Is Studying Too Much Bad?
The answer is partially that Working-Class kids are more likely to spend too much time studying instead of socializing and making connections:
Working and lower-middle-class children are less likely to participate in structured extracurricular activities than their more privileged peers while growing up (and when they do, they tend to participate in fewer of them). This hurts their job prospects in two ways. First, it affects the types of schools students attend. Elite universities weigh extracurricular activities heavily in admissions decisions. Given that these employers—which offer some of the highest-paying entry-level jobs in the country—recruit almost exclusively at top schools, many students who focus purely on their studies will be out of the game long before they ever apply to firms. Second, employers also use extracurricular activities, especially those that are driven by “passion” rather than academic or professional interest and require large investments of time and money over many years, to screen résumés. But participation in these activities while in college or graduate school is not a luxury that all can afford, especially if someone needs to work long hours to pay the bills or take care of family members. Essentially, extracurriculars end up being a double filter on social class that disadvantages job applicants from more modest means both in entering the recruiting pipeline and succeeding within it.
I am not sure how much I completely buy this argument. The author and interviewer does not explicitly mention what an elite job is but it seems to imply that an elite job means working in finance, consulting, and some small other fields. There are still good jobs where being a study grind can be an asset whether someone is a working class kid or an upper-middle class kids. Some examples of this are law (especially BigLaw), medicine, and engineering. There are also a lot of people who simply might not want jobs in finance and consulting.
That being said, there does seem to be truth in the idea that working-class kids might study the most or hardest. When I was an undergrad, we had a few all campus parties/events/traditions during the year. One was a Saturday in spring where everyone basically hanged out on the fields and drank beer provided by the college. This day was very close to finals time. Quite a few of the working-class/first generation college students I knew would spend the day studying in the library instead of hanging out and drinking with what can be described as almost all of the student body. This essay from the New York Times is about how the college orientation experience can be opaque for first-generation college students and their families. The author’s parents did not know that they were only supposed to be at college for a few hours during drop off and they did not know necessary items to bring for student life.
The best answer for why working class students don’t get elite jobs could simply by this:
Quite simply, we like people who are similar to ourselves. Ask anyone what constitutes a good driver, leader, or parent, and chances are they will describe someone like themselves. The same is true for how people think of merit in the working world. Most employees in these firms are graduates of highly elite undergraduate or graduate programs and believe that’s where talent really resides. In addition, given how segregated our society has become socioeconomically, people who grow up in upper-middle or upper-class communities where college attendance is the norm may not realize structural factors that influence educational pathways and erroneously view university prestige as a reflection of ability alone. Finally, national rankings matter. Rankings provide an easily quantifiable, presumably “scientific” way of making sense of the myriad of educational institutions out there. They both reinforce beliefs that school prestige equals student quality (even though things having nothing to do with students’ abilities factor into a university’s rank) and serve as a convenient justification for limiting recruitment to a small number of elite schools with strong alumni ties to firms.
The big issue seems to be that how to get people to look beyond themselves and how to get people thinking outside of the small boxes of Ivy League, M.I.T., CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, some public Ivies like UVA and Michigan, and the other dozens or so of elite colleges. Laws that require companies to stop hiring from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford might be more authoritarian and totalitarian than anyone really wants.