Acclaimed author Malcolm Gladwell has some advice for teenagers looking into college.
“If you want to get a science and maths degree, don’t go to Harvard,” he says.
Harvard is filled with the smartest people in the world, and perversely that makes it a dispiriting place to go to school.
He explains his full rationale in the video below, which is a talk he delivered at Google’s Zeitgeist conference.
At Harvard, the lower tier students are as smart as the top tier students at an average school. However, the lower tier students get just as discouraged at Harvard as the lower tier students at an average school. The result: They don’t get their degrees in maths or science.
The problem is that even a smart kid struggles to keep up when competing with the uber smart. As a result, the kid feels inadequate and drops the degree.
This is crazy, because as Gladwell points out, a science and maths degree is the “most valuable commodity any graduate can have in today’s economy.”
He says that “as as a rule of thumb, your odds of successfully getting a maths degree fall by two percentage points for every 10 point increase in the average SAT score of your peers.”
So, if you’re a kid and you have a choice between, Harvard and the University of Maryland, go with Maryland because its SAT scores are 150 points lower on average. That means you have a 30% better chance at getting your degree.
However, most people will still choose Harvard, even knowing this, says Gladwell. Why? Because we have an irrational attachment to certain prestigious institutions.
Fun video, take some time to watch it:
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