"I go to Northwestern University."
Just that simple statement could get you your dream job and your dream life. But I think we shouldn't rely only on the name — which is something we tend to do. I think NU students need to work harder to live up to the Northwestern "brand."
We all know Northwestern is one of the best universities in the country. Going to Northwestern implies intelligence, dedication and involvement. And from this, we think of ourselves as pretty close to flawless. We expect that when employers look at the education section on our resumes and see "Northwestern University" we will automatically have an advantage over other applicants.
But the name alone isn't enough. Just because we got accepted to NU doesn't mean we're set for life. Sorry not sorry. While we're here, we need to actually embody the very ideals that brought us to Northwestern in the first place: engagement in academics and a commitment to learning. Let's actively participate in lecture and discussions to not only learn class material, but to also engage with it. Instead of just skimming over the pages in Anna Karenina, let's try to actually read and understand why she keeps crying. Living up to the name "Northwestern" means gaining knowledge and experience – not just a degree.
In a recent Gallup poll, 84 percent of U.S. business leaders say the amount of knowledge a candidate has in their field is "very important." This is compared to only nine percent who said it was very important where the candidate received their college degree. In fact, business leaders believe that, "achieving long-term success in one's career may increasingly depend on demonstrating real value to employers through experience ... and increasingly less on degrees." Business leaders may not be the people directly responsible for hiring, but they are the ones who set the standard for employment.
Basically the poll says practical applications of things we learn in class are the keys to success. The journalistic work a Medill student does for an on-campus publication is more significant than the label of "Northwestern," or even "Medill." It's more important for chemistry students (bless them) to do science-y things in a research lab, rather than just attend lectures on those science-y things. Our NU degrees can't do these things for us; a piece of paper can't mix chemical compounds together. That would be creepy.
Over the past week, I asked 30 Northwestern students what they think will land them a job. Approximately 63 percent of them said the main reason is simply because they go to NU. And that's what a lot of people believe. In the same Gallup poll, 47 percent of the American public believes the name of a university is "very important" to them.
And at a school like Northwestern, the name does have somewhat of an impact. But we need to be able to back up our degrees with real, applicable skills that we gain through hard work at NU. What we need to do is think of college as a game. (No, not the Hunger Games — although NU sometimes makes you feel like you're fighting for your life.) Yes winning is the goal, but the strategies we learn and use are far more important. And if we stop concentrating so hard on Northwestern for its name, we'll be winners for sure.