X Why Your Student’s Motivation Matters
Posted on March 28, 2019

Why Your Student’s Motivation Matters


How does someone get away with bribing coaches and taking tests for students, while saying this is just “how it’s done these days?”   

Apparently there are quite a few parents that actually believe attending and graduating from certain “name brand” colleges will translate into future success for their children.

Just one problem – the research doesn’t support that hypothesis.

Question: would you rather have a degree from [insert name brand institution here] without the skills to perform the job, or have the skills to perform the job with a degree from a “lesser” college? 

Far too many of us believe the degree from the elite college will make all the difference in the world because of the presumed bigger and better doors that diploma will open. 

The lesser known school won’t have the same “wow” factor, conventional wisdom contends, and certainly won’t offer the inherent connections associated with the “recognized” pedigree. 

This myth is a testament to excellent marketing on the part of well-endowed programs and understandable pride in their alumni.  

But caveat emptor – that Latin phrase for buyer beware – because the facts simply don’t support that belief. 

The data suggests that salary variance among peer groups isn’t influenced by the college attended… highly accredited research shows that students who are bright, talented and ambitious will do well in their careers regardless of where they’re admitted.  

So for those of us proud graduates of such “lesser” schools, it means it’s the student – not the institution – that makes the difference. 

Two separate studies conducted by economic researchers from Princeton and Mathematica, as well as the National Bureau of Economic Research, came to the same conclusion: overall, earning differences between graduates from elite schools were no greater than graduates from lesser known schools. 

One of the researchers, economist Alan Krueger of Princeton, went on to offer this advice based on his findings:

“My advice to students: Don’t believe that the only school worth attending is one that would not admit you. That you go to college is more important than where you go. 

Find a school whose academic strengths match your interests and that devotes resources to instruction in those fields. Recognize that your own motivation, ambition and talents will determine your success more than the college name on your diploma.”

As a parent constantly trying to motivate a teenager, I can almost understand the desperation that might suggest it’s easier to bribe an institution than motivate my own child… 


So why the obsession with name brand colleges? Because we think so much is at stake. 

We’re convinced we really can influence our child’s future – but we can’t want it more than they do. Hundreds of families have helped me understand that the student has to do their part or none of it matters. 

We can’t pay their way to success in this equation. But we can cost ourselves dearly in the process and literally throw good money after bad. 

It’s ironic that the academic research regarding “success” resulting from higher education consistently comes back to one thing – the student. Not the institution, not the alumni network, not the rankings in magazines. 

If you’d like to understand more about choosing a college that’s a right fit for your student, please check out my book “Never Pay Retail for College.”