Students Still Prefer Ivies For Prestige: Despite Growing Nation-Wide Interest in Other Colleges

The Phillipian’s recent State of the Academy survey revealed that 65% of Andover students would choose to go to an Ivy League school if given the opportunity. The New York Times reported last week that many other top schools outside those synonymous with Ivy League, including MIT and Stanford, have experienced major increases in their number of applicants. Some of these schools have seen their applicant pool double. But, while students nationally seem to be looking beyond the Ivy League for a quality education, the College Counseling Office (CCO) has reported that this has not been the case with Andover students. This year, the Class of 2007 filed 594 applications to Ivy League schools. Both students and the CCO agree that Andover students are often blinded by the prestige behind an Ivy League college rather than what another school has to offer. “It stems from the name recognition of prep schools in New England, generally with Andover and Exeter at the top of the list. Students here feel obliged to follow Andover’s long history of sending kids to the Ivies,” said Mike Tully ’07. Director of College Counseling John Anderson said that the CCO would like to see greater geographic diversity among the schools where Andover students choose to apply. What constitutes a top notch undergraduate education depends on what each individual student wants to study and what environment will allow him or her to best accomplish this. “When people say that they want to go to an Ivy, in some ways, it shows their lack of knowledge of what distinguishes one school from another,” said Anderson. He compared Brown and Columbia, saying that while Brown does not have any diploma requirements, Columbia has a very structured core program. Although they are both Ivy League colleges and respected institutions, they have very different approaches to what constitutes a solid education. However, many Andover students still believe that an Ivy League education would distinguish themselves from others. “[Take] Harvard, for instance. I think the name itself opens a lot more doors for people than if you were to go to a lesser college that is not as well-known,” said Ekow Essel ’07. “You can tell how important it is that students feel like they have to live up to Andover, and although it’s not really a good thing, it’s true,” said Tully. According to Anderson, studies have been done in recent years comparing the salaries of those who attended an Ivy League college to those who attended a different school. Although the studies showed that those who attended Ivies generally had higher incomes, those who were accepted at one or more Ivies and chose not to attend seemed to receive the same incomes as those who did. “Again, our real goal here is to find perfect matches for our students, whether that is an Ivy League college or not, but from the standpoint of the College Counseling Office, we love it when students find matches that are not from the general Andover pool,” he said. He cited schools like Reed in Oregon and Grinnell College in Iowa as being excellent schools outside of the Andover norm. In terms of finding the best undergraduate education, Anderson said that smaller liberal arts colleges will, in many cases, have a much richer undergraduate program because they do not have postgraduate programs. “Smaller colleges with good facilities and more accessible faculty can add a lot to the undergrad experience,” he said. Anderson emphasized that the CCO works hard to make students look outside the schools that they would like to apply to based strictly upon popularity and find schools that offer them the opportunity to study something that they would like to pursue in the future. “Students are too often enamored with the name of a school, not knowing what they really want out of higher education,” he said.