December 15, 2005

It Doesn't Take An Elite

I grew up in an inner-city, single-parent, welfare home. Yes, my mother made some bad choices, but when she actually attempted to get a job the government removed all financial support and medical benefits. With two young children, my mother made the best decision she could.

This article from Newsweek is interesting for two reasons. First, it places the "poor" families at $35,000 a year. My mother could only dream of $35,000 a year. Daniel Spangenburger, the prospective college student, has both parents, and both of them work. Second, it assumes that college students from "Elite" schools are somehow better off. I admit there is prestige in attending an elite college, but who really cares.

Almost fifteen years removed from my high school graduation, two degrees, a family, and career later, I realize that an education is what matters, and not where you get the education. There are schools that are tougher, require more, and do produce top students, but the key to an education is the students drive and passion.

Daniel Spangenburger would do well to find a "good" school, and excel there. But I also know that if you want something bad enough, you should do whatever you can to make it happen. Daniel has not even talked or e-mailed the school admissions counselors. He talks to a "friend of a friend." This is not really trying.

When looking at college, my first option was a pretty prestigious, private, Catholic university. I applied, was accepted, but couldn't make it financially. I quickly transferred to a local university, and the next year to another university. I worked hard to get myself into and through school. You have to work harder if you are from the "underprivileged" class.

Not only do you have to "impress" the people in charge; making sure they realize you are not some street thug or loser, but you are battling the inner demons that tell you you don't deserve to be where you are. Add to that those students who, because of their parent's wealth, look down on you because your background obviously makes you worthy of their disapproval.

These can become excuses, but they must become the motivation for reaching higher. "I am from a poor family," "My mother was on welfare," "I grew up in a bad neighborhood," etc. etc. etc. These are excuses. A person's decisions are a major factor in where they end up; not whether they go to an "elite" school.

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