It’s because Harvard is stupid.
There is no way that your Harvard education is that much better than what you will get at Tuck or at Duke or, heck, at Cornell.
Rankings mess with your head.
From the description of a book, aptly named Engines of Anxiety , that studied the effect of US News rankings on the law school market:
The authors find that prospective law students not only rely heavily on such rankings to evaluate school quality, but also internalize rankings as expressions of their own abilities and flaws. For example, they often view rejections from “first-tier” schools as a sign of personal failure.
What you get with Harvard (bschool, law school, any school) is ACCESS.
You get to go play with the rich boys and girls for a few years. You get “the network” so that when you try that little startup idea you have (before it crashes and burns) you can hit up these alumni with money to see if they’ll fund your starry-eyed dreams.
Is that worth it?
Hell yeah, if you’re going to use it.
But please do not fool yourself.
Harvard is not ‘better.’ It’s just what this system of class and money has designed to fool you, to continue with the illusion that class and money matter.
Exhibit A: Harvard Fellowships Have Always Been A Joke
Mostly what you get with Harvard is the smug satisfaction of the rubber stamp of Society Approval.
Sure, you have to be smart to get in.
Sure, you have to work hard.
But the Harvard kids are not smartER. They did not work hardER. They are just like everybody else — or, frequently, they’re members of the Lucky Sperm Club where they landed in a family of Harvard grads, so they’re what’s called a ‘legacy applicant’ and definitely in undergrad admissions, Harvard College loves those kids. For the class of incoming freshman that just got on campus this summer, one-third are legacy .
It’s like buying a Rolex or a Gucci handbag or a Ferrari.
A brand like that will deliver some attention to detail and refinement in the product. It’s going to be made with better materials and care of construction than what you find at your local Macy’s or the Kia dealership.
But a Rolex is just a watch.
Wearing a Rolex is a symbol to the world that you can spend that much money on a bauble on your wrist that tells you the time.
Everyone else is just looking at their phone. You get to shoot your cuff and show off this glint of luxury.
That’s all that Harvard is going to do for you.
(And the value only goes so far. If Harvard Business School were so great, why are its tweets so lame? We are convinced that they’ve got an undergrad student writing them — no offense to Harvard undergrads. But c’mon people.)
Please don’t be confused by what you are going to get.
Is there value to that prestige?
Sure. But the EDUCATION is what will change your life.
Not the association with wealthy elite.
So many people think getting in to Harvard will finally be validation. No, maybe they don’t CONSCIOUSLY think it, like, “If I go to Harvard then I’ll finally be worth something!” But it’s what’s driving the engine, under the hood.
But guess what? If you’re actually so insecure that you’re constantly seeking out external validation from The World, and you think going to Harvard will finally put all those internal voices of doubt and self-criticism to rest, no, that’s not what will happen. Instead, when you get on the campus at Harvard, you will be surrounded by a more extreme concentration of People Who You Think Are Better Than You than you’ve ever experienced in your life. You will see all these other AMAZING students who have done more impressive things (who have way more money than you) who have traveled the world, who already have a Rolex and not a Gucci bag but a Birkin. You think that’ll make you feel better?
We’re not saying not to apply to Harvard. That would be silly. We’re saying that you may want to look at your reasons for why you’re so enamored of the BRAND.
Because that’s all it is.
It is a BRAND.
A school is different than a consumer product, because a school is an experience and a community and oh yeah, an education. But very few people are focusing on applying to Harvard because of any of that. They may not be consciously thinking, “I want to go to Harvard for the prestige” but really, that’s what’s driving our social-construct personalities so much of the time.
Unless what’s really fueling your interest in Harvard is so that your unborn children will get to go to Harvard. Then by all means. Apply to Harvard.
We hope you get in!
You may also be interested in:
- The schools being ranked think that rankings are stupid.
- MBA Application Mistake #1: Not Researching Schools (and why we balk at the M7 thing)
- Why we react so negatively to someone focusing on brand or prestige (kinda the same thing we’ve said in today’s post, just 3 years earlier)
- An MBA is what you make of it