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Article Review: "Who needs Harvard?"

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Dec 09, 2014 | #1

Do Students Really Need Harvard Education?

English Composition II

In this essay author Greg Easterbrook argues that the only major difference between the so-called prestige colleges and universities such as, Harvard, Yale and Smith, and the next lower level of private and state colleges is the prestige of the name itself. He claims that the competition to get into these schools is fierce but it does not necessarily reflect the quality of education at other schools. He argues that what college a student attends has little impact on earnings or social standing later in life. Variables such as; hard work, intelligence, grades, and personality are more effective determinants of future success than the school one attends. Easterbrook illustrates this by comparing the income of graduates from prestige colleges to graduates of lesser colleges 20 years later and finds that they make similar incomes. This article was interesting because it provided a strong example of the importance of hard work and intelligence in determining ones future rather than how prestige schools improved your chances of a better future.

Studying at HarvardEasterbrook's argument was successful in several ways. First, he used both logos arguments to support his claim that one did not need to attend a prestige college to be successful. There are several examples of this throughout the text. For instance, he compares pay rates of individuals with and without degrees from prestige colleges 20 years after graduating. Easterbrook also cites the fact that most corporate CEO's several celebrities including Steven Spielberg and several U.S Congressman attended public colleges or lower tier private colleges rather than prestige schools. These are typical examples of why it is more cost effective to attend a public school or lower tier private school depending on what you intend to major in and while Easterbrook uses similar examples throughout the essay these are the easiest for the reader to understand.

Another powerful argument put forth by Easterbrook is that emphasizing the value of prestige colleges over public colleges or lower level private colleges may cause psychological and self-esteem problems in students who are rejected from prestige schools due to pressure and disappointment from parents. This argument makes sense in light of the problems adjusting that many college freshman and sophomores experience. This was the one arguments that speaks to the use of pathos in Easterbrook's argument because he is appealing to parents that may not realize that they are harming their child by doing this.

Easterbrook's writing style is clear and easy to read and he supports the argument that one does not need a degree from a prestige college or university to succeed by using examples of successful people who did not graduate from prestige schools, and by comparing non-prestige and prestige schools to each other in order to demonstrate that prestige schools do not necessarily offer a higher quality education or a wider variety of majors and classes.

There are several negative aspects of this article as well. Easterbrook focuses far too much and details. For instance where comparing one or two prestige schools such as, Harvard or Stanford with one or two lower tier schools like Tufts, or the University of Vermont would have been simpler and more effective, Easterbrook feels the need to cite each and every single one of the prestige colleges and universities and all of the top public colleges and universities and lower tier private colleges. This detracts greatly from Easterbrook's argument as one gets to caught up in reading through nearly a half a page of college and university names. Not only does he do this once, he continues these patterns throughout the paper.

The second critical issue with this paper is that he uses too many examples. One or two examples would adequately support his argument without giving his readers several pages of data to read through. He does include critical information about choosing colleges and how schools from different tiers match up however; this important information tends to get lost in all of his examples and details. These arguments are the meat of his argument, and the details should just be used to support the argument not overwhelm the argument with too much detail and too many examples.

This article is important because it points out to students and parents that they are not necessarily getting the most for their money or their time when students are pressured to apply for or to attend prestige colleges such as, Harvard. While these schools do have a lot to offer, student's go to considerable expense to attend these schools yet, 20 years after graduation do not make significantly more money than peers who graduated from public institutions. This is valuable information not only in terms of the current economy but in terms of helping students understand it is not where you attend college but what you learn that is important.

It can be concluded that determining what college to attend is an important decision for parents and young adults. Easterbrook's article attempts to help parents and students come to that decision. However; the article is overwhelmed by the sheer number of examples and details that Easterbrook uses to support his argument. The goal of an argumentative essay is to be short and to the point which this argument fails to do. This article is well suited for anyone attempting to make a choice of which college to attend.


Easterbrook, Greg. "Who needs Harvard? The pressure on smart kids to get into top schools has never been higher. But the differences between these schools and the next tier down have never been smaller." The Atlantic: 128-133.

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