02/24/2012 11:38 am ET | Updated Apr 24, 2012

A Worthy Investment

This is part of our monthly series 'Mission: Accepted,' in partnership with Minds Matter, which chronicles the lives of three students as they apply for college in their senior year.

The college application process seems like it will never end. I thought when I hit the "submit" button for the final time that I had solved all of my problems, but that was far from the case. Now there are scholarship and financial aid applications out the wazoo, plus a bunch of "mandatory" senior activities. WHY?!?!

I am beginning to realize that the majority of my schools cost $200,000 or more to attend. YIKES! There is no way, shy of a miracle, my family can afford such an education. So I bite my nails down to nubs frantically searching for scholarships, applying to all that I consider myself eligible for and hoping that I will win enough money to cover my investment. Yeah, that's right, an investment.

Like a lot of people, I think in terms of numbers, so I often assess things quantitatively. Therefore, if I go to a school where tuition is $50,000 a year, it should follow that I will receive a better education than I would at a less expensive school, right? Wrong, and I am just now learning this truth. There are schools all over the country offering a much less costly education and still preparing their students to lead the world's largest corporations and earn lucrative salaries. Here are some numbers: According to Forbes, America's highest-paid CEO went to a public university in Minnesota. Forbes also says that 15 percent of the world's wealthiest people don't even have a college degree. So why go to college?

Well, some people will say they go because they want to earn a career, and others will say because their parents are making them, but what are the honest reasons? Is it the social experience? The education? Or simply the piece of paper you get at the end? Honestly, I am not sure. If you asked me why I am going to college, I would tell you it's because I want a better life for my family, but what does that mean? I could just get a factory job, work hard and provide for my family. So why am I so excited about these selective schools?

In part, it is because of what the rest of the world thinks. A Stanford engineer is much more likely to start his own business than a Cleveland State engineer because venture capitalists think Stanford engineers are smarter. A hiring manager at Lockheed Martin once told me that having a B.S. from MIT or Stanford would put an applicant in the running for a level-two position, which means a big difference in salary and respect. Having worked with some really amazing engineers, a few of whom attended selective schools, I've seen that certain people have to work harder than others for a promotion.

Another reason I want to go to a top university is for the networking opportunities. Harvard and MIT graduates are part of alumni networks that include some of the world's smartest and most powerful people. I remember being told, "It's not always what you know, but who you know," and I have already seen that to be true. The same day I left my internship at Lockheed Martin, I was offered a software position at an engineering start-up because someone I had met at Lockheed heard I was out of a job. Yet another important part of college is personal growth. Who you are is relative to whom you spend the most time with, and at these selective schools there is a very diverse group of people to learn from.

Working hard at any school is definitely a key component to success, but not everyone will accept just that alone. I want to go to college to secure a more enjoyable post-college life and career, so I'm okay with having to fill out a few more applications now to make sure I can afford it. I have started thinking of these scholarship apps as part of the DBSE (David Boone Stock Exchange). I have a gut feeling that my stock will shoot through the roof and that my investment will be returned tenfold.