“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”

Will Ivy League trophy status ever go away? Will students ever forget about “name” schools and instead look for the places where they’ll take part in unforgettable, life-changing learning experiences? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know this: all four of my own kids went to small liberal arts colleges, and they’re glad they did. I also know plenty of kids who went to big state universities — sometimes in the honors programs, sometimes not — where they also got a great education. NY Times writer Frank Bruni has written about this, education writer Jay Mathews knew it a long time ago, and now Brennan Barnard, a private school administrator, is sounding off as well. His is another voice of reason that is likely to be ignored by many, to their detriment. Click here to read the news story about college admissions he really wants to see!

Remember when Dorothy and her friends pull aside the curtain showing that the Wizard of Oz is just a simple human being like any other? While I won’t go so far as to say that Ivy League universities are merely ordinary, I do believe that they wield much too much power over high school students and their parents. The fact is, there are many other schools where students can get just as good an education — or perhaps even better.

But families are still swayed by the “great and powerful.” Not only do those top-ranked schools practically demand that you need a dead witch’s broomstick to actually be accepted, but, because they are so difficult to get into, they’re not anyone’s realistic choice these days. Yet, I still hear parents tell me that their children must be accepted into a “name school.” Keep in mind that while an Ivy League school looks great on your resume, it’s up to you to determine if you will be happy for four years at a place where you’re just one of many competitive over-achievers.

Do yourself a favor and take a closer look at some of the schools that aren’t the ones on everyone’s lips — the ones that aren’t all smoke and mirrors. Look behind the curtain. Heck, leave the Emerald City and look elsewhere in the kingdom! You’ll find some real gems out there, I promise.