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Is Going To an Elite College Worth the Cost?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the drag-out-the-causation-correlator dept.

Education 391

Pickens writes "Jacques Steinberg writes in the NY Times that the sluggish economy and rising costs of college have only intensified questions about whether expensive, prestigious colleges make any difference. Researchers say that alumni of the most selective colleges earn, on average, 40 percent more a year than those who graduated from the least selective public universities, as calculated 10 years after they graduated from and found that 'attendance at an elite private college significantly increases the probability of attending graduate school, and more specifically graduate school at a major research university.' But other researchers say the extent to which one takes advantage of the educational offerings of an institution may be more important, in the long run, than how prominently and proudly that institution's name is being displayed on the back windows of cars in the nation's wealthiest enclaves."

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391 comments

Only if (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609754)

You fail to learn anything. Even then it is questiona

Re:Only if (4, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610350)

This is definitely a "correlation does not imply causation" moment.

As other people have noted, people attending top schools may be more successful financially and professionally, but they also tend to be smart, hardworking, and come from affluent backgrounds. Those qualities are probably more important predictors of success than the education itself. The article mentions a Princeton economist who found that kids who were admitted to elite schools, but who turned them down to to attend other institutions, did about as well as those actually attending.

That being said, don't discount the importance of the name. A prof once told me "the name will help you get in the door for the interview, but once you're inside, it's all about you". He meant to emphasize that it's ultimately about the person, not the institution. True, but if you can't solve the immediate problem of getting that interview, your qualifications don't really matter, and in a lot of fields its difficult to even get an interview. Simply being able to get into a good school implies that you have a lot of the qualities- motivation, work ethic, intelligence- that people want. They're more likely to read your application carefully and call you. Maybe that's not fair, but that's the way it is. The name opens doors.

Personally, I think good schools really are worth it; the top institutions really are different. But keep in mind that the "best" school according to U.S. News and World Report is not necessarily the "best" school for you. Different schools have different cultures and you might find yourself fitting in perfectly at one, and miserable at the other. Maybe you prefer a school where people are passing out drunk and vomiting in the halls, or maybe you want a school where people hang out in the halls arguing about programming languages. Maybe you want a school with an amazing English program, maybe you want one with an amazing philosophy program. Maybe you want to go to a huge school in New York City, maybe you want to go to a small college in a college town. It's more important to go to the school that's best for you, than the one that's ranked #1 this year.

But the most important thing to keep in mind is this: you can get a good education anywhere, if you work hard, and a lousy education anywhere, if you don't.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609766)

I went to Stanford for chemistry and can emphatically say no.

Re:No (2)

dweinst (218284) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609946)

I went to Stanford for Computer Science + Management Science and can emphatically say yes.

Re:No (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610026)

I went to Stanford for Computer Science + Management Science and can emphatically say yes.

It's Sunday. You're posting on Slashdot.

You're impressing exactly who now?

Depends on the cost (4, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610018)

It depends on the cost. I was lucky enough to get a place at Cambridge University in the days when there were no tuition fees for university in the UK so going there cost no more than any other university (you just had to pay or accommodation, food and books....and the odd beer or two! ;-). I got a fantastic education which has been exceptionally useful in getting a career in academia. So I'd say it was definitely worth it.

Of course nowadays students at Cambridge will be looking at £9,000/year tuition fees with lower fees of £3-6,000/year elsewhere thanks to the UK government's appalling mismanagement of education. With fees like that I would have had to think long and hard before going. Partly because of the cost but also partly because selecting student's based on parental income rather than academic ability will mean lowering the education standards and a worsening of the student experience as the fraction of those of us who went through the state school system is reduced.

Re:Depends on the cost (-1, Troll)

edittard (805475) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610138)

Partly because of the cost but also partly because selecting student's

Selecting his/her what?

Re:Depends on the cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610330)

With fees like that I would have had to think long and hard before going. Partly because of the cost but also partly because selecting student's based on parental income rather than academic ability will mean lowering the education standards and a worsening of the student experience as the fraction of those of us who went through the state school system is reduced.

Yea because the amount you pay back for your tuition fee loan is based on your parents income.... oh wait it isn't. I really don't think the rise in tuition fees is going to make Cambridge less competitive academically.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610058)

A coworker of mine earns $10k/year more with his MIT MSEE than anyone else in the department with an MSEE. I say emphatically yes.

Contacts (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609770)

Its not about whether or not the degree you get there is any better if you email your CV to a company you found on a jobs site.

Its about if the preppy boy you shared a room with can get you a job at his dad's company.

Re:Contacts and relatioships generally (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610356)

The Harvard Longitudinal Study of Adult Development studied groups of men since the 1940s. The only correlation the study could find with anything was personal relationships.
http://adultdev.bwh.harvard.edu/research-SAD.html [harvard.edu]

Men with good relationships in childhood and young adulthood did better in almost every facet of their lives than did those with poor relationships: income, social status, marital status, health, etc. etc.

There are also lots of studies that show that, once employees meet the minimum qualifications and are hired, their performance has nothing to do with where they graduated, their marks, their IQ or any additional degrees they have. The big thing is their interpersonal relationships.

Of course, this is Slashdot, populated with geeks and nerds, so I don't expect that most of those reading this will believe it; sigh.

Depends on who you want to be employed by. (3, Insightful)

Scorch_Mechanic (1879132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609776)

If they're swayed by the big H on your resume, great! Maybe you'll be able to pay off your student loans slightly faster otherwise. Or you could just go to the much cheaper, less pretentious school and get the same degree without the financial insolvency. Your choice.

Re:Depends on who you want to be employed by. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609968)

You could have used a lot of words there, but 'pretentious' just shows your bias.

Re:Depends on who you want to be employed by. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610156)

In technical fields, in this American economy, degrees alone are far more useless than experience. No experience, no hire unless you have connections and/or experience. It's true and unfortunate that the market is much more competitive now.

Presently, the only good reason to even get a degree is if you were already established in the industry and wanted to move to middle-management. Knowing this, I have cut back my class load to 5 units per semester, and now I'm able to use the money I'm making with my ten years experience in the industry to actually have a life.

Enjoy being perpetually broke paying off student loans, suckers.

Re:Depends on who you want to be employed by. (1)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610260)

One thing that top schools also offer is experience, in the form of top internships. As a current student at one of these so-called elite universities, I have had a difficult time applying to internships. I can only imagine how difficult it is for someone with a weaker college on their resume to get these positions. For college freshmen, other than GPA the biggest factor in whether or not they get picked for an internship is their school. I've talked to recruiters; a 4.0 at a non-top 3 state school vs. an ivy league 3.5 will see that job go to the ivy leaguer almost every time (from what I've seen, and from what my friends have seen).

Second year rolls around, and the internship competition that year depends mainly on, you guessed it, where you were your first year (probably 75% is based on that) followed by school/gpa.

The point I am making here is that the elite school alone really only helps in the college internship arena, but that name (if you use it well) can set off a chain of events that CAN make you better prepared than peers who went to worse-ranked universities. Then again, I'm only talking about top jobs in high paying fields here, but then again, that is what students at elite colleges are after.

Re:Depends on who you want to be employed by. (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610358)

I think you are suffering from a sampling bias. "from what I've seen, and from what my friends have seen"... How many of those friends go to an ivy league school? You, being from an ivy league school, are more likely to encounter, at every step of the process, people and organizations who prefer ivy league students. If there are recruiters out there who prefer state school students (and there are, I assure you), their candidates would have the exact opposite impression of yours.

Not for undergraduate (5, Interesting)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609782)

At Duke I was pretty much told "Go buy the textbook [$200+] and come to class if you have questions [which probably won't be answered]." The profs were just that. Profs. Not teachers. They were more interested in their research than educating the lowly undergrads.

I switched to a state school. I actually have TEACHERS now! (at 1/10th the price!)

Re:Textbook Revolution (4, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609904)

Actually, I both agree and want to push this further.
Although he was phrasing it rather snarky, the AC elsewhere who said it was about the preppy contacts and schmoozing was part right - if you're a people-person and know how to be in the popular crowds, the Who-You-Know factor can be an instant ticket.

However, I treated a degree as "something to defend" and didn't want a glaring Scarlet Letter following me around. I agree that the undergrad experience in some of the Name Schools is awful and a borderline-scam. I switched to a state school and started on a mostly ordinary business career.

But Education is the next big Bubble. I was in Uni in a precisely dated "last of the old" time slots - 1993-1997. A typical undergrad course = 2 textbooks, "40 podcasts" and your choice of "2 answers per podcast + 1 office hour". Thanks to the RIAA's screaming, we now know that 40 podcasts = ... $0! And now the Two-Questions can be answered on the net. So the real price of the class is a $50/hour "consulting hour" plus the rent for the dorm + meal ticket.

Re:Not for undergraduate (5, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610112)

They were more interested in their research than educating the lowly undergrads.

If you go into academia and research, you need to be self-educating anyhow, needing to read esoteric and lingo-filled journals as part of your general career. This is why research institution "teachers" suck and can suck.

It all depends on what your future focus is. A "practitioner" can generally do fine at a middle-level institution, and may even make it big via entrepreneurship etc. And save a lot of money to boot.

However, if you want to move up in academic and research standing, you need to play the academia game, and the big-name universities control that game.

The rift between the practitioner/entrepreneur route and the academia route tends to be growing such that you pretty much have to pick a side fairly early. Are you a "get it done" kind of person, or a intellectual thinker who prefers somebody else do the nuts and bolts of carrying something to production?
   

Re:Not for undergraduate (1, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610286)

Well, it's more about the opportunities than anything else.

Many of the top tier firms (particularly in certain industries like management consulting or high finance) will not hire from regular colleges, unless you are a rock star. In which case, it isn't the college that does it anyway, it is the individual.

You go to a top school, you work at a top firm, you get admitted into a top school for your MBA, you get into an executive position. Having a pedigree just makes it a lot easier, that is all.

This is just as true for other areas such as law or medicine - and less so in the sciences or engineering.

You'd also be surprised at the amount of general opportunities that come your way at a top school, giving you way more avenues to succeed in life. For instance, just a couple of weeks ago, Harvard had the Masquerade Ball, where students and alumni from Harvard came together - what do you think happens at such events? Networking and schmoozing.

Re:Not for undergraduate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610292)

At Duke I was pretty much told "Go buy the textbook [$200+] and come to class if you have questions [which probably won't be answered]." The profs were just that. Profs. Not teachers. They were more interested in their research than educating the lowly undergrads.

I switched to a state school. I actually have TEACHERS now! (at 1/10th the price!)

And you will only get offered half as much money when you decide to actually find a job.

90% of everything is crap, but (4, Interesting)

RightwingNutjob (1302813) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609786)

the distribution is not even. I've found complete idiots at some top schools, but I've also found smart people who are able to capitalize on the name of their institution to get interesting research problems to work on. That's almost definitely not exclusive to Ivy+, but is probably harder to find once you go down the ladder from places like Penn State and Illinois and GT, and 'flagship' institutions.

Coming for Harvard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609926)

I see Harvard and I see the rest (UCLA, NYU, Walden U, etc). You only get the best from the best..

Re:90% of everything is crap, but (4, Interesting)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610178)

I've found complete idiots at some top schools, but I've also found smart people

I guess these two groups are the ones that benefit the most from an elite college.

If you're the dumb kid of a wealthy family, the elite college will help you to get a job that requires that you are looking good in a suit and have a prestigious degree.

If you're smart, the elite school will have the resources you need and after college you will more easily be given the opportunity to prove yourself.

Re:90% of everything is crap, but (1)

Haffner (1349071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610308)

There's another group: the dumb kid who is really more of a diversity/sponsored program/goodwill acceptance. At my university (one of the "elite" ones) I have met maybe 10 or so strikingly stupid people in my few years here. For the most part, people are intelligent and able thinkers in most subjects, and while there are people who are skilled in some areas and lagging in others, there are some people who are just plain dumb. These people are lacking common logic, they can't understand basic concepts, and surprisingly (or maybe not), they are mainly from underprivileged areas, usually racially ethnic but culturally white, with no other really identifying features to this group. This isn't to say there aren't rich stupid people or smart people from underprivileged areas or stupid white people (there are) but the the general idiots I see around campus most often tend to be admissions statistic boosters. Then again, I am biased, as I don't hang around rich kids, so I'm probably missing out on that whole rich white dumb kid stereotype.

Or (4, Interesting)

hsmith (818216) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609788)

Are those that go to the big elites more connected anyway, thus enabling them to obtain the higher paying jobs out of college? I would assume a Rockefeller could go to community college and still land a rather well paying job. Who you know and all that jazz...

Re:Or (4, Interesting)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609844)

absolutely - that 40% extra over the "lesser" colleges tend to be because the students tend to come from wealthier families anyway. I wonder what the spread of the increase is across all students? ie - is it that 10 of them become billionaires which brings that average up among all students there?

That has to be considered too (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609900)

Though there is a flipside to that: High end schools are often well connected themselves, as are their faculty, so going there can get you connections. Thing is that tends to be more true on a per-program basis. So in the event you have a field you really want to be in, particularly if it is something involving graduate work, then you need to look at what professors are good in that and choose the school accordingly. May turn out a "lesser" school in fact has a better, more connected, program in the area of your interest.

But yes, it is another problem with the study. If the people have the connections anyhow, and a job is "waiting for them" so to speak, then the school they go to is not all that relevant.

Re:That has to be considered too (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610076)

So in the event you have a field you really want to be in, particularly if it is something involving graduate work, then you need to look at what professors are good in that and choose the school accordingly. May turn out a "lesser" school in fact has a better, more connected, program in the area of your interest.

Which is basically what TFA said - there is more variability within schools than between schools. Just because a school has an excellent Computer Science department doesn't mean it's particularly good in Biology. And even within departments, there are going to be areas of strengths and weaknesses. So it all gets complicated.

If you know something about what you want to do then you have a fighting chance about making the 'right' choice. If you just show up hoping that a Nobel Prize will fall into your lap, not so much.

Re:That has to be considered too (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610150)

Just because a school has an excellent Computer Science department doesn't mean it's particularly good in Biology.

To take that a step further (depending on what your educational goals are):

Just because a school is considered to have an excellent Computer Science department (that is, it puts out great/important research in that field ) doesn't mean it's a good place to learn as an undergrad, and it doesn't guarantee you'll get a chance to touch any of that research even if you're an undergrad with an eye towards academia.

Re:Or (2)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610014)

It's the American economic aristocracy in action. And no, you can't really earn your way in, you have to be born into it. The chances of any present (like you) getting in are about the same as winning a $100 million lottery.

Re:Or (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610280)

Are those that go to the big elites more connected anyway, thus enabling them to obtain the higher paying jobs out of college? I would assume a Rockefeller could go to community college and still land a rather well paying job. Who you know and all that jazz...

And if you're from an ordinary middle class family, what do you think would be by far the most effective way to become more connected?

;-)

cue the dropouts (0, Troll)

mgabrys (14614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609794)

10 seconds till the "it's only a piece of paper" idiots show up, wait for it ...

(btw - they're most amusing in a down economy when job apps are looking at large talent pools and degrees become valued differentiators)

Re:cue the dropouts (2, Interesting)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609944)

(warning: anecdotal evidence ahead)

Dunno... I recently had to sit in as technical on a metric ton of interviews for open IT positions here where I work. I turned down an IT ops management candidate who had a Masters' Degree in Comp Sci and 10 years of management experience, but never held down a management position at any one company for more than 3 years (the winning candidate had only a 4-yr EE degree, but nearly 20 years' experience managing at an F100 company).

I also talked them into throwing out resumes of college grads with little experience in favor of High School degree holders with more (and demonstrable) experience.

Long story short, a degree only tells me (and most folks I know in the field) one thing: The candidate can be dedicated towards a goal, and is willing to put up with some BS to get there. It's a differentiator, sure... but it's bupkis compared to practical, hands-on experience, and a candidate who rides on his or her sheepskin is less valuable than one who has none but shows initiative, curiosity, and drive.

Before you say it, you're talking to a former EE, and someone who has taught CompSci (and was licensed and affiliated w/ the state board of regents) at a college for six years.

Re:cue the dropouts (1)

CrashandDie (1114135) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610218)

I'd have to agree with what you're saying.

I have no degree to speak of, however decent people skills (meaning I can wear a suit and talk my way through a decent presentation in front of a decision-making audience) and loads of free time spent learning development (the language doesn't really matter) gave me the opportunity to fly around the world with a 140k+ euro a year job at age 24.

In my first year of employment, I negotiated two pay raises, and in the second, negotiated a tech lead position for APAC at the company. I left, and now went from C++ dev to product manager in 5 months time. And yes, wearing a suit without being asked, and inviting people for golf is part of it.

Re:cue the dropouts (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609998)

Depending on the field, a degree can be pretty worthless (monetary wise) on average. Some degrees have jobs that pay little more than no degree, with a mountain of debt behind them, and may even pay less overall because of that debt load.

Re:cue the dropouts (2)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610070)

What one goes to college for these degrees is less of the degree, but more of being able to bag an internship. Companies want known goods, and they receive reams full of resumes from people who have degrees from everywhere from Elbonia U all the way from MIT/Harvard/Yale/Miskatonic graduates in the top 10% of the class.

The key in college which isn't told to most students is college isn't about getting grades and beer bong slamming. It is about getting internships and contacts so when graduation day is at hand, there is not just jobs lined up [1], but there is an actual position, contract, and start date ready for you the second you get out.

[1]: Jobs lined up mean jack squat. Companies get shut down, or they go into hiring freezes. There is a big difference from having a position obtained from an internship than having "jobs lined up".

but they should have apprenticeship not work for f (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610158)

but they should have apprenticeship not work for free internships that are not what internships are meant for as you are to being picking up coffee and other stuff like that or replace a some one who they where paying to do the same job.

We don't have this issue in Holland (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609804)

We have elite subjects (educations). For example Med. school is really hard to get into, whether you try at UvA (University of Amsterdam) or something like the middle-of-nowhere UG (Groningen University).
On the other hand, there are relatively few requirements for getting into Social Sciences.
I don't get the USA system. What's the worth of an education the market isn't waiting for, even if you attended the most prestigious university? Harvard art students still don't become CEOs.
I myself am studying Law at the University of Amsterdam and there is no elitism whatsoever with regard to the university. There is, however, a lot regarding universities in general compared to colleges and between studies. (e.g. "Law is better than art history!")
Makes more sense. Please tell me your stories, I'm really interested.

1 Data Point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609812)

Went to Harvard undergrad, MIT grad, got a PhD in EECS.

What do I do now? sweep floors at a government facility.

Granted it is because the facility is classified and the cleaning staff don't have clearances, but the rest of my duties aren't that much better. I get paid a GS13 salary, so it's not like I am technically poor, but I certainly didn't maximize my earning potential.

How many are paying sticker (5, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609816)

The article seems to assume that lots of folk attending elite schools are paying sticker for their education. From my understanding that's not the case.

With the move to substantially increase tuition at all universities in England, there will be growing comparison against the sticker price at the top US schools. That, of course, is an unfair comparison as top US schools while undoubtedly expensive also have exceptional financial aid packages.

While an in-state public university tuition will almost always be the most affordable, many will be able to attend top private schools for a similar amount. Very few will be paying the $45-50k talked about in the article.

Re:How many are paying sticker (1)

schwnj (990042) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610246)

This. I've seen several articles recently decrying the "cost" of elite school, yet every single article throws around the sticker tuition prices for the elite schools. If I had a child accepted to both Harvard and my state university, it would cost me more to send them to the state school. The only people who pay sticker for the elites are rich enough to not care about the ROI length on 200,000.

just to ask (1)

nopainogain (1091795) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609826)

how does this apply to disciplines like business? I mean if i wanted to be a geneticist, i'd target UPENN, MIT, and Stanford... but does the business program really differ heavily at the undergrad level? and i also mean from the perspective of employers doing the hiring later.

Selection effects (2, Insightful)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609838)

Are they considering selection effects at all? Yes, those who go to Ivy league may earn that much more - but would the same people have earned that much less if they for some reason didn't?

Re:Selection effects (4, Informative)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610088)

If you had RTFA:

In 1999, economists from Princeton and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation looked at some of the same data Eide and his colleagues had used, but crunched them in a different way: They compared students at more selective colleges to others of "seemingly comparable ability," based on their SAT scores and class rank, who had attended less selective schools, either by choice or because a top college rejected them.

The earnings of graduates in the two groups were about the same — perhaps shifting the ledger in favor of the less expensive, less prestigious route. (The one exception was that children from "disadvantaged family backgrounds" appeared to earn more over time if they attended more selective colleges. The authors, Stacy Berg Dale and Alan B. Krueger, do not speculate why, but conclude, "These students appear to benefit most from attending a more elite college.")

Contact (4, Insightful)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609856)

From what I have seen it is the close personal contacts among wealthy families that make the difference and not the actual education. There are not so many people that can make a few phone calls and bring heavy investment money into a situation. After all, how many people can invest multi-millions in any project? They tend to know each other and their family members have the path prepared for them due to endowments to old ivy.

Re: Contact (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609976)

Their projects still have to make a profit no matter where the money comes from. Personal contacts make it easier to fund a project but you still need the talent and skills to succeed.

Re: Contact (1)

rekoil (168689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610046)

That's assuming that these are the kind of people who actually need to succeed in business in order to make a pile of dough. Lots of serial entrepreneurs do exactly the opposite, living on investment capital from one venture to the next.

Re: Contact (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609984)

As with so many questions, the answer is it depends. By going to elite school you get to hang out with people who are both smarter on average (to be able to get in) and whose families are wealthier on average (to be able to afford it). It's not a coincidence that so many successful startups come from Stanford, Harvard etc and not at some random state university. The faculty have better connections to (at Stanford you are likely to bump into a few Nobel prize winners when you wander around campus) and your future employees are likely to be impressed more by your resume. So there are plenty of advantages whether or not you actually learn anything.

Re: Contact (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610012)

This is a lesson regardless of school. I have met contacts in school that helped me. I did most of the work at nightschool and the top groups wanted me to work in their projects. People in this group included a VP of HR and a director ... not teenagers.

Work really hard and at work and at school network network network and work hard.

Quality of a child's peers (5, Insightful)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610160)

Yes, you build up a network of contacts in the world of the most successful people. But that is important. But interacting with successful people does more than just give you "contacts"; there is inherently automatically a "mentoring" effect.

"But other researchers say the extent to which one takes advantage of the educational offerings of an institution may be more important, in the long run"

This is theoretically true at an individual level. If I think to my own days in a third-world mediocre public school and university, I would say I ultimately managed to get a good education 'in spite of' my school/university, not because of it --- but even so, I often performed very poorly (regretfully), and if I had to name THE single-biggest thing that negatively influenced my performance, I would have to say it was being surrounded by almost 100% uniformly poor-performing peers; they were stupid, they were lazy, they didn't care, learning was the least important thing imaginable, and stupidity and laziness was basically celebrated. When 99.9% of a child's peers are like that, as happened with me, it is almost impossible not to be negatively influenced and 'dragged down' to some degree.

Now, many years later, I have a baby on the way, and have to start thinking about where to send her someday. And I definitely feel that if I can afford it, I want her in one of the top-notch universities. Why? Not because I'm expecting miracles from the professors or infrastructure, but because I know she is most likely to be surrounded by a comparatively higher percentage of peers who are amongst those in society with the highest focus and motivation on hard work and success.

It is oddly seldom mentioned, but beyond parenting and teachers, I think the quality of peers that your child sits with must have a huge influence on their outcomes.

The other reason is that I indeed want my children to mingle with society's successful people, not just to build contacts, but because there is an inherent mentoring effect. Even spending a day with someone highly successful at something can make a young persons entire career. The most successful people in finance and investing, tend to have had top-notch mentors, and you can mostly only find those people in the upper echelons.

Like it or not, many of the most successful IT entrepreneurs etc. do come from backgrounds that allowed them to attend top-notch universities, and there are reasons for that.

Can children be successful in cheaper schools, sure, of course, but suddenly when parenthood looms I just think I want the statistically best chance for my kids, so they can have opportunities I never had.

I question the validity of the study (3, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609862)

So they say that you earn more if you went to a highly selective school than a non-selective one. Ok, fine, but the problem is that it doesn't mean you earn more BECAUSE you went to that school. The thing is if the school is being highly selective, it is getting only the best and brightest students, not to mention motivated. Those people are likely to go on to better things because they are smart, motivated, and so on.

What you need to examine for something like this is how it compares between people that went to these schools and people that could have, but didn't. Those who had the grades and test scores, maybe even applied, but elected to go to a state school instead. My bet? Not much difference.

In the job market you'll find that your university education matters little past your first job. It isn't 100% irrelevant or anything, but employers start to care a whole lot more about experience and references than they do about education. Where you went to school and what your GPA was will take a back seat to what you've done at work.

Then, of course, in terms of it being "worth it," you have to consider the costs. Suppose you can go to a public school on scholarship, and the course load will allow you to work to cover other expenses. You can come out with a 4 year degree and zero debt. Now suppose you go to Harvard and have to pay $50,000 a year in tuition, and have no time to work so you accrue $15,000 in other living costs. You get out and owe $260,000, presuming interest was handled during your time in school (with costs that high, probably not). You now have to pay that, and its interest down. So you HAVE to make a lot more to break even. The money you spend on repaying your outstanding loans is money a person who did not accrue them could put in savings or invest.

I certainly wouldn't tell people not to go to a top school, but I'd say do so only if you can afford it. If they give you a scholarship, or if your family has plenty of money to support you, then sure, go for it. Really can't hurt, though make sure you do research because some schools are better for one thing than others. MIT is famously bad for undergrads, good for grads. However trying to pay for the whole thing just because you managed to get in? Hmmm, I doubt that's very smart. You'd have to be assured a good bit more money, and that it would consistently stay higher, than if you didn't to make it worth it in the long run.

I beg to differ (1)

brokeninside (34168) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610238)

Going to an elite school is worth the price of admission for who you go to school with alone.

But, aside from that, the question presumes unlimited funds to go to school. For those without funds to go to school, most elite schools pick up the vast majority of the tab so long as those financially disadvantaged kids can make it in. This makes it a double-win.

Simple Rule (4, Insightful)

IBitOBear (410965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609896)

Don't go take your under-graduate degree from a college that is famous for its graduate program, you will never see your professors, just their graduate student teaching assistants.

You should pick a school that is "known for" the program you are going to take at the level you are going to take it. That can be well worth it.

And the definition of famous needs to be curtailed. As some professionals in the field you intend to pursue whether what schools they "know are good". The answers to this are almost always rather surprising and often include some very good near-by or state schools.

Schools "earn their branding" for a reason, but you have to _really_ _check_ the brand details and you also have to make sure that it isn't expired. Only the professionals in the field will know if the school that is famous for X to the general populace is really sitll famous for X amongst the topical peerage.

Re:Simple Rule (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609990)

That is something people really need to appreciate, that programs vary wildly within a school. Ranking overall universities is a bit silly since there is no way a university can be good at everything. It can certainly be fine at everything but you'll find they all have strengths and weaknesses. For example: Suppose you want to be a concert musician. You going to go to MIT? To Caltech? Why not? They are top schools! Well of course they are, but not for music. So going there would be a waste of money.

Something else you'll discover is that state schools often have highly ranked, if not the top, programs in some areas. Now you might think "But the school name isn't as well known, it won't be as impressive." Not the case. While that might be true of the total university, it isn't true of the program and thus of people who are involved in that field. So the people you'll want to know, the people you'll be dealing with, they'll know. Equally importantly the processors there will be connected with those people out in industry.

The only case that overall school name is the more important than program reputation would be if you are just getting a degree, any degree, and are going in to a field where it doesn't really matter. Then people may be more impressed by the name of the school.

Re:Simple Rule (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610298)

So I currently attend UChicago. This has a very good graduate math department, the chair of whom teaches an undergrad math class. A world expert on Marx personally teaches a course that can be used to satisfy requirements necessary for graduation. So clearly professors do teach at some places!

Quite happy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609898)

I'm quite happy with my MIT education. Specially since it was free.

Re:Quite happy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610096)

It wasn't free, it was paid for by others.

Did they factor in legacy admissions? (4, Insightful)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609910)

Many of the most elite schools have a "legacy admissions" policy (that's how the C-student George W. Bush managed to get into Yale). It gives the children of alumni priority admission, because they want their richer alumni to keep contributing money, and denying little Biff or Muffy their admission would be bad business. It's affirmative action for the rich.

Re:Did they factor in legacy admissions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609996)

Our politicians are complete idiots. Is this a surprise?

http://www.insidepolitics.org/heard/heard32300.html

Re:Did they factor in legacy admissions? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610052)

And they also have to deal with affirmative action which is how a complete intellectual zero like Obama could be accepted and graduate.

Re:Did they factor in legacy admissions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610354)

And they also have to deal with affirmative action which is how a complete intellectual zero like Obama could be accepted and graduate.

Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude in his class at Harvard.* You may not agree with his policies and that's fine, but to say that he is a "complete intellectual zero" is ridiculous.

Sorry for feeding the troll.

*Wikipedia

I thought it was acceptance not attendance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609922)

I thought researchers discovered that people who were accepted at expensive ivy league schools, but chose not to attend were on average as successful as those who did. Ivy leagues simply pick better people rather than conferring "betterness" onto those people.

No relationship between cost and quality (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609932)

The only choice is between state/public schools and private schools, as cost of private school do not vary according to quality/reputation.

USC costs about the same as Stanford, and I know where I would send my kids between these two. On the other hand, if it was Berkeley vs. Standford, the cost would be a big factor.

Poof. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609952)

It's not even worth making a comment here because any comments that "pip-pip" the Ivey or other "elite" schools will be shot down as being from "elitist" homosexuals. I attended Yale, and work at a big box store. So fuck you.

Re:Poof. (2)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#34609980)

Let this be a lesson to all who think about majoring in art history or philosophy and smoke pot all thru four years.

Re:Poof. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610056)

You went to Yale, but you can't spell "Ivy"?

I know Yale is one of the lesser Ivies, but come on...

Go down the list of instant Billionaires ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34609994)

Go down the list of the Silicon Valley young (under 40) billionaires and you'll mostly see: Harvard, Standford, MIT, etc.... - apparently in tech, graduating is optional. Look at the bigshots on WallStreet and you'll see: Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, etc....

Rarely you'll see some exceptionally talented person who went state but they're usually great at self promotion and then hooked up with someone from the above.

I'm not saying that some no talent like me who gets into one of those schools because of being a legacy will end up an instant billionaire or even a peon millionaire, but it IS interesting that those schools pop up more often than not on the business magazine lists of the get-rich-quick-guys.

Re:Go down the list of instant Billionaires ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610110)

The real question is is that because of the education or because of the networking opportunities available at schools with financial barriers to entry which tend to favor the privileged. One of the biggest barriers to success in established industries is the need for capital. Additionally, colleges (especially ones that attract bright creative types) tend to be great places to bring interdisciplinary thinkers together which is what most folks in the "real world" lack and one of the great paths to innovation. Places which encourage networking with privileged, bright people, with different broad ranging expertise and access to capital would be a great incubator for success regardless of the quality of the education being offered there. Social clubs have served this purpose as well in the past.

We don't have this issue in Holland (4, Interesting)

xavdeman (946931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610000)

We have elite subjects (educations). For example Med. school is really hard to get into, whether you try at UvA (University of Amsterdam) or something like the middle-of-nowhere UG (Groningen University). On the other hand, there are relatively few requirements for getting into Social Sciences. I don't get the USA system. What's the worth of an education the market isn't waiting for, even if you attended the most prestigious university? Harvard art students still don't become CEOs. I myself am studying Law at the University of Amsterdam and there is no elitism whatsoever with regard to the university. There is, however, a lot regarding universities in general compared to colleges and between studies. (e.g. "Law is better than art history!") Makes more sense. Please tell me your stories, I'm really interested.

Re:We don't have this issue in Holland (2)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610168)

I think that's because university/college (at least in the states) has become less about classical education and more about future job training. Now it's largely aimed at making you useful to the market rather than teaching you how to think and exposing you to a broad variety of ideas and concepts. Hence those subjects which can make you immediately profitable are given more status. I think the elite university ideas go back to when education was more about education and less about training. Then the university that was turning out all the great thinkers across fields became "elite". I'm not saying one is better or worse but I think the elitism and what it focuses on are just a product of the times and what is key to success in those times. Today it's about deep specialization and training but we still have memes around elitism that are hold overs from when it was about general intellectual abilities and knowledge.

Just my guess.

Yes if there are no jobs (4, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610002)

Who am I going to hire in a recession? A guy from Kansas State U or someone from M.I.T.? I would pick M.I.T. if both candidates were equally qualified. Experience counts more of course but the deal breaker would be the school.

The debt ... well the guy from Kansas Sate working at Target will make more than you. 50% of yoru income will just go to payback loan and you will need a 2nd job to survive and eat due to the outrageous cost. But in 5 years when you are a manager you can then start to make up the difference. In 30 years when you are getting ready for retirement you will see the difference in your bank account. It just wont show for awhile due to the high outragous costs.

Now if you do not find an I.T. job then you are wasting money. Some of you just wont work in I.T. Indians do these jobs now mostly and it is very competitive. Cross your fingers and take risks appropriately. Also do not bring in more than 100k in debt. Keep that as the limit.

Hasn't this already been covered? (1)

deisama (1745478) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610010)

I swear I've read this before, and the consensus was that when they compared people who got accepted to the school but didn't go to those who actually went to the school, there wasn't much of a difference in income. The very brighest just tend to make more money.

The only exception is if you're a minority, in which case you should do everything you can to get into the ivy league school.

Only if you're good enough (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610016)

If you have the abilities to get a good degree, or the personal/social/business contacts to leverage the reputation of the college or university then it could pay dividends. If you're just an average student you'll still be judged by what you can do and not by where you went to university.

it's like buying a top of the range car. If you're a good enough driver to make use of the high performance then you'll reap the rewards. If you aren't interested in pushing the limits and only use it for day-to-day driving to the shops, or commuting then you might as well save your money (personal vanity notwithstanding) and spend the cash you save for something else.

All about networking, not degree. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610020)

I'm posting anonymously because I don't want to sound like i'm bragging.

I have worked with people much smarter than myself, and with far more education, but I make more money than any of the peers i work with.

Right now I've managed to find people with startups, taking over their technology in exchange for equity and very meager wages. I now own part of multiple profitable companies and I'm making enough money to be worried about the Obama tax cuts. Seriously, I'm making more money than I ever imagined i would while I was in college.

Why do people who go to Harvard, Yale or Brown seem to do well? Because the type of person that can even get into that school is going to have a higher chance of succeeding than the person who is too lazy to finish community college and would rather spend a night playing World of Warcraft than learning a new concept or technology relating to your field of study or career.

The bottom line is this, you're not going to break out of a $100k(sh) year salary range unless you figure out how to market yourself and partner with people who can sell. As engineers, we're living in a fantasy world of the merits of our brilliant ideas and technology will sell the product itself. It's flatly not true in my experience. You have to network, and if you don't know how to network, give up your product to someone that will. If you do that, that person could make you rich.

But back to schooling, I do believe expensive colleges are worth it. There is a reason that a number of the billionaires of our generation have come out of schools like that. People there are connected, they have family with money and resources, importantly the capital to get new ideas off the ground.

If i can give anyone advice, it's to realize what your talents are, and be realistic where your shortcomings are. You have to round-out your technology with marketing, as much as it burns.

Go to a "name" school for the highest degree (2)

Burdell (228580) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610030)

If you have the money (or want the debt), go to a "name" school for the highest degree you plan to pursue. If you set out to get a Masters degree, then you can get your Bachelors at a less recognized school (such as a decent quality state school). You just don't want to get the lower degree(s) from a low-quality school (e.g. no accreditation, bad reputation, degree mill, etc.), because that could impact your ability to get into the higher-level program. For the most part, once you have the higher-level degree, nobody cares where you started, so don't waste money and effort (e.g. busting your ass for good grades at a high-difficulty school, when an easier program somewhere else would get you to the next level) at the beginning.

If you aren't sure about the higher-level degree, or you don't always have good follow-through, go ahead and go to a bigger "name" school to start with.

Name school undergrad. (2)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610314)

The purpose of the big name school for undergrad is the contacts. Because either these people have money, or have skills in a greater degree than that of your state school counterparts (on an average, there are brains from state schools too). If your a brain, you can impress the people who will have money, if you've got money, you can shop for underfunded brains. And in some cases the students are also looking to get their MrS, of which its nice to snag someone of funds, all things being equal.
Contacts can make a whole world of difference.

Mathematically... (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610034)

How would you calculate the average worth of a college that costs money compared to any university in for example Sweden, where you're actually paid some money to attend? Worth/monetary unit should be pretty good for most people.

Self-selection of successful people (1)

jadavis (473492) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610036)

It's not about the quality of the education, or even the prestige of the institution on your resume.

It's about being around the people most driven to be successful. It drives you to try equally hard to succeed, gives you an opportunity to learn from people who are or will be successful, and allows you to build relationships with the people most likely to need you as a business partner or employee later.

Does it help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610054)

As a tie-breaker yes it does. As a way to get into large companies earlier in your career, yes it does. I'm sure there are other places it makes a good bit of difference with smaller and mid-sized companies. That said, after about 5 years of experience in a major market with large company it becomes much less important than your experience and what you've done at companies and on projects of comparable size to whatever job you're after is about to do. Also your interpersonal skills soon eclipse your educational pedigree once you've been at a place long enough to start advancing within the internal structure of a company.

some of the nation's wealthiest are good old boys (2)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610066)

some of the nation's wealthiest are good old boys where there family will get jobs any ways and they don't need to go to any College but do so as part the high class system.

Is going to a University at all worth the cost? (3, Interesting)

JakFrost (139885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610080)

Is going to a University at all worth the cost?

I was a computer geek from elementary school and knew where my career was heading. After an addiction to Ultima Online that resulted in too many absences I was given a choice of retaking a whole 6-month semester of high-school and being separated from my peers or dropping out of school. After a few months lounging around and playing the game some more I went to work in a large computer chain doing desktop and printer repairs, then worked as a junior server & desktop admin at an account firm trying to become a Dot-com, then started as a Wintel Server Admin (Systems Analyst) in a major Wall Street investment bank, and after 9/11 I worked for most of Wall Street firms as a contractor doing essentially the same thing making well over 6-figures.

When the last economic slump hit even New York I took a position last year to move to Houston Texas to work for a major health care/hospital organization and I've been working as a Senior Windows Server Admin. I'm much happier now in this new city and the quality of life here is much better than what I had in NYC, even though I took a 20% pay cut but still remained in the 6-figure range with a higher or equal pay rate than some who have gone to universities.

That's my story and I sometimes wonder how it would have turned out if I did go to a university? Would I have been working at a more difficult and prestigious job than a server admin making more money? Would I be happier? Or would I have turned out like some of my friends who went to college and came back no smarter or more educated but with a large financial debt making half as much money as I am?

Re:Is going to a University at all worth the cost? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610318)

Yes, your experience in an economic boom and before HR got their hands into IT is exactly how everyone should live their lives.

Re:Is going to a University at all worth the cost? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610348)

Is going to a University at all worth the cost?

I was a computer geek from elementary school and knew where my career was heading. After an addiction to Ultima Online that resulted in too many absences I was given a choice of retaking a whole 6-month semester of high-school and being separated from my peers or dropping out of school. After a few months lounging around and playing the game some more I went to work in a large computer chain doing desktop and printer repairs, then worked as a junior server & desktop admin at an account firm trying to become a Dot-com, then started as a Wintel Server Admin (Systems Analyst) in a major Wall Street investment bank, and after 9/11 I worked for most of Wall Street firms as a contractor doing essentially the same thing making well over 6-figures.

When the last economic slump hit even New York I took a position last year to move to Houston Texas to work for a major health care/hospital organization and I've been working as a Senior Windows Server Admin. I'm much happier now in this new city and the quality of life here is much better than what I had in NYC, even though I took a 20% pay cut but still remained in the 6-figure range with a higher or equal pay rate than some who have gone to universities.

That's my story and I sometimes wonder how it would have turned out if I did go to a university? Would I have been working at a more difficult and prestigious job than a server admin making more money? Would I be happier? Or would I have turned out like some of my friends who went to college and came back no smarter or more educated but with a large financial debt making half as much money as I am?

You're a Senior Windows Server Admin?

I'm not sure I can think of a job that I would hate more.perhaps prison bitch at state penitentiary.

Bollocks (0)

edittard (805475) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610098)

Researchers say that alumni of the most selective colleges earn, on average, 40 percent more a year than those who graduated from the least selective public universities, as calculated 10 years after they graduated from [huh?-Ed] and found that 'attendance at an elite private college significantly increases the probability of attending graduate school, and more specifically graduate school at a major research university.'

That is NOT a correct sentence. Even if you removed the superfluous preposition it would still, quite frankly, be a shit one.

Depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610116)

In general a hiring manager is going to rate schools in this order. A few employers have a complicated, convoluted system, most places do not beyond a cursory background check.
1. The school they went to.
2. Schools they have heard are prestigious.
3. Every other accredited college.
4. Not accredited colleges.
5. No college.

it's merely the effect of expectations (4, Interesting)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610118)

After I graduated from MIT and went out into the "real world", everyone was like, we'll hire you because you can do anything. And if there was any truth in that, it came mostly as self-fulfilling prophecy; I owe much of my success to the simple faith my first bosses gave me. Tell anyone that they'll be great in some way they haven't yet realized and get them to really believe it and see what happens. The effect of a high-value degree is a double-edged sword, though, as it can set internal expectations that are extremely difficult to shed. I have to say, looking back, the effect of the education itself was quite inconsequential.

A state school was the best investment for me (2)

gotfork (1395155) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610146)

I went to a public high school with a intense IB program (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Baccalaureate). I worked hard and got into several very competitive private schools, and was hella excited until I got the financial aid package from each of them which wanted my family to pay 1/3rd of the income each year to send me there. Factoring in what my family could realistically have paid, I would have had to take out ~100k in loans for four years. I was pretty bummed out, and I ended up going to my state's flagship public university (not particularly well known for what I wanted to study) -- the same one as many of the B students in my class. Nuts.

...

However, it all worked out for the best. I had a small scholarship and because the tuition was so low I was able to graduate with no debt. I was in the honors program and had my pick of the most interesting classes and professors. My department was pretty small, and I was able to join a research group my freshman year and got a lot of valuable experience in microelectronic fabrication. Also because my school had relatively loose course requirements (unlike U Chicago for example) I was able to take whatever I wanted my senior year (Jackson and Sakurai to all you physics buffs). I had my pick of graduate schools, and I ended up with a fellowship to my favorite. While some of my peers are struggling with their loan payments, I can think about a house. Even more importantly, I also have the freedom to take an interesting but low-paying job when I graduate.

At the end of high school I felt pretty jaded about how it all turned out, but now I see it was for the best. YMMV, but worked out well for me.

success != income (1)

heironymous (197988) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610164)

I realize that the article was specifically about costs and return on investment but... Can somebody else join me in challenging the idea that money is why we should educate ourselves?

Elite Education, EH? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610176)

Come to canada... top education for half the cost!

Effort + Luck = Results (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610236)

Effort - what it takes to win a place in a more selective school. Also, if you do not have money, the effort to go after and win scholarships.

Luck - Luck to have the cash or simply the location to go to a more selective school. Some would call it luck to be in a family where effort is encourages - nay - demanded from their children.

Result are based on the individual, but backed by effort and luck. You need both in this life.

I came from a modest family - military brat. We didn't have any money. I was a B student in high school - in all the AP classes available. A student in math and science. Became an aerospace engineer from a top 10 school - not elite. That school was fairly cheap - about $250/semester in tuition at the time. Now it is $3500/year for a similar student. Only 22 people graduated with my degree that year, more than 200 were in the freshmen class. I call that "highly selective."

I'm retired now (mid 40s), but money has not driven me in years. I'm not rich or wealthy, but I can do pretty much what I like, when I want. The TSA still grabs my junk. I cannot afford to buy my children into a "highly selective school in the North East" or pay $40K+yr anywhere else. They will go to a state school and whether they are successful in life or not will be up to them, not some alumni network.

I prefer beer over wine.

Don't be fooled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610278)

I just want to pop in and say, as an Ivy League graduate, and Ivy League graduate student that many of you have etirely the wrong idea about how these schools operate.

I hear people that didn't go to a top school absolutely lambaste the educational quality of these institutions, saying that they are massive uncaring schools, with poor educators and that the education doesn't do much for your bottom line. If it does, they say, it is because of blue-blood connections made there. This just is not true.

The quality of an Ivy League education is unparalleled. The classes are well taught, difficult, and varied, and if the student puts in the work to excell, they will exit the school well rounded and very well educated. In addition, being surrounded by very smart students does a lot for a person.

The Ivy League is not for students that want to roll in and roll out with a degree they can immediately cash out on. Many students do this, but the educational mission of these schools is not to prepare graduates for employment, it is to educate. If you are attending college as part of that foolish modern American notion that college=a million dollars the day after graduation, you are better off somewhere else. If your intellectual development is most important, then you won't be dissatisfied.

There are many affordable, excellent institutions that are way more in line with career training goals that may be better for some, but don't act like top schools are a scam or a waste of time. They are top for a reason.

Branding is a big deal, but not the only deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34610340)

Ask anybody to buy one of several similar laptops from a lineup, and they will probably choose a Dell over some no-name brand. Branding works in consumer electronics just as much in education. At face value, my degree (with honors) from a state school is worth a lot less that a similar degree belonging to an intelligent slacker who got into Stanford.

That being said, I did undergraduate research, I presented that research in poster sessions of several industry conferences, and I entered and won a competition based on my work. I was also the president of a scholastic club.

My research, my campus involvement, and some pretty awesome letters of recommendation do a lot to make up for what I lack in branding. As with many things in life, you really have to work hard for a good deal, and education is no exception. I also have to live with the knowledge that when I am competing with equally driven and qualified individuals who did graduate from a well branded university, my alma mater will remain a handicap.

Go to a flagship state university (2)

guacamole (24270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34610346)

A lot of states have terrific public universities. Just to name a few: California, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Washington, Arizona, North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, Maryland, and a few others have top public schools that are exceptionally good. The most important thing though is to have a focus on your career goals from early on. Set a goal from early on, and work on it. Don't wander around lecture halls and departments until your the end of junior year to find a major that fits you and then pick some lib arts major like political science or history. You'll end up with a lousy career. Think of a career path you like, think about subjects that you like, and think about how being in college can help you get there.

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