My younger son (Brown ’16) is just an eighth grader, but thanks to me, he is already anxious about the college process. Last night he asked, "Mom, how does a school become prestigious?"
Good question. He sees his older brother getting mail every day from fabulous-sounding colleges that nobody has ever heard of. Some of these fine schools even say they have scholarship money available for CJ, although they found him by purchasing a mailing list.
"Unfortunately," I told Brown, " although there are more than 2300 colleges in the country, there are only seventeen that people want to attend."
"How does a college get on that list?" he asked. "Strong academics?"
I explained that college prestige does not just come from strong academics; in fact, there are hundreds of schools where you can get a good education. And, as commonly believed, not even the U.S. News and World Reports rankings are the real measure of a school’s status.
So I told my son the truth: It is "Vows", the New York Times Wedding Section, that determines the desirability of a college. Thousands of Times readers have graduated from college and gone on to get married. But if you want the Times to report your wedding and you haven’t attended a school like Wellesley or Williams, good luck. Occasionaly a Purdue grad manages to sneak in, but only if he or she is a member of the House of Representatives or the general manager of the American Ballet Theater. (See last week’s Sunday Times; even the circus clown who was featured went to Penn.)
I have sent the New York Times the Neurotic Parent Institute’s list of new Vow-worthy universities. But for the time being, most college grads will have to send their wedding announcements to the Sacramento Bee.