Big difference or big money

‘We came to Harvard as freshmen to change the world, and we’re leaving to become investment bankers — why is this?’

– one Harvard graduate, quoted in a leading NYTimes story about some ivy schools’ encouraging students to do something other than consulting as they graduate.

I don’t statistics on this, but I have the growing suspicion that the Times is behind the curve on this question. From what I gather, top university graduates in the nineties headed straight to investment banks; at some point in the early aughts, the “best and the brightest” seemed to filter toward strategic consulting. Consulting was the new badge of best-and-brightest-ness.

But then came along Teach for America, with its soaring vision of changing the US education system entirely. TFA has been around since the eighties, but it wasn’t until my junior year at Vanderbilt (2005) that it became a familiar name on campus. Only this year did its founder make the Time 100. But as I was graduating, I watched TFA hunt down – and win over – some of Vanderbilt’s finest.

Again, I have no statistics for this, and probably a strong self-selection bias. But as I watch the trajectories of college graduates bending away from Wall Street and toward TFA, WorldTeach and others (?), it’s easy to be encouraged.

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