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Finding the Ideal Mentor

By Thomas J. Stanley on Oct 15th, 2013 in Mentor's Corner

One of Anne’s tennis partners recently reported that her grandson was hired by a consulting company with a base salary of $94,000 a year.  Anne wondered if this was possible given the fact that “he just graduated with a BBA degree, not an MBA.” I told Anne that it was quite possible, especially since this young man graduated from a “top 5 undergraduate business school” in a prestigious private university.


When people state “Oh, that’s a great college,” just what do they mean?  Do they really know what supposedly makes one school better than the others?  The higher a school is rated, the higher the concentration of faculty who are considered to be eminent scholars. Eminent scholars are those who have published original ideas in top rated journals in their respective disciplines.  This group makes up a small minority of faculty overall.


Colleges are ranked annually by a variety of organizations.  Much of the variation in rankings is explained by just two factors.  One is the number of high grade publications authored by the school’s faculty.  Two is the number of times these articles have been cited by authors of other important papers.  Highly published professors are often considered authorities.  As such, they are hired by industry as consultants to top managers.  Endorsements from these professors can land even an undergraduate student a high paying position. 


But what if you or your child might not qualify for admission into “a top 5 college or university?”  Don’t be discouraged.  College rankings and motor vehicle rankings have something in common.  Not even the top ranked university [automobile manufacturing company] can say that every one of our departments [models] is number one in its class. 


On the academic front I discovered this from my experience in searching for a position while completing graduate school at The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business.  The task was not difficult since two of my mentors were highly published, eminent scholars.  From the school’s latest press release, things seem to be going in the same direction:


The Terry College of Business rose four spaces in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings with three programs placing in the nation’s top 10.  The insurance and risk management program earned the No. 1 spot in the country, while the real estate program jumped to No. 3, and the management information systems program rose to No. 8.


What if your particular major [department] at your state university is not rated in the top 10 or 20?  There are many examples of eminent scholars being a population of just one in departments X, Y, and Z.  Oftentimes to succeed you need only one eminent scholar as your mentor.  More college bound students and their parents need to identify the top departments/majors and eminent scholars at prospective colleges and universities, rather than just the school itself. 

One response to “Finding the Ideal Mentor”

  1. Dale Callahan says:

    Perhaps we should just find good mentors. Too much attention is focused on college being the answer for success. As a college professor myself, I am beginning to see that success and degrees are not as tightly linked as people would like to think. So find good mentors, wherever you are.

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