What’s the deal with big-name colleges?

Nathan Jackson, Assistant Opinion Editor

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or so, you’ve heard about the cheating scam: wealthy parents bribing admissions counselors to get their children into big-name schools. Obviously bribery is bad, but why do parents feel the need to do this in the first place? Are they so desperate for their child to go to a “good school” that they’re willing to commit a crime? Frankly, why are we all so obsessed with going to big-name, brand colleges?
When you talk to parents, friends, or counselors, chances are your dream college is going to be a “big one”. Berkeley, UW, USC, maybe an Ivy League school. They’re all great schools, but the obsession to get in has become too intense. It’s gotten to the point where, if you go to a smaller school (in size or reputation), you’re…worthless. You aren’t as smart, you won’t be as successful, and you might as well drop dead right now to save yourself the trouble.
The idea that good schools equal success is total garbage. More CEOs in the top 100 Fortune 500 graduated from Texas A&M than Harvard. You may have heard it hundreds of times from your parents or counselor, that you’ll succeed regardless of where you go. Degrees are valuable regardless of their college of origin, so worrying about where you go to college is essentially pointless.
Because we care about going to big colleges so much, we affect other parts of our life. Our childhood and adolescence are now treated as resumes and not, you know, childhood. High school life is all about the quality and quantity of extracurriculars we have and the number of AP classes we have, regardless of our stress levels or level of enjoyment. It doesn’t matter if you hate golf or Honors Physics, you better sit down and shut up so you look good for Purdue. Who cares if you’re staying up to one AM every night? Gotta look good for those big colleges.
We sacrifice our happiness and wellbeing so we can go to university, and all because of a massive stigma. It’s particularly bad here in the Pacific Northwest, where any utterance of “community college” or “small state school “ (or even “small school”) brings sideways glances and demeaning looks. And don’t mention trade schools, the military, or the workforce. Those are stigmatized even worse. We need to realize that brand colleges aren’t the one path to happiness and success, we’ll stop worrying about the big colleges and stop devoting ourselves to get into bigger and ‘better’ colleges.