Is it worth it to go to an elite college? | The Tylt
Is it worth it to go to an elite college?
According to the U.S. News rankings, the top five colleges and universities are:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Four of these schools are part of the Ivy League, and one is consistently among the top universities in the country. These institutions are highly selective—Princeton only accepted 5.7 percent of applicants in its latest class—and represent the brightest young minds in the nation.
Going to an elite school means you will be surrounded by like-minded individuals capable of challenging you, and, hopefully, teaching you something. The intellectual climate at top universities cannot be replicated in full at other schools.
There's nothing wrong with attending an elite college, but your success in life is not predicated on a diploma from a certain school. As the Washington Post's Jeffrey J. Selingo points out, the top colleges in the country enroll less than 6 percent of U.S. college students. Surely, more than 6 percent of college graduates are making an impact across the country.
Selingo refers to New York Times columnist Frank Bruni's new book for insight. In "Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be," Selingo says:
Bruni points out...that among the American-born chief executives of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500, just about 30 went to an Ivy League school or equally selective college.
Most students and parents are rightfully focused on the best way to get a job after college and believe that going to a top university will secure them the best gig. Selingo disputes:
Many recruiters tell [Bruni] they are much more focused on the experience of a candidate than where they went to school. And as Bruni points out when the Wall Street Journal asked recruiters the best universities for their entry-level hires, the top five were Penn State, Texas A&M, the University of Illinois, Purdue, and Arizona State. They are all brand-name schools, but they’re also public universities and hardly elite.
There's a financial incentive to attending an Ivy League school. According to the Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham:
10 years after starting college, the typical Ivy League grad earns more than twice as much as the typical graduate of other colleges. In fact, the median Ivy graduate -- say, your solid B- Harvard student -- is making more money than the top 10 percent of graduates at other schools.
The fact of the matter is, no matter what your brains might be, the Ivy League community is a strong one. The network from these schools alone might make your investment worthwhile. These schools pump out scholars and ambitious twenty-somethings, creating a never-ending cycle of successful people to help out the latest class of graduates to secure a prestigious job.
Your undergrad diploma might also make a difference in where you are accepted for graduate school. Elite colleges carry a certain reputation that other schools lack, and if you would like to attend one of these elite schools for medical or law school, it can only help you to already be a part of the elite community.
If you're a smart, ambitious high school student who dreams of going to Harvard, going to your state school doesn't suddenly suck all of those brains and dreams out of you. In fact, choosing to go to a public, in-state school might have much more of an impact on your life; if you don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off once you graduate, you could have a different kind of leg-up on you Ivy League peers.
For most...applicants, it simply doesn’t really matter if they don’t get into their top choice, according to a paper by Stacy Dale, a mathematician at Mathematica Policy Research, and Alan Krueger, an economist at Princeton University.
These researchers tracked two groups of students—one that attended college in the 1970s and another in the early 1990s. They wanted to know: Did students attending the most elite colleges earn more in their 30s, 40s, and 50s than students with similar SAT scores, who were rejected from those elite colleges? The short answer was no. Or, in the author's language, the difference between the students who went to super-selective schools and the students with similar SAT scores who were rejected from those schools and went to less selective institutions was 'indistinguishable from zero.'
Meaning, the name of your university does not matter. What matters is your dedication to education. Sure, doors might open for Ivy-League students that might not for you, but your school will have its own alumni network to take advantage of, and if the insight above proves true, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to their success.
Rather than stress about how many schools you apply to and which ones you'll be accepted to, Thompson highlights a different problem for both sides to focus on:
Meanwhile, the majority of 'low-income, high achieving students'—those with SAT scores above the 90th percentile, but from the poorest 25 percent of households—aren’t being rejected from Harvard and Brown. But that’s because they’re extremely unlikely to apply in the first place.
Elite colleges are most valuable for the students they are least likely to admit—and least valuable for the students they are most likely to admit. More than the size and weight of many thousand envelopes currently in the mail, that is an admissions dilemma worth fretting about.