Does Prestige Matter?

Titilope Akinnitire, Features Editor & Writer

I want to go to a good school. 


I grew up in a Nigerian household, and if there’s one thing Nigerian parents like to do with other 

Nigerian parents, it’s brag about their kids. The difference between my parents and I is that I grew up in America; looking up schools and finding out about them has been ingrained in my schools’ curriculums. All immigrant parents coming to America want the best for their kids, which includes wanting them to attend the best schools. So, it’s no wonder why the only things I heard growing up were that I should become a lawyer or doctor, jobs typically associated with prestige and success. The only schools I heard about were UCLA, Stanford, and the Ivy Leagues.


So naturally, growing up, all I thought about was UCLA, Stanford, and the Ivies. Every day, I went to school with these schools in mind. In my eyes, the only key to success was to attend one of the above, with no exceptions.


There’s a problem with this, though. Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting all your hopes into an Ivy League, if it’s actually your dream school, and for good reason. Most kids these days want to attend “top schools” (according to the US National Rankings, anyways), without knowing anything about them. They want to go to Stanford just because it’s, well, it’s Stanford. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this way of thinking, but it presents an array of problems.


First of all, top schools are top schools for a reason. Everyone wants to go to them, and the people who get in are usually at the top of their class, with few exceptions. Because the odds of you getting into one of these schools is already so slim, convincing yourself that they are the only routes to success will only lead to disappointment. If you feel as though attending a Top 20 school is the only way you’ll be successful in life, you won’t be able to help feeling like an absolute failure if you’re rejected.


I notice that tons of students don’t know about schools that are probably better options for them in the long run, solely because they’re infatuated with the idea of attending a top school. 


Now, I’m not innocent in all of this. You can’t really undo years of conditioning. In the back of my brain, I still think “You have to go to a top school.” My parents worked hard to provide a life for me, so it’s my job to become as successful as possible. 


The thing to remember is, people go to state schools, and still end up successful. Think about it, how many students are actually attending top schools? That’s over a million people. It’s simply not feasible that every student who attends a top institution winds up making 6 figures, and has a new car. Some people go to Yale and do make those 6 figures. Some people go to Harvard and accomplish nothing—seriously. Just because you go to lower ranked school than someone else, doesn’t mean you’ll wind up struggling to make ends meet.


At the end of the day, college is still school, a means to an end for getting where you want to go. College is still four or more years of studying what you want, and figuring yourself out in the process, regardless of where you’re enrolled.