Everyone wants to enjoy happiness and success. Every good parent wants this for their children. Educators, school counselors and the media present college choice – getting into the best schools – as crucial to future financial success. Does solid research support this belief? Is college choice – getting into an elite university – truly crucial to success? Are there other proven factors that could help good students get good jobs and make more money even if they didn’t graduate from top institutions? And must average students assume large loads of student loan debt to be able to earn a good living?
Larry Rondeau is Publisher and Managing Editor of LookYounger.News. He was schooled in journalism at Boston University’s College of Communications. Larry was later mentored by renowned social psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini and holds a specialized degree in Marketing Psychology from SUNY. He has won 4 national awards for his work in college admissions marketing and for innovative business solutions.
Some studies show that students who graduate from the most selective universities earn significantly more during their lifetimes. A famous Princeton study contradicted this belief. It found that for many students a degree from a top institution had much less impact on lifetime earnings. The jury is still out on this question. Other questions, though, are important:
- What can help graduates consistently earn more if they didn’t get into their top college choice?
- What good options do average or less academically-minded students have to earn the living they need?
Research reveals several things that can help young people earn a good living. They’re not what you might think. Much research along with national news reports show that factors other than graduating with the right degree from the best institutions can make a significant difference in your or your child’s success.
Do you have to graduate from an elite college to get a good job?
Top colleges and universities admit so few candidates that their graduates could not possibly fill all the good jobs available in a growing US economy. Interestingly, Education Week reported:
Labor-market researchers have pointed out that there are millions of good-paying jobs that don’t require bachelor’s degrees.
News outlets report that jobs in a number of fields go begging for applicants. Many require only a 2-year degree in the right field, like nursing or electrical engineering. Overall, some 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 per year don’t require bachelor’s degrees, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. While many of them require special training, this does not leave young people saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans.
But what if a career in a field like high-tech manufacturing, nursing or construction doesn’t interest you or your child? And what if you (or they) didn’t get into an elite educational institution? Is there something that can help good students from less prestigious colleges earn higher incomes?
An unexpected factor makes a big difference in hiring, promotions and income
Today, hiring managers looking to fill higher salary jobs want well-educated candidates with a strong ability to learn new skills. To land a high-paying position, students need to earn a high GPA from a respected institution. Interestingly, though, studies conducted over 40 years have consistently found that another factor is crucial to success: personal appearance.
Newsweek interviewed 202 senior and junior corporate hiring managers and found that 57% said that qualified but unattractive candidates are likely to have a harder time landing a job. More than half advised job seekers to work as hard at “making sure they look attractive” as on perfecting a résumé. Asked to rank employment attributes in order of importance, managers placed looks above education.
CBS 60 Minutes sent 2 young women out to job interviews in New York City. One, plain-looking, was given an impressive résumé showing she graduated with honors from a top university. The other, highly attractive, had a decidedly “plain Jane” résumé. It showed she graduated in the middle of her class at a run-of-the-mill college. Which one got the job? The good-looking woman – every time.
Does appearance predict success better than education alone?
Ivy League publication Cornell HR Review published a key article in February, 2013 called, “May the Best (Looking) Man Win: the Unconscious Role of Attractiveness in Employment Decisions.” Reviewing years of studies, they wrote:
Given the high-stakes nature of job acquisition, many researchers have asked, for example, whether attractive job candidates are more likely to be hired than their peers. Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes…Furthermore, physically attractive job candidates are also offered higher starting salaries than their less attractive peers.
This Ivy League publication further states:
Once on the job, the benefits continue. Attractive employees receive more favorable job performance evaluations than their co-workers… And, in conjunction with higher evaluations, attractive employees are also more likely to be selected for management training and promoted to managerial positions.
Did job and salary advantages apply only to young adults? Note how Cornell HR Reviews sums up the research:
And, contrary to expectations, the professional advantages enjoyed by attractive individuals persist throughout their careers. A longitudinal study of MBA graduates revealed that the earnings gap between attractive and unattractive individuals only widens over time.
What does this mean in actual dollars and cents? The article concludes:
Another study found that “an American worker who was among the bottom one-third in looks…earned 10 to 15 percent less per year than a similar worker whose looks were assessed in the top one-third- a lifetime difference, in a typical case, of about $230,000.”
The takeaway for students who didn’t get into their first college choice
If you or your child are numbered among the 92%-95% of Ivy League, Stanford and MIT applicants that didn’t get in, take heart. You have a number of options that can mean a good income without a degree from a top university.
First, consider whether training for one of the millions of open high-tech manufacturing, nursing or construction jobs makes sense. You or your son or daughter could end up making a comfortable living without the huge student debt many of their peers carry.
If your career goals require a bachelor’s or advanced degree, consider the facts presented above. As Cornell University’s research summary shows, good-looking workers will earn significantly more in their lifetime than their less appealing peers. An attractive candidate who did well in a high quality program at a less prestigious college may earn just as much as a plainer Princeton graduate in a similar career path.
Since, as Newsweek reported, many hiring managers “placed looks above education,” why not consider whether yours is a face that could attract a better job. If you’re one of the millions whose looks would be objectively ranked as average or below, there are affordable steps you can take to improve them.
Many young people get Rhinoplasty (a nose job) to reshape their noses. A growing number of those with protruding ears have Otoplasty to make them more appealing. A Chin Implant can remake a receding chin. Laser hair removal or a hair transplant can remove hair where you don’t want it and put hair where you do. Fat Transfer or Bellafill injections can do a good job of lastingly filling in hollow cheeks. Bellafill or Renuvion/J-Plasma treatment can greatly improve acne scars.
Interestingly, many studies show that earning a lot more than you need doesn’t bring happiness. But research does reveal that improving your appearance often improves self-esteem, confidence and well-being. A good-looking face can also attract a romantic partner and friends. That can increase your happiness as well.
An experienced, board-certified plastic or facial plastic surgeon can advise you on ways to get the kind of face that will attract more employers. He or she can also inform you of health risks, which are traditionally low for this kind of procedure but must be considered.
A more attractive face is a great investment at any age. It is wise, though, to avoid gambling on cheap cosmetic surgery overseas. It often isn’t worth the risk. You can certainly get well-performed procedures at affordable prices in countries with high medical standards, like the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Japan and nations of Western Europe.
Not getting into your top college choice doesn’t mean enduring a life of poverty by any means. Students who choose their career path and education wisely can do very well. And those who take advantage of the built-in human bias favoring attractive people can do even better.