So-Called "No-Name" Colleges

The annual anxiety about getting into a “good" or “elite" college reminds me of grocery shopping. It's all about brand names. Think of watching TV. Every day and night, we are bombarded by commercials that push “the leading brands" into our skulls full of mush. We see repeated images of massive pickup trucks showing “real" men doing tough work in the great outdoors. We see silver-bearded, worldly men drinking certain kinds of beer, which apparently makes them (the silver-bearded men) so attractive that women 30 years their junior find them enormously sexy. And so on.

The same with colleges. The Big Three Ivy League schools (Princeton, Harvard, and Yale) send out invitations to high school seniors who have literally no chance of being accepted. This is the analog to the beer commercials. Obviously, I don't believe that drinking the same beer that silver beards drink will make me look attractive to women decades younger than I am (not that my wife would appreciate it, anyway). But (and this is a big but, so to speak), legions of high school students believe that only a name-brand college will do, and this can lead to a lot of wasted time and money completing and paying for applications that are doomed to fail even before the first keystroke is made.

Back to grocery shopping, though. A case in point: Frosted Mini-Wheats. I love high-fiber cereals. I'm a big fan of oatmeal and shredded wheat. My wife shops at Walmart for our food. One day she brought home a box of Walmart's Great Value-brand “Frosted Shredded Wheat," which is the Walmart version of Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats. The Great Value version is 25% cheaper, on average, than Kellogg's product. I can't tell the difference. Thus, my cereal budget has taken a great (value) leap forward for savings.

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