Isla Vista, a drunken Lord of the Flies populated by students from UC Santa Barbara and other less selective schools still exists as if UCSB were still a party school. 
If UCSB values it nouveau reputation as a serious academic institution, they should purchase and burn to the ground Isla Vista, replacing it with a monument to all the students who died there from alcohol or drugs and an altar where the California Coastal Commission can be worshipped for preventing humans from sullying the holy California Coast.

West Point changed my life, but my sons colleges did not

I doubt any of my sons’ current lives would be different if they had gone to three other randomly selected colleges. My life was changed by going to West Point. Self-esteem, self-perception and experience as a leader, a tour in Vietnam, and probably helped me get into Harvard Business School. Going to Harvard Business School had a similar life-changing effect on my subsequent life and on my HBS grad wife’s life.
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The value added by Columbia, Arizona, and UCSB is imperceptible to me. None of the three comes within a mile of affecting their graduate’s lives compared to intense schools like West Point and Harvard Business School.

Opportunity to work on Wall Street

I must note that where you go to college CAN greatly affect your early post-college life. My Columbia son could have gone to work for Goldman Sachs or one of those it appears. He rejected their 100-hours a week approach to work and came back home to CA. I was an Army officer and went to Vietnam because of West Point.


Co-op programs better

My wife graduated from Drexel University and initially worked at two firms in that city as a result. Drexel has a co-op program which means you work for local businesses during your four years (in the summer and fall). Her brother went to Northeastern, another co-op school. Her dad is also a Drexel grad. She feels the co-op education was superior to a non-co-op education.

Chance to work in the area around the college

My middle son worked in Hollywood for ICM and Legendary Productions briefly. Those jobs relate directly to his having graduated from UCSB which is near Hollywood. He is now chief of staff of General Assembly in Manhattan, a job totally unrelated to where he went to college.

Major matters sometimes; which school, less so

My youngest son and my oldest both work as tech guys for a small enterprise marketing software-as-a-service company in San Francisco. Their jobs are related to their both having studied computer engineering and computer science at their colleges, but are unrelated to which colleges they attended.

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