Selecting a College or University – Part IV


In an earlier post we looked at higher education quality in terms of price and selectivity.  That blog focused on price in particular.  Here we are taking a critical look at the second quality parameter – selectivity.  We return to the crème de crème of American higher education, Harvard University.  Buzz TodaySource:  The Harvard Crimson – An all time low 5.9 percent of applicants received offers to join Harvard’s class of 2016.  This marks the seventh consecutive year that Harvard’s admission rate has fallen (become more selective). 

We can see in the BUZZ Today that Harvard is proud of being highly selective. The university broadcasts its selectivity relative to its highly selective competitors like Yale and Princeton.  But the question is: “what does this high selectivity mean for the returning adult learner?”  Unfortunately, those of us who are mere mortals will never have the opportunity to go to Harvard.  What is the average adult learner to do?

Let me first provide some comfort when it comes to selectivity of admissions.  The fact is, that the selectivity is much more about the students attending the university than it is about the university itself.  To this you might say: “but hold on, these are some of the very smartest kids in the land!” To this I reply – True.  But to help you make your selection decision we need to know what this means for the highly selective university and more importantly, what this means for you.

First the University:  By having the option to make sure that those entering Harvard are the best of the best, Harvard University vastly increases the likelihood of those getting a degree from Harvard are the most successful graduates.  Salaries and public acclaim verify that success.

But that is not the entire story.  There is little research that definitively shows that the relative success of Harvard University graduates are the result of what they learned at school (relative to what is learned at other universities).  It is much more likely that the success is the result of the quality of the students entering Harvard.  As a result, we should not be surprised that these students remained among the best and brightest once they graduated from Harvard.

For the more average Joe or Jane, Harvard selectivity helps little in the decision about quality and what university to attend.  For more details see:   Your Future is Calling.