If I get into Harvard, does that mean I am smarter than average?

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M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher, Author, and Artist

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I agree with the above expert. Although the reputation of any given school does or may carry a lot of weight or clout in some circles of the business world, or in the educational world as a whole, it does not automatically guarantee anybody success in the business world, nor does it necessarily mean you are smarter than anybody else. There are many self-taught geniuses in this world as I'm sure you know, or people like Steve Jobs and many of the moguls that started the dot-com boom and/or Silicon Valley success, who either dropped out of high-school, didn't finish college, and spent most of their time designing in their own garages. There are many self-made millionaires in all different fields, and people that are gifted with their hands and/or bodies for instance, but possibly not in their minds per se. That said, just getting into a school like Harvard shows that you have accomplished a great deal in high school, or you never would have gotten in in the first place, not to mention whatever extracurriculars you possess. And once you get there, people are aware of how rigorous the school is, and how renowned the professors are, many of whom have succeeded in the real world to a large extent, so getting a degree from Harvard certainly cannot hurt you. But you should simply avoid that feeling of entitlement that can lead to laziness - in "expecting" that a degree from this school will get you exactly where you want to be in life at the drop of a hat, without you having to continue to prove yourself. This would be a very erroneous mistake, and would in many ways waste the great education this highly reputable school would give you. Much of this is common sense, I know, but just wanted you to be aware, and to always work your hardest. Developing a good work ethic, and a love for what you do in your chosen profession, will always benefit you the most no matter what school you come from. Good luck!

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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If by smarter you mean grades, performance in high school, and test scores - sure - getting into Harvard qualifies you as being among the nations best best and brightest. It may in fact mean you are smarter than the average person - I can go with that. But it's important you put the idea of smarts and what that means into some greater context.

First off, when it comes to I-just-got-admitted-to-this-school smarts, there are a bunch of other Ivies that belong in that mix - Princeton and U Penn to name a few - all of them chock full of brilliant and above average kids. It's not just at Harvard where you can have bragging rights. And there are schools like MIT and Stanford and Duke - standout institutions - likewise boasting just as many above average students as their Harvard peers. On top of that, I have to add that being smarter than the average Joe is not limited to Harvard or any of these schools in particular. Smart - is well - smart, no matter where you go. Anytime there is a great medical breakthrough or discovery, I like to look at where the researchers hail from - where did they go to school? Where are they performing their research? The diversity and range of these individuals and their institutions always surprise me. What dominates are individuals who are intelligent and innovative - not Ivy league schools and backgrounds.

While the title of being a superior student may be well deserved at Harvard - and by all means if you get admitted there you have every right to see yourself as such - you may quickly find yourself surrounded by so many valedictorians and salutatorians that being smart becomes a rather common commodity. And a challenge. The issue soon may not be so much how smart you are - but how your smarts stack up within the Harvard community itself. And this can be pretty fierce. But this is the peer group you will now be competing against for grades, honors, opportunities and jobs. Once you are at Harvard, average as a means of comparison no longer applies.

More importantly, as time goes on and you enter the workforce, college smarts tend to fade, and what you do with your smarts tends to matter more. We all know brilliant Ivy league grads who don't live up to the hype of their pedigree after they enter the real world of work. And we all know what I like to call idiot-savants: people so fiercely genius at something you need an Excedrin pm after spending time with them. Yet these same people lack any common sense. I am by am no means knocking the venerable Harvard or the smart people who go there, but there are book smarts, and street smarts, and all kind of smarts. And there is that expression: the A students work for the C students.

Speaking of a range of smarts and also of Harvard, Harvard professor Howard Gardner is the renown guru on intelligence. He has identified seven distinct intelligence's that challenge what we think of as smart. They are: Visual-Spatial (artists), Bodily-kinesthetic (think dancers), Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Linguistic, and Logical-Mathematical. At elite business schools all across the nation (Harvard among them) the new wrinkle in admissions is finding those students who possess high EQ (emotional intelligence). There is a slow, but steady move away from what we have rigidly valued as intelligence into Gardner's expanded definitions.

I share this so that as you pursue your education and go on to make your mark on the world, you come to value not just the bumper-sticker you slap on your car, but where your true gifts lay and how you might harness them. If you can do that AND get a Harvard degree - you might just be one of the smartest people around.

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