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If You Did Not Get into Harvard, Do Not Worry

Stanford University accepted fewer than 5 percent of the students who applied this year.

Stanford University accepted fewer than 5 percent of the students who applied this year.

Fewer than 5 percent of the students who applied to Stanford University in California were accepted this year. About 6 percent of the applicants to Yale University in Connecticut were admitted.

But one writer says if you did not get into a school like Stanford, Yale or Harvard University, do not despair.

Jillian Berman writes for She says “students shouldn’t panic if they don’t get a spot. It is still possible to be successful.”

Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger wrote a paper in 2011 that says students who apply to universities like Stanford and Harvard -- but do not get in -- are likely to do well anywhere.

The researchers say that confidence and ambition may predict success better than other factors. Those other factors include good grades, high SAT scores and activities out of school. The researchers say people who apply to these selective schools do well even if they are not accepted to schools like Princeton University or Dartmouth College.

Berman wrote a story last year saying a study by the Brookings Institution might be more valuable than other lists: it ranks schools based on how much value they provide their students.

The Brookings list shows how much more money students would earn graduating from one school over another.

The list includes small colleges and technical schools that focus on agriculture, engineering, nursing and medical jobs.

The idea about ambition and confidence does not always apply to minority students. The Dale and Krueger study says minority students should reach for these selective schools. That is because they can make social connections that may be useful for advancing their careers in the future.

The list created by Brookings fits with another story posted on the website

The story is called “Shut Up About Harvard.”

The writer is Ben Casselman. He says television and newspaper stories about universities fail to reflect real and honest college experience. Very few people attend a university lined with trees and brick buildings. These days, college is often a part-time or two-year experience.

Students live at home and commute to classes.

Movies that take place on a college campus, he says, are more fiction than truth.

More truthful is a picture of an American university student who attends class part time while working and raising children.

The most popular courses are no longer literature and philosophy. The most popular are business and health care.

It is exciting to read about a student who is accepted by eight Ivy League schools. But these writers say those students will be successful anywhere.

They say that students who need help getting to class and completing a degree are a greater concern.

A professor from the University of Wisconsin spoke with Casselman. She says most of the stories about higher education in the U.S. skip the most important issue:

“People can’t afford to spend enough time in college to actually finish their darn degrees.”

But if they do, Casselman writes, the degree “remains the most likely path to a decent-paying job.”

That is why students can be successful even if they do not get into a school like Harvard.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting by and Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

campus –n. the area and buildings around a university, college, school, etc.

fiction –n. something that is not true

shut up –phrasal verb - to stop talking, laughing, etc.

decent –adj. adequate or acceptable

rank –v. to place (someone or something) in a particular position among a group of people or things that are being judged according to quality, ability, size, etc.

selective –adj. careful to choose only the best people or things

confidence –n. a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something

ambition –n. a desire to be successful, powerful, or famous

panic –n. a state or feeling of extreme fear that makes someone unable to act or think normally

darn –adj. used as a more polite form of damn

reach –v. to succeed in achieving (something) after making an effort over a period of time

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