Every once in a while, I hear a broad, sweeping generalization that stops me in my tracks. Today, I was talking to someone about corporate recruiting at large companies and how much effort and funding they spend on recruiting and branding events at top universities. The trouble with recruiting the best and brightest to corporate America is that corporations don't know how to keep them. Students from top universities don't want to work for someone else. When placing bets, the students will bet on themselves. They're bred to have a tremendous amount of self-confidence and they firmly believe that they know best. So, when confronted with a rigid corporation that can't flex, they flee.
There are a few key qualifiers with this generalization. There are bright people at all schools, not just those with a high rank. I went to two fantastic universities, and I was very lucky to be a part of both. And while I met a slew of very smart people in both places, I also met a fair number of people who made me question the admissions standards. And to be certain, large corporations are not devoid of bright people. On the contrary, there are often many intelligent people rising through the ranks.
I don't think it's intellect that separates the different tiers of schools, nor the students who attend them. My belief is that it is all about attitude. From the time I was 18, I was held up to a ridiculously high standard in my academic life. Those without self-confidence didn't make it through - the system beat them up and then beat them out. What top schools are left with are a student body who truly believes they can do ANYTHING so long as they work hard enough and want it bad enough.
And this circles back to the tough part for corporations: they don't give the vast majority of team members the opportunity to do anything they want. Their rigid rules and love of processes stifle the very talent they worked so hard to get. A word to the wise: if large companies want talent that will drive growth and move the company forward, that talent must be given the latitude to do exactly what they were hired to do - think different and act accordingly.
The photo above can be found at http://picasaweb.google.com/kathryn.davidson/Penn/photo#5103173644839047218