In this era of instant information and constant communication, it’s all too easy to lose perspective. Numerous studies show how social media is distorting reality and impairing judgment, for example, through the natural inclination of participants to post only the most flattering or exciting items. To compete, mainstream media similarly now focuses on that which will project as the most impressive or eye-catching. To feel worthy, or even just a part of this, there’s more and more of a push to seek grandeur.
Predictably, this makes it even more challenging for independent educational consultants like McMillan Education to do their job of guiding candidates toward “good fit” educational experiences that will truly match their own personal goals, interests, experiences and backgrounds and not just be something that will sound impressive to others. This is particularly true when counseling college candidates. It’s easier, and more in line with the pace and orientation of our information era, to simply narrow the scope of possibilities to those schools that score high in the superficial media and social media rankings rather than thoroughly thinking through and understanding where someone with the candidate’s particular learning style, passions and objectives will best thrive.
But that’s a distorted and dangerous approach for several reasons, the most compelling I’d like to explain here. I am the McMillan Education consultant who handles the bulk of our graduate school placements. It is clear that a bachelor’s degree is becoming more like what a high school diploma used to be, and earning at least a master’s is now more like it was to earn a bachelor’s. According to CareerBuilder, about one third of all employers have pushed up their education requirements in recent years – many of whom now require master’s degrees for positions that used to only require a bachelors.
The biggest key to acceptance in almost all master’s and higher level degree programs is not the ranking or reputation of the undergraduate institution from which you earn your bachelor’s. It is instead how well you do at whatever undergrad institution you attend. This is what is pretty much universally stated by admissions representatives from graduate and professional programs across the board in business, finance, law, healthcare, STEM and the humanities.
It’s your undergrad GPA that counts the most, more so than anything else. I’ve encountered several cases in which grad school candidates learned this the hard way, including a Columbia University graduate with a B.S. in biochemistry who was unable to get into medical school and a Vandy graduate with a bachelor’s in economics whose options for MBA programs were severely limited, both because of low undergraduate GPAs. I’ve also seen examples from the other side of the ledger, such as a Boston University non-science major getting accepted into several medical schools, and the holder of a Tulane B.S. in Management being admitted into Ivy League business schools, both because of their high undergrad GPAs and the strong foundational skills they developed from attending “good fit” undergrad institutions where they thrived inside and outside of the classroom.
So whether you’re just starting out or firmly in the throes of your college planning, be careful not to succumb to the onslaught of social and mainstream media pressure directing you toward certain schools – instead maintain the proper perspective about what will be right for you both throughout your undergraduate career and beyond.