Opinion: Rising Above Our Potential

It is safe to assume that most Boston College students came here for a reason. Whether BC has been our dream school since childhood, or was a safety school we only considered after being rejected from the Ivy League, our choice to attend BC was deliberate, not the result of pure chance or an accident.

As such, many of us would agree with a recent article in The Atlantic proposing that it does matter where we go to college. This is not because more prestigious schools are automatically transforming teenagers into successful young adults, but rather because the students granted admission to selective universities were chosen because they have already demonstrated their drive and potential for achievement. In other words, the degree we receive is not necessarily a reflection of what our school has made us to be, but actually a signal that indicates our capability for success.

Employers pick up on these signals. It’s no coincidence that firms aggressively recruit for finance and business-oriented jobs at more prestigious universities with stronger alumni networks, while students at less selective schools may have to send upward of 300 emails to land the same positions. The network afforded by a more elite school is a reflection of the faith these companies have in students from such schools, and this faith is continually reaffirmed as graduates from these schools thrive in the workplace.

However, excellence is reached in the workplace by students who have been striving for it throughout their college career. Those who venture to excel academically, through extracurricular activities and leadership roles, or in part-time work, enter the job market more capable than their peers who have been complacent in cultivating their capacity. To achieve the success associated with a typical BC graduate, one must not simply attend and graduate from BC, but must live up to the expectation of a motivated, intelligent and passionate student that BC has for students it accepts.

This should be comforting to students who perhaps feel that the caliber of their college doesn't match up with their own ability. Many of us may feel slighted by the college admissions process at some point or another. Maybe we know someone who got into that Ivy we were reaching for solely because of their alumni connections rather than their work ethic, or maybe we missed the cutoff for another elite school by just that much.

However, it is ultimately the quality of the person that predicts success, not the university name. While most often, great students get into great colleges because these colleges see their potential for future success, a great student may be denied from a great school because there simply aren't enough spots. This student is no less likely to succeed at his second choice school than he would have at his first.

Though being accepted to a top-tier school may signal a student’s aptitude for success, we must work to ensure that such success is actually achieved. The habits we build, decisions we make and effort we put in to our undergraduate endeavors are what will truly define us in the long run. A degree signaling the potential for success is worthless if we have not made any effort to develop this potential.

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