College Counseling & Planning      Orleans, MA. (774) 801-2449      Ashland, OR. (541) 488-0919
As the oldest child in my family, I don’t have an older sibling or cousin to model how the college...more
--Isobel Whitcomb, Scripps College, 2017, Theo Whitmcomb, University of Redlands, 2019; Helen Whitcomb, Scripps College and U Redlands parent

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DOES IT HAVE TO BE AN  IVY? WILL  ANY COLLEGE DO? As the college application season runs high and tensions around the kitchen table become hotter than the back burner, the subject of which schools to apply to becomes the heated topic. Somehow the final list needs to become manageable in terms of the number of schools and their selectivity. This means it is time to decide just how competitive a school you want and how many of them should be on your list. This discussion usually includes the age old question --- Is a degree from an IVY or any extremely competitive school an absolute necessity?

Keep in mind the college diplomas of the nation's top executives are not from the most competitive schools. Climbing the corporate ladder has more to do with leadership talent and a drive for success than it does with having an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university. This information should cool down the anxieties of those who believe that admission to a top-ranked school is the only way to get a desk in the corner office. It is interesting to note that today’s chief executives almost exclusively say that they do not favor job candidates with certain degrees from a few select schools. What today’s CEOs and Human Resource people say is that they are looking for a person’s capacity to seize opportunities. They are looking for hires who as students immersed themselves in their interests and became passionate about what they were learning. They want people who were campus leaders, who sought challenges and mixed with students from diverse backgrounds and interests. These experiences are the ones that help to secure jobs and advancement – not where you went to school.

When deciding about whether a school is right for you look to see if the professors will teach you to think analytically, whether you will gain confidence in your abilities and learn to work with people. When deciding on your list it is important to be honest with yourself and parents to be realistic. It makes no sense to get admitted to a top-end school and then to either under perform or transfer or worse, flunk out. If graduate school is part of your future then you must consider your college GPA – that will determine, at least in part, your graduate school choices. A ‘C’ from Harvard or Stanford will not impress as much as an ‘A’ from most stolid reputable universities or colleges.

The following are a few examples of those who have made it to the top (what ever that means!):
Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil, attended The University of Texas-Austin
Bill Green, CEO of Accenture, attended Dean College, a two year college, and graduated from Babson College
Robert Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co attended Ithaca College
A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble attended Hamilton College
H. Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart Stores attended Pittsburg State University in Kansas
Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel attended University of San Francisco
James Sinegal, CEO of Costco Wholesale attended San Diego City College
It might help to keep in mind the thoughts of Mr. Neff, chairman of a recruiting firm, “By the time someone has been working for a few years, or held one or two jobs, their employment record counts more than their educational background, recruiters say. And companies seeking to fill CEO and other senior jobs rarely consider candidates' degrees. "It's what you've accomplished that matters, not what you were doing at 21."

Judith Christie
College Planning Consultants