|However, it's not really the school that you go to that matters. It's whether or not you maximize the resources at that school and enjoy yourself while in school that will determine how much you learn.
I agree 100% with this. I was forced to go to a small Catholic girls college during the early 70's because my dad was trying to keep me safe in some ivory tower. HAH. I ended up so bored with the lack of things to do outside of course work and so mis-fit with the other SNOTTY social types that I got involved in things I'd rather not go into. The school, in addition, had a very limited course offering when I inevitably changed my major. When I returned to school years later to get a grad degree, I went to a large state university and was a much better student. There were huge varieties of activities, people, and courses. I managed to find my niche.
So, when my daughter went looking for a school, naturally I remembered the lessons of "too small", "upscale", and the uselessness of trying to protect kids from life. She was interested in schools with skiing and I did try to get her to lessen the importance of that factor. In the end she applied to ONLY ONE school -- we put countless miles on the car in the process. It is our own state university, which is smaller than most. It has a great location, both for her major (fish and wildlife management) and for skiing. The relatively small size (12,000) for a state university ensures she isn't lost in a hopelessly huge pool of students. She chose a dorm that is for those interested in a healthy lifestyle (no drugs, smoking, or alcohol) and it means that any partying these kids do is somewhere else on campus.
She plans to continue on to get a PhD, and I agree that it's the LAST school on the list that people look at. I also have to say that at least where I was employed, an Ivy league name might get you in the door faster, but its usefulness lasted about a month. By the time you'd been there a few years, it was what you had done AT WORK that counted. In fact, if you were only so-so and had that fancy degree it became a liability.
Right now, her grades are great, she gets to ski, and she has lots of apparently nice friends. She'd like to be racing, of course, but that part has been really tough to do with the school schedule. She has continued to race for our mountain and went to training when she was home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She has also fit in races at Mammoth and Big Sky so far and hopes to fit in some more over the next couple of months. She is NOT getting the amount of training she needs to really continue racing, but she still feels tapped in to the racing scene as much as she can be. It is a balancing act that has become MUCH more difficult in college. We are discussing alternative school schedules for next year, but have made no decisions yet. It may be possible to get a jump on things by taking some summer courses and thereby lessen the load during the rest of the year or even take off spring semester depending on course requirements.
I think you have to know your kid and allow them some responsibility for the outcome of their decisions. I KNOW that if you force her to go some place that doesn't meet her needs, she will hold it against you for the rest of her life. And you know what, you don't have to be rich to be successful in life. You just need to make sure your income covers what is important to you and that you find success on your own terms.