“你眼睛里有泥！” / "Here's Mud in Your Eye!"
"Here's Mud in Your Eye!"
(This English language expression is a drinking toast, roughly equivalent in usage to "To your health", or "Bottoms up." Its linguistic origins are disputed, with at least three different explanations, ranging from a Biblical reference, to horse racing, and to the wine dregs which can accumulate in the bottom of a drinking glass.)
A recent survey by Payscale.com, as reported on CNN.com, contains some surprises for those seeking an American college degree, especially regarding salary expectations after graduation.
The big surprise was the college whose grads are the highest earners by the time they reach their mid-careers -- ten years after graduation.
Which would be your guess? Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford?
Nope. The answer is, by a wide margin, Harvey Mudd College.
Harvey Mudd is a small, specialized liberal arts college near Los Angeles, with an undergraduate body of about 800 students specializing in science, medical studies and engineering. Ten years after obtaining their undergraduate degree, Harvey Mudd alums earn an average median salary of US$143,000 per year -- much higher than any of the other top US colleges and universities.
Mudd alums' starting salaries in year one after graduation averaged US$73,300, which is in the same general range as the other top 15 colleges and universities in the ranking. Ten years later, however, the Mudd gang leads the pack by a wide margin.
It may come as a surprise that the Ivy League schools do not dominate the rankings when it comes to producing the top money earners.
Payscale.com's ranking of the top 15 US colleges and universities in terms of average median incomes ten years after graduation is:
1. Harvey Mudd College
2. U.S. Naval Academy (note: requires 5 years' military service after graduation)
3. California Institute of Technology
4. Stevens Institute of Technology
5. Babson College
6. Princeton University
7. US Military Academy at West Point (note: also requires 5 years' military service)
8. Stanford University
9. Harvard University
10. Brown University
11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.)
14. Polytechnic Institute of New York University
15. State University of New York Maritime College
Only 1/3 out of the top 15 were Ivy League schools.
In my humble opinion, Chinese parents should stop obsessing about getting their children into famous ("ming pai") colleges in the U.S. It creates enormous and unhealthy pressure, on the young person, their parents, and their relationship -- and for what? In more cases than not, a big part of it is about satisfying parental pride; but at what cost?
Some of the most successful business leaders I've known graduated from colleges I'd never heard of. Many others attended famous universities but dropped out before graduation.
Many more relatively affluent Chinese parents want their children to pursue college-level studies in the U.S. than was the case 5-10 years ago.
A whole industry of college entrance counselors "with Chinese characteristics" has emerged. These operators offer fee-based services engaging the would-be applicants at a very young age. Their service options include choosing target schools, preparing the application papers, providing (fake or real) internships and social work volunteer assignments, assisting with (often actually writing) the application essay, training on social graces and etiquette, and sometimes even providing a fake stand-in with strong verbal English skills for personal interviews.
Top U.S. schools have caught onto the prevalence of these practices, and now pay more attention than in years past to vetting details of applicants from China. On the other hand, some less scrupulous US colleges have allegedly hired recruiting agents in China who earn commission on students who attend. So, the scams run in both directions.
In a normal, healthy educational system, college counseling is an important, free service offered by those secondary schools whose students tend to attend college or university, especially when a high percentage are aiming for overseas study. Good college-preparatory secondary schools hire qualified, knowledgeable college counselors.
When considering tertiary studies in the US, it is worth remembering that there are about 3,500 accredited colleges and universities to choose from. Consider only the top quality quartile of this group, which consists of 875 schools. Chinese parents would be unaware of the vast majority of these schools. That does not mean they are not fine schools, however.
My point is that the choice of an overseas college or university, including in the US, is important and offers a wide range of options. It's worth careful study with inputs from as wide a variety of sources as possible. It's worth parents and their child getting involved in the research rather than outsourcing the whole process to a hired consultant.
I think encouraging young people to engage in academic fraud when applying for overseas study is a grievous mistake. Parents who do this should carefully consider the long-term consequences of the lesson they are teaching their children about how to succeed in life, and the values and principles which matter.
It is similar to encouraging your child to take banned performance-enhancing drugs in order to win in a sports competition. What's the life lesson implied by this behavior? Anything goes, as long as you win?
I'd like to wish good luck and good results to all those fortunate enough to be applicants to U.S. and other overseas colleges. To that end, I'd offer a toast to their success: "Here's mud in your eye."
Remember: what's important is becoming a life-time learner with a passion for what you do, a clear sense of right and wrong, and the ability to communicate your ideas and work well with other people. Whether or not you earn more than your neighbor is not of major importance.