Opt Out of College Admissions Mania

I had lunch today with Tom Mulvaney, an advisor. Tom retired young after a successful career at Seagate Technologies and as an attorney. This is a guy Meg Whitman asked to be the COO of eBay and he turned it down. As we caught up on both personal and business fronts, Tom mentioned his son who’s a senior in high school. I immediately pounced on this opportunity to deliver my trademark “the college admissions process is nuts” line and he responded too, only more eloquently: “it’s bullshit.” Tom told me, “Ben, here’s what I tell my kids and everyone I talk to about this. I went to San Diego City College, and then transferred to Santa Clara University. Not a Harvard or Stanford for sure. But I’ve worked with some of the top lawyers in the country, the top investment bankers in the country, and none of them was brighter than I even though they boasted Harvard, Stanford. Look, what matters is are you a good person, work hard, etc.”

A lot of parents and people say this, but then they send their own kids to SAT tutors for $200/hr, college consultants, load on AP classes like they’re nothing, and put on incredible pressure. But Tom Mulvaney is not this type of person. In fact, his son is starting senior year and he hasn’t done anything too formal. Usually by now all hell would be loose. Instead, Tom is calmly evaluating his options and supporting his son in what he wants to do to be happy.

Tom is a model for any parent or student entering college admissions paranoia.

2 Responses to Opt Out of College Admissions Mania

  1. Mary-Ann says:

    I just graduated from a small college (not even a university, another insitution awarded their degrees) and so far I’m more than happy. I did a specialised degree in Motorsport Management, and I believe I learnt more about business in general than I would have done on a conventional course because I had the “hook” of my interests to hang things on. I’m pretty sure I could have gone to Cambridge or Harvard if I’d retaken my last two years of school but I don’t think I’d be any better off now as a (beginning) entrepreneur, which is after all what I went for.

  2. Sam Jackson says:

    When all is said nd done, it’s true that one can have a fantastic college experience just about anywhere–it’s just about finding a good fit. At the same time, big, highly touted (and MARKETED!) research universities do have resources which smaller institutions often can’t offer, when they don’t have endowments in the double-digit billions. That being said, keeping a calm and cool head is what’s most important throughout the process, to be sure. But a little bit of pressure is sometimes necessary to get kids going, getting them on the road to decision-making and applying and such. The overpressure we see in newspapers… well, that’s counterproductive.

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