Will you have a better life if you graduate from an elite school? Students and their parents think the answer is yes, and competition for slots at top-ranked (and costly) schools seems higher than ever. Having a big name college on your resume can impress employers, friends and the opposite sex.

The Times columnist Gail Collins says this national fixation makes little sense. “We can do a great service to the youth and parents of America by telling them to stop obsessing about choosing a college,” she¬†wrote recently in The Conversation blog. “Kids, you do not need to go to a school with a name that impresses your friends. Go to a school you can afford.”

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