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Local Voices: Ivy League can distract future college students focused on brand not education

Edward Cox is a sophomore Medill student at Northwestern University.
Edward Cox is a sophomore Medill student at Northwestern University.

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Top tier universities are taking what had once been the independent process of choosing a college out of the student’s hands.

University President Morton Schapiro and Lewis & Clark College President Barry Glassner criticized students’ decisions to enroll in universities based on their rankings in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times on Friday. Although many high school students think enrolling in an Ivy League University as a no-brainer if they're qualified, the specific goals they hope to achieve through a college education are left out of the picture.

Much of the fanfare surrounding the nation’s top universities is generated more through popular buzz rather than the quality education provided.

Although there is a tight correlation between being admitted into a top tier university and having a successful career, sometimes this significance can be overblown. I attended a high school in the Southern California suburbs, a school where test scores and Ivy League were subjects of lunchtime talk of the school’s mostly Asian demographic. These Ivy League schools extend their tendrils not only through the media, but also through private settings where family members gossip about the successes people who have gained admittance into an Ivy League university. Ivy League institutions such as Harvard and Yale became household names synonymous with the brainy, well balanced and perfect kid. Hopes of enrolling in such universities encouraged students to put in more study hours.

The same hopes, however, detracted from the balanced process of university selection. Students pay less attention to obscure colleges that may provide greater opportunities for them because their eyes are riveted on brand name schools.  

To come up with a better balanced ranking system that considers each university’s strengths and weaknesses would give students greater freedom in the college selection process.

Although the current holistic ranking factors serve as a valuable tool in choosing a college, they are not tailored to the individuals. Northwestern is not an Ivy League school, but people recognize it as one of the nation’s best universities with its hefty tuitions; the university accepted a record low percentage of applicants for its Class of 2017. These record low numbers may make the university seem impressive for being highly selective, but it hurts the confidence of students who received rejection letters. The University should further advertise its academic strengths to create awareness among prospective applicants of whether the institution’s programs match their needs. 

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