Fri. Feb 26th, 2021
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Would you rather be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond? This is a question that adds perspective to the larger question of why are we reluctant to let go of elite institutions like the Ivy League schools?

By | Francesca Ferronato

The schools are known as “Ivy League”, there are eight such institutions, and they have an upstanding reputation of being the best schools in the world, academically; but, are they the best for students? A student at an elite university could be at the bottom third of their class while still having similar marks to someone who is in the top third of their class at a lesser-known university, this is known as relative deprivation.

Debatably the most relevant reason people are unwilling to let go of elite institutions is that most have strongly held preconceived notions about these schools and the impression and image their education creates. Currently, in the world, people are becoming more materialistic conscious than ever, with the rise of luxury items and “snob appeal”  in areas such as fashion, automobiles, homes and much more; society is focusing on what one has, or what one’s money can buy, rather than focussing on who one is as a person.

The equivalent approach can be applied in this scenario of post-secondary schools, in that ivy league schools and their name recognition,  is comparable to the materialistic appeal of luxury brands. When a person is asked what his or her plans are for after high school, the expected answer is ‘going to university’. If a person was to say that they are going to Harvard that would leave a much better impression than saying they are going to a community college. The main reason for this is the bias that centres around ivy league schools, for two main reasons.

In order to attend one of these schools, a person first must be accepted – that alone is extremely difficult. Harvard, Yale, Brown and similar institutions require extremely high grades, or excellence in extracurricular areas such as sports for entrance. Secondly, once they are accepted they must pay the pricey tuition rates; which can be viewed as the main source of reluctance to disregard these centuries-old elite institutions. A popular opinion is that the more money an individual pays for something the better it is, and of course, people cling to this, perpetually keeping the regard for these institutions constantly high.

This begs the question — does this apply to universities? In the end, someone who went to Yale to become a Doctor is just as much of a Doctor as someone who went to UBC.  However, someone who attended an Ivy League school will nearly always be viewed as better and more esteemed, not because it is necessarily true, but because of the image, prestige and expectations that accompany attending Ivy League schools. These perceptions are reinforced by the impression arising from the financial requirements to pay for this “superior“ education and the academic requirements for acceptance.

People justify holding these schools above all others by acknowledging the money and capability required to attend them. So long as people continue to preserve such image, and hold these institutions in such esteem for the reasons described, then they will continue to seek them out, pay for their degrees, and not let such institutions go.

So the decision is yours, to be a big fish in a little pond or a small fish in a big one?

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