Should You Turn Down Harvard? No. For prestige and powerful friends, an Ivy League diploma is worth the price.
By ANDREW TOBIAS Andrew Tobias was accepted at a prestigious Ivy League college and went.

(MONEY Magazine) – Harvard's just sent one of those thick, juicy envelopes -- meaning that you're in -- and now you're asking yourself: Do I accept? (Yes!) Or do I spend the next four years at some fine state school and save $50,000? How much is prestige worth? For better or worse: lots. In a busy, risky world, with little time for independent investigation, people pay up for names they can rely on. Marriott, Haagen-Dazs, Harvard or Yale -- these brands took a lot of time and money to create (354 years, in the case of Harvard; a $5-million-a-year ad budget, in the case of Haagen-Dazs), and they open a lot of hotel, freezer and career doors. Sure, you may get at least as good an education at a less expensive school. Harvard professors are not renowned for teaching. (They're renowned, in fact, for not teaching.) And sure, you may become a wild success regardless of the school you attend -- or, like Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates or Domino's Pizza centimillionaire Tom Monaghan, drop out of (Harvard and the University of Michigan, respectively). But a prestigious degree will render a lot of life's paths less steep, and few steeper. You may think you want to be a terrorist or a poet, in which case Princeton may not help. But it could be a boon should you ever decide to sell municipal bonds instead. College is not aspirin. No one much cares what brand of aspirin you take -- and you can always switch to a different brand. With aspirin, the only meaningful difference (not that Bayer has ever agreed with me on this) is that the generic is cheaper. Buy it. But with college, even if you'll learn just as much at Kansas State as at Stanford or Brown, people will know what brand you chose -- and, more to the point, what brand chose you. Plus, of course, prestigious schools do tend to be prestigious for a reason. And prestige is self-fulfilling. In addition to a quality faculty, prestige attracts bright, competitive students, who tend to reflect well on their schools after they graduate -- and who make for a powerful alumni/ae network that can be even more valuable than whatever you learn or don't learn about Milton, Newton and Stalin (not necessarily in the same course). Then there's the fact that, apart from others being impressed you're a Dartmouth grad, you may be impressed as well. Self-confidence too is often self-fulfilling. Harvard Business School graduates become CEOs so often in part because they realize, after two years of hearing it, that they can. So if some really hotshot school accepts you, it's probably a wise investment to dig into your parents' pocket and go. (''Chop off your right arm, if necessary,'' advises a friend who went to Harvard.) Of course, being able to say you turned Harvard down is worth a good bit too (so save the letter). But it's tough to work into a resume: EDUCATION: Accepted by Harvard, April 1991 A.S., Dade Community College, June 1993 Or you can fib. Like Sam LeFrak, the billionaire real estate tycoon, you can put Harvard Business School on your resume when, in fact, you only attended a weeklong seminar. Like David Paul, who turned CenTrust into one of the nation's largest failed savings and loans, you can say you have a Ph.D. from Harvard. Like David Begelman, who ran Columbia Pictures but then forged Cliff Robertson's signature, you can say you went to Yale. Or you can just do it the hard way, like any number of wildly successful graduates of no-name schools. Who ever heard of Whittier College before Richard Nixon? Or Eureka before Reagan? In fact, you may hit even bigger without a prestigious degree, because prestige can discourage bold choices. A safe path to success is so easy with an Ivy degree, why risk it starting some crazy business instead of going to law school? Heck, come to think of it, tell Harvard to forget it. But save the letter.