Washington Post writer discusses college selection


March 14, 2005, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 19 years, 2 months ago

Author and journalist Jay Mathews gives insight to parents, students


Washington Post staff writer Jay Mathews discussed his book "Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That is Best for You" with interested parents and students at Richard Montgomery High School on Wednesday, March 9, concerning the college-application process and how to receive an Ivy-League education at non-brand name schools.

Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews gives a lecture regarding college applications at Richard Montgomery High School on Wednesday, March 9.

 Photo courtesy of Christopher Consolino.


Mathews began his speech by informing parents and students that applying to top-rated colleges is one of most traumatic events in someone's life but that beneath all the hype, "brand name" schools such as Harvard or Yale are not very glamorous. "This is fashion and marketing here," said Mathews. "It doesn't matter where you go to college as long as it meets your desire and needs."

Continuing to stress the importance of lesser-known, ranked schools, Mathews noted that a child's success in life is pre-determined by his or her patience and persistence rather than by the college name on the diploma. He did note, however, that regardless of a school's performance, students and parents alike will always be "Ivy holics" and flock towards the first-tier schools.

In order to cure "Ivy-holism," Mathews proposed a 12-step program in which students and parents learn to recognize other schools because of the illogical admissions system at Ivy League schools. He compared the Ivy League application process to gambling. "I was playing dice in Vegas," commented Mathews, referring to when he applied to Harvard. "There was no rhyme or reason to Harvard's admission system."

Although Mathews transferred after his freshman year from California's Occidental College to Harvard, he said that the education he received at Occidental paralleled, if not surpassed, his education at Harvard. "What Harvard did give me was a daily student newspaper," he said.

Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews speaks at Richard Montgomery High School on Wednesday, March 9, informing students and parents about the college application process. Photo courtesy of Christopher Consolino.


Mathews also attempted to disprove the myth that Ivy League schools have more contacts than state and small, private schools, noting that every college has both contacts and powerful alumni. He then added that Leonard Downie, Executive Editor of The Washington Post, attended Ohio State University, and none of the five editors to which he reports attended to brand-name schools. "Harvard's biggest success in the last 10 years is Bill Gates, who was a drop-out," noted Mathews.

Near the end of his speech, Mathews gave advice to parents regarding college visits and choosing an early decision school. He cited, for instance, that applicants to the University of Pennsylvania have a better chance of being accepted early decision. He also warned students to only apply to a school early decision if it really is their first-choice college. As an alumni interviewer for Harvard, Mathews also told students to treat the interview as a time to show colleges their personality and as a time to have fun. "The point is to show what a great person you are," he said.



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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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