It seems like it’s the most important choice in an 18-year-old’s life thus far — where they choose to attend college. Most parents wish the best for their son or daughter when they are born: it’s almost every parent’s aspiration for their child to be happy, healthy and attend an Ivy League school.

The reality: it’s a small pool of young adults who do attend elite schools. Recent news of the pay-for-play college scandal has brought to light the extreme competition and pop-culture fascination that only children who attend top-tier colleges and the Ivy League will be successful. That’s simply not true. Where your child attends college is just a part of who they will become and what they can achieve. Here are some reasons that a college choice shouldn’t define you.

Understand the true cost of an undergraduate education

Not everyone can afford the hefty price tag of elite colleges, and more and more parents — and their teens — are realizing that the cost of attending can impact their lives long after four years.

“One thing that is commonly overlooked by students and their parents is the cost of student debt,” says Brian Morris, communication coordinator with, a free service that helps students save textbooks. “The more expensive the college, the more likely students will have debt and the further behind students will be upon graduation.”  He says saving money on college costs may help graduates avoid financial traps that make it difficult or impossible to own a home, buy a car or invest in a business after graduation.

Successful people come from all walks of life

We’ve all heard about billionaires who aren’t even college graduates. So, here’s proof your success isn’t reliant on what college you attend. “Many times it’s your own drive to success which fuels it,” says Elaine Rubin who has more than a decade of experience working in higher education finance and policy. “Yes, of course, sometimes it can be pure luck, or your life circumstances. But here’s the thing, not every successful person has graduated from an elite college, some may have even opted to not attend college.”

Keep college hype in check

As a college career strategist, Elizabeth Venturini, helps parents and students focus on the result of receiving a college education: a job after graduation. Vital tips for college-bound students are to pick a college major that will provide the most marketable skills and jobs after graduation at a cost they can afford, and to choose programs at a college not just the college name.  Stick to the education value, not the fluff or hype, she says. “Steer clear of ‘The College Perks War.’ Instead of emphasizing education to attract students to enroll in college, colleges are engaged in a ‘perks war,’ outspending each other with fancy dorms, student services, and sports facilities. Focus on the quality of the education your teen will receive,” she says.

True success is what you do to help others

Success in the truest sense depends on what value can you add to this world and how many lives you touch. “Both of these markers never require you to present to them the evidence of what degree you hold, let alone which college you attended,” says Sudiksha Joshi, Ph.D,, learning advocate and founder of Joshi’s advice is to keep looking at opportunities to add value to your fellow students, faculty members, and administrative staff while in college. “You’ll get a much richer experience and when you graduate:  you’ll have that degree, and in addition, you’ll probably have a clearer sense of direction and people who can help you get there add and how many lives you touch.”

A college degree doesn’t determine your value

“If you allow where you earn your college degree to determine your value, you will always be asking for permission and not realize your true potential,” Joshi affirms. Think about it. What do you want from your life? “Most people want the freedom to make their own choices and live their lives on their own terms,” says Joshi. “If that describes you then instead of focusing on how a college degree from a certain college provides an elevated value, think of how you can elevate your own value.”