Forbes "30 under 30" is an annual celebration of the United States' most incandescent twenty-somethings. An amazing group—inventors, artists, moguls, dreamers. Doers of the new generation.
It's no surprise to find graduates of the world's most prestigious and competitive colleges within the ranks of Forbes' "30 under 30". (Forbes names 30 honorees under 30 years of age in 15 different industry categories, which really means it should be called "450 under 30," but that's a detail.) No surprise to find recent graduates of Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Princeton, Princeton.
No surprise because Forbes tells you so.
But Forbes doesn't say where all, or even most, of its "30 under 30" stars went to college. So we wondered: What's up with that? What would we find if we hunted down the college affiliation of every name on the "30 under 30" list?
We figured we might not find Forbes' "30 under 30" honorees in "Music" or "Sports" or "Hollywood" to be all-Ivy. But what about "Tech"? Or "Social Entrepreurship"? Or "Finance"? We'd taken a long, hard look at Forbes' "30 under 30” roster. We felt pretty certain that Forbes' "30 under 30” honor roll was largely comprised of elite college graduates.
Well, we dug. We searched for the names of every college attended by every Forbes "30 under 30" honoree.
Forbes "30 under 30": Guess what we found?
We found that appearances can be deceiving. We found that Forbes tells of one "30 under 30" honoree's experience as an undergraduate at Duke, but doesn't mention Arizona State University undergraduate degrees carried by three of its young stars. (Fun fact: Arizona State, which accepts 89% of its applicants, has more "30 under 30" alumni than The University of Chicago, which boasts an acceptance rate below 9%. Arizona State beats Duke on this score, too. And it beats Dartmouth. And Cornell. And Johns Hopkins. And...you get the idea.)
We found that most Forbes "30 under 30" honorees attended, well, ordinary colleges—in some cases, obscure places, in other cases, state schools like the University of Where-They-Just-So-Happened-To-Live-At-The-Time. We found graduates of these institutions in every Forbes "30 under 30" category.
We found that "ordinary" does not mean "mediocre." These places can have world-beating strengths. (Here's what Parisa Tabriz, of the "tech" category, says about the University of Illinois.) They can offer academic and social cultures with a "just-right" fit to bring out your best. (Here's what Isaac Kinde, of the "science and health" category, says about the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.) So let's not call them "ordinary." Let's call them "normal." Because if you're a conscientious student with good grades, you're in. Which sounds pretty normal to us.
Perhaps you've heard that more than half the members of the U.S. Senate attended state universities. Or that more than 80% of the CEOs of the world’s biggest companies didn’t graduate from Ivy League colleges. Perhaps you've wondered whether those statistics applied only to your parents’ generation. Whether some new normal put anonymous elite college admissions bureaucrats in charge of your destiny.
Forbes "30 under 30." Deconstructed.
Wonder no more: Our crawl through the educational resumes of these Forbes "30 under 30" superstars tells us that nothing much has changed. Sure, Forbes' "30 under 30" list is peppered with alumni of places that drive high school seniors to frenzy—places like Stanford (admit rate: 5.7%) and Harvard (admit rate: 6%). But we found these elite college alumni standing, shoulder-to-shoulder, with grads from dozens of colleges that admit more than half of their applicants. Sometimes a lot more.
We've scoured the bios of each of the Forbes winners and identified the least selective colleges represented in each one of their 15 “30 under 30" career categories. In every category, we found colleges that admitted more than half of their applicants. That’s why we call our list Recap’s “15 over 50%": Because we've highlighted 15 alma maters of Forbes "30 under 30" honorees that accept more than 50% of their applicants.
Take a look and you tell us: Does a prestigious college make you successful in life? Or do you do that for yourself?
To put it another way: Is your life really over if you don’t get into Yale?
60second Recap's 15 over 50%
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - MEDIA
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 56%
U.S. News ranks University of Houston 190th on its list of national universities. But when Forbes editors picked their featured star of “‘30 under 30’ in Media,” they chose a recent University of Houston graduate, Matt Mullenweg, as the headliner. And here's an awkward wrinkle, at least for an article about colleges Forbes editors don't mention: They did indeed mention Matt's University of Houston pedigree.
An egalitarian offering from "The Capitalist Tool"? You be the judge. Matt was a University of Houston freshman when he launched the open source blogging platform, WordPress. Today, WordPress is used by one out of every five websites (including Forbes and 60second Recap). Bottom line: If you're going to write about Mullenweg and WordPress, you'll probably find yourself mentioning the University of Houston, if only for the Lincoln-was-born-in-a-log-cabin verisimilitude of it all.
Yes, rules are rules: The University of Houston is the least selective college represented in Forbes' "Media" cluster, so the University of Houston wins the "Media" slot in the Recap's "15 over 50%." But Houston, we conclude, merits a Forbes mention only because of its role in Matt's great American success story. The rest of the Recap's "15 over 50%" aren't so lucky.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - SCIENCE & HEALTHCARE
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 61%
When you think STEM, you think of MIT. Or Stanford. Or Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Duke. Certainly that’s what you’d think of after reading Forbes’ “‘30 under 30’ in Science & Healthcare.” But University of Maryland, Baltimore County? Forbes won’t tell you. We will: One of the fastest-rising “30 under 30” stars is a member of UMBC's class of 2005. His name is Isaac Kinde. He’s a molecular biologist. You'll find a quick overview of the DNA sequencing technologies he developed to diagnose cancer without surgery or other invasive techniques here.
Something Forbes will tell you: Isaac is now an M.D.-Ph.D. candidate at the world-leading Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (and wrapping things up this year). Something Isaac will tell you himself (if you ask): Why he turned down Stanford to attend UMBC.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - ART & STYLE
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 62%
“Art & Style” is one “30 under 30” category in which Forbes editors don’t flaunt gilded academic credentials. Maybe because many of the “30 under 30” stars in “Arts & Style” attended what are, essentially, trade schools for the arts.
Claire Rosen, for example, graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her BFA in photography has served as her foundation for a globe-straddling career in fashion and advertising photography.
Nice work if you can get it. And a degree from Awesome U., it appears, won't help you there.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 64%
Dream about a better world? Forbes’ winners in the “‘30 under 30’ in Social Entrepreneurship” aren’t dreaming anymore. They’ve started companies, campaigns, and causes to make a reality of their dreams for a healthier, saner planet.
During his sophomore year at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, Isaac Holeman started a web network to help people organize around social causes. Since then, he’s gone on to co-found Medic Mobile, harnessing cell phone technology to coordinate health care services for patients in 23 countries, and to secure his Ph.D. in management studies from Cambridge University.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - SPORTS
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 68%
News flash! Forbes’ “‘30 under 30’ in Sports” honoree LeBron James didn’t go to college!
Yes, in this category, you’ll find star athletes like James, who turned pro right out of high school, and star athletes like Derrick Rose, who turned pro after a full-ride athletic scholarship at the University of Memphis. But, let's face it, no one's looking to Snob U. for the next Sports Illustrated poster-child. So we resisted the temptation to go for the cheap shot: For the purposes of our 15 over 50%, we chose not to consider the higher ed experience (or lack thereof) of these superstar outliers.
Instead, we homed in on those “'30 under 30' in Sports” honorees blazing careers in areas like sports management and marketing, those behind-the-scenes players who make the machinery of professional athletics spin and hum. Corporate sprinters like Rebecca Whitener, who’s parlayed a B.S. in psychology and exercise science from the College of Charleston to a star turn as Director of Advanced Media Business Development for Major League Baseball. Her play: Negotiating digital distribution partnerships and expanding Major League Baseball’s licensing and tech service activities on the web.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - FINANCE
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 69.5%
Harvard, Princeton, Stanford. A quick glance at Forbes’ “‘30 under 30’ in Finance” might suggest that only elite college bluebloods play the big money game. But poke around a bit, and you’ll find recent grads from places Forbes doesn’t mention. Places like City University of New York, Santa Clara University, and Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah.
With a near 70% admit rate last year and a 22nd place rank amongst regional universities in the western United States, Westminster may not be seen as a trophy school. But it gave Ray Bradford the education he needed to win admittance to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, credentials he leveraged into stellar career opportunities at Twitter and Amazon. Ray graduated from Westminster College just six years ago, and he’s already a partner at leading venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - LAW & POLICY
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 71%
There they go again. For the “‘30 under 30’ in Law & Policy,” the Forbes editors make it look like only Ivy-anointed need apply. (OK, Georgetown isn’t an Ivy, but you know what we mean.)
Look behind those shiny, Forbesian blurbs, however, and you’ll find a wide-ranging representation of more ordinary institutions of higher learning.
Here's one example: As a policy expert on climate change at Washington, D.C.’s Environmental Law Institute, Cory Connolly has a voice in some of the most vexing international environmental issues of our time. Even though he’s just 24, and packing a B.A. in International Relations from Michigan State University.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - ENERGY
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 74%
Would it shock you to learn that the editors of Forbes’ “‘30 under 30’ in Energy” tell us when someone’s a graduate of Stanford, or MIT, or Princeton, or UChicago, or UPenn, or Yale…but not an Indiana University alum?
Nothing shocks us anymore, either.
So meet Russell Conard, who founded Ornicept while studying informatics at Indiana University (class of 2012). He’s developing an artificial intelligence system that detects hawks and other birds near wind farms. The application could earn a fortune from developers facing public pressure to protect avian wildlife—no Ivy League education required.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - MARKETING
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 75%
If you think you want to go into marketing, great news! The field is booming and is projected to keep booming. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “market researcher” will be among the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. economy. And if Forbes’ list of “‘30 under 30’ in Marketing” is any guide, you can go to just about any college you want to prepare yourself for a great career.
Of course, for the purposes of 60second Recap’s 15 over 50%, we’re picking the least competitive college represented in each of the 15 Forbes “30 under 30” occupational categories. In the category of “marketing,” the prize goes to Drexel University. Its recent grad Steph Parker received a B.A. in Communications. Now she’s a social media guru at leading advertising firm Hill Holliday.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - EDUCATION
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 78%
Oh, Forbes, Forbes, Forbes. We know your owner is a Princeton grad, but sheesh: Don’t you ever worry about laying on the Ivy-love a little too thick?
Forbes’ “‘30 under 30’ in Education” is choc-a-bloc with grads of the nation’s finest institutions of higher learning. (Curiously, there's not an actual teacher in the bunch. Interesting.) Perhaps it's no surprise to see Ivy climbing over Forbes' "30 under 30" edu-fraternity: Clearly, these folks know how to study, so "education" could be a natural fit.
Nevertheless, a solid state school pedigree clearly hasn’t hurt University of Iowa alum David Tjaden, a front-line lobbyist and activist for the National Education Association. As chairperson of the NEA’s student program, David writes that he represents “the interests of 60,000+ future educators on policy issues at federal, state and local levels.”
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - FOOD
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 82%
Food. Now there’s an industry that’s moved up from the servants’ quarters. Fortunately, its rise in income and prestige has not been accompanied by a jump in academic snobbery. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps that's why we found just three Ivy Leaguers among Forbes’ “‘30 under 30’ in Food.” As for the other honorees, their educational pedigree ran all over the map.
The winner of this category’s 60second Recap “15 over 50” is Nebraska Wesleyan, alma mater of a brilliant and renowned young pastry chef, Alexandra Ray. By many accounts, Ray has created a key lime cheesecake to die for at New York City’s North End Grill. We’d go taste it, but we’re too busy compiling this list.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - GAMES & APPS
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 87%
Once again, Forbes’ “‘30 under 30’ in Games & Apps” emphasizes that smattering of Stanfords, Harvards, and Yales amidst legions of UC Irvines, UT Dallases, and Arizona States. But we’re used to it by now. Which is why we’re especially delighted to announce the winner of 60second Recap’s “15 over 50%” in Games & Apps: University of Colorado, Boulder.
UC Boulder is the college home of Isaac Squires, who studied computer science there before co-founding Ubooly, a toy company that makes “smart” stuffed animals; they run with an iPhone or iPod embedded inside their fluffy little tummies. He and his wife launched the company with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Take that, Princeton.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - TECH
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 89%
Technically, Arizona State should win in two categories—Games & Apps and Tech. That’s right. We counted three Arizona State alums in two categories in the Forbes “30 under 30” universe. That’s more than Cornell can claim. Or Duke. Or Dartmouth, or Johns Hopkins, or CalTech. Since Forbes won’t tell you, we thought we would.
Arizona State wins 60second Recap's “15 over 50%” in Tech thanks to the efforts of alum Robby Walker, who co-founded Cue, an online service that organizes your digital life.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - HOLLYWOOD
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 100%
In their “‘30 under 30’ in Hollywood” category, Forbes offers a welcome break from the parade of academic pedigrees. A little digging reveals that the scholastic backgrounds of the winners run the gamut—from Harvard to…yep, American River College of Sacramento, California.
ARC is the alma mater of Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, creators of Smosh, one of YouTube’s most popular channels, with over six million subscribers and two billion video views.
FORBES 30 UNDER 30 CATEGORY - MUSIC
PERCENTAGE OF APPLICANTS ADMITTED: 100%
"Hollywood." "Music." Of course it’s a tie. Really, when you get down to it, what’s the difference between “Hollywood” and “Music”? Besides, perhaps, an affinity for Auto-Tune?
Forbes’ “‘30 under 30’ in Music” honorees, like those chosen for its “‘30 under 30’ in Sports,” aren't heavy on “book learning.” (Katie Perry didn’t go to college?! Say it ain't so!) That's why we applied the sports category methodology to this music category, focusing on those behind-the-scenes types that make everything run...and who went to college. Sort of.
“‘30 under 30’ in Music” inductee Adam Kluger, founder of the Kluger Agency, has built a mini-empire from product placements in music videos and recordings. His training? A two year A.A. degree from this Gainesville, Florida community college. And continuing education at the University of This-Is-Your-Life.