Look mama, Im in the ivy leagues

Brittney M. Walker | 7/14/2010, 5 p.m.

College ... just the word itself evokes so many emotions and thoughts. There are so many things to consider when choosing the right school, and with the education system seemingly ripping off families, college sometimes does not even seem like the right option, let alone going to a private, Ivy League institution.

When you hear Yale, Cornell, or Harvard, you say, "Now that's a good school," or "That's my ticket to the world." Whatever the case, these schools along with five other colleges have had a tremendous impact in the lives of thousands of students, many of them starting their career off getting paid anywhere from $52,000 to $65,000 a year. According to payscale.com, the average Ivy Leaguer is making well over $100,000 a year mid-career.

In contrast, state college graduates in 2009 were making anywhere between $34,000 to $60,000 while most were making under $90,000 mid-career. So, what makes an Ivy League school so special, besides the average career pay? According to Princeton's website, the Ivy League was established in 1945, when the presidents of Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale entered into an agreement to play intercollegiate football and uphold certain academic standards. Thus the Ivy League was formed.

Now, with an impeccable reputation and a following that mimics fantasy football fans, the eight schools are windows of opportunity for thousands of students and even families. Some local residents who attended an Ivy League school share their stories about culture shock, the pros and cons, and challenges they have had throughout their experience.

Malena Jackson was born in Miami, Fla. and was raised in Birmingham, Ala. She earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Tennessee State University. While seeking jobs, after graduation, her credentials were being questioned.

"Without fail, I would be sitting in an interview with the news director and the question, 'So where is Tennessee State?' would always come up," she said. "After being asked this question repeatedly, and still not getting the job, I began to research a graduate program that everyone I meet, no matter what industry they were in, would know and respect." That is when she decided to go Ivy League. She enrolled at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University four years after receiving her undergraduate degree.

"My first year of graduate school was not as hectic as I thought it would be. I'd say the biggest challenge for me was not being the most brilliant student in the class, everyone was brilliant, it seemed," Jackson shared. "I was truly amazed about the great expectations that the journalism professors put on the students. I lived and breathed Columbia. Good enough was never good enough." Jackson was in a position many find themselves in, when they go back to school, starting and raising a family. She was not atypical because according to selu.edu, most graduate students in 2009 fell between the age of 22 and 49.

So, while Jackson was studying hard, she was working hard at home with her husband raising a family. The couple had two children while was in her program.

Remember House Party II, when Kid left for college? Everyone was so proud, he was the one getting out of the `hood. He was the first one with the chance. But there was also a little bit of hating going on by folks who didn't know success like Kid. Jackson also experienced a bit of "hating" in her circle.