Students’ financial dreams: do we sacrifice passion for success?

Mr. Brian Long looks at financial markets – Pierce Laveran ’24

What puts Haverford on the map? What differentiates us from all the other nearby schools? What makes our school so unique? 

One of the biggest factors that attracts so many kids to attend Haverford may have little to do with the school itself, but rather with what students do when they graduate. For a parent, knowing that attending Haverford will lead to a strong college search process and will “prepare boys for life” is a reassuring consideration when choosing a high school. 

The school is well known for sending its students to some of the best institutions in the nation. And it doesn’t just stop there, as many of our alumni keep progressing and succeeding after college. Haverford students have clear ideas, strong paths, and a desire for success; however, it goes further than just having “better teachers” or “the smarter kids.” 

The school fosters a culture among the students of wanting to be the best and succeeding. 

“I think that the drive for success is great here. I think that it’s competitive being an all-boys school,” Sixth Form Dean and Spanish teacher Ms. Brooke Kenna said.

 This quality can be observed in students’ academics and athletics, but this is especially noticeable in their choices for what major they want to pursue in college, and what path they want to take after graduation. 

Ms. Emily Harnett – Pierce Laveran ’24

“Finance attracts the most interest,” English teacher Ms. Emily Harnett said. “I also think a lot of things are grouped under that, like banking jobs, consultant jobs, and marketing jobs. Just things in the business world, especially in the financial services, is what a lot of our students end up going into.”

There is a trend among graduates to head into finance as a career path. 

Ms. Kenna confirmed this, saying, “We have seen quite a bit of finance and business, but I think even in the past few years that has changed, so it will be interesting to see where this goes moving forward.” 

The large-scale matriculation into the business world of the school’s alumni causes some to wonder: do these boys choose this path based on their passion for the subject or their desire for wealth and a successful career?

“A lot of the classes that they enjoy are humanities classes: they like discussing big ideas,” Ms. Harnett said.  “Many people like the atmosphere of having some intellectual conversations, and yet they tend to choose career paths that don’t reward those sorts of activities. Something that I worry about is that students who I used to teach [will pursue] a subject which they didn’t enjoy much in high school because they think that subject will make them a lot of money one day,” Ms. Harnett said. “Of course, I also understand why they are doing that.” 

“I also understand that college is enormously expensive, and for that reason, it makes perfect sense as an investment,” Ms. Harnett said. “What would make me sad is if they picked these jobs, which [they think] are just a grind, which makes them unhappy, which don’t align with their values, just because they feel like they had to in order to achieve a certain lifestyle one day.”

While many may simply choose business as a way to fund their ideal lifestyles, some may also be adept in the field. 

“It depends on the student. I think there are students who are genuinely interested in business,” Ms. Kenna said. “However I think [there is] the perception that [finance/business] is a successful career, so that probably plays into it a little bit.” 

“If you were to ask any teacher here what their top five goals are for their students, I don’t think making money would be in the top five for any of them.”

Ms. Emily Harnett

Is seeking wealth an agenda pushed by the school? Does this drive come solely from the student, or does the school push them as well to aim for wealth in the future?

“If you were to ask any teacher here what their top five goals are for their students, I don’t think making money would be in the top five for any of them,” Ms. Harnett said. “What I think is true is that teachers want you to live happy and fulfilling lives.”

Haverford is a liberal arts school. However, since many students end up going into the same area—finance—this raises questions about whether our liberal arts education is effective and working. 

“A Haverford boy is usually a well-rounded boy, and so no matter what path you pursue post-Haverford, you’ve had all these experiences in the liberal arts and the humanities,” Ms. Kenna said. “I think we’re doing a very good job of sending these boys out as complete human beings, not just finance majors.”