Updated: June 4, 2013 6:14AM
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I grew up in a working-class family and while I did not graduate from an Ivy League school I did graduate from an elite state college. I turned down Princeton for a full scholarship to a top state college that paid for most of my undergraduate expenses.
I now feel that the full scholarship was a double-edged sword. On the one hand I saved money by going to a state school.
On the other hand it took me nearly a decade longer for me to gain a top management position than it did for a number of other colleagues who attended Ivy League schools.
It is never lost on me that I am the only public college graduate among my associates. Is this something that students should take into consideration as they decide between the Ivy League or a top state school?
You pose an interesting thought that is strengthened by your personal experience in the workplace. Your experience is especially helpful to first generation college students from working-class families, who must choose between an Ivy League school and a less expensive state college.
In essence you are saying that you can get to same place in your career by attending a state school but it may take a lot longer. I appreciate your frankness.
Regardless of how bright you are, if you opt to attend an Ivy League school, you will soon realize there is almost an invisible stigma attached to schools outside their world.
This is expressed in the arrogant euphemism that anyone educated “West of New England” must be looked upon as a reminder of the ongoing class struggle that meritocracy was supposed to have ended.
While this is an exaggeration, a bias still does exist on the part of some students who arrive on an Ivy League campus from the privileged position of an elite boarding school on the East Coast.
For many working-class students it is a culture shock to find out that your roommate is the son of a famous billionaire, and that he skis in Europe and summers in Hyannis Port. There is no getting around class privilege and distinction. It doesn’t take long to learn what group you fit into and where you feel most conformable socializing.
It is unfortunate that intimate friendships do not always form easily across socioeconomic lines. There are complex social dynamics taking place that rarely get talked about in public high schools or state college brochures.
As you pointed out these dynamics are played out over several years after graduation. Many jobs and careers are directly linked to understanding these relationships.
Students must decide if the advantage that the Ivies give graduates is worth the cost. Where careers are concerned there is a good deal of evidence that the diploma and social connections that come from an Ivy League education are worth it in both the short and long term.