Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Best Isn't Always Best

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Best Isn't Always Best

Article excerpt

One of the problems with big, bargain-filled designer discount emporiums like TK Maxx is that the second we walk into them, we lose our capacity to judge. The last time I went shopping there, I bought a silver spandex frock. The lure of owning a designer label at such a knock-down price blinded me to the fact that the dress made me look like a dirigible in a sausage skin. Now it's hidden at the back of my wardrobe until my husband forgets that it's there and won't notice when I quietly offload it on Oxfam.

This desire to acquire luxury items at discount prices affects even my weekly grocery shopping. Rather than planning the family meals and then buying the requisite ingredients, I stake out chiller cabinets, fighting with other shoppers for wilted rocket, bruised avocados and nearly-out-of- date salmon en croute.

If the rule for buying property is location, location, location, then the mantra for a bargain-hunter is brand, brand, brand. This wouldn't be so bad if my activities were all recreational, but now I'm applying the same rule to helping students choose universities. I keep steering them towards Oxbridge, the Coco Chanel of higher education. I was brought up to view these establishments as a fast-track ticket to financial success: at the Bar, in the City or - worst-case scenario - as a researcher at the BBC. But this old-fashioned, star-struck attitude of mine won't help students to make the wisest choice.

Last year, when my son applied to university, I ranked his offers by academic stature and then passive-aggressively cajoled him into opting for the "best". …

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