Does Going to a Prestigious College Matter?

It depends on what your expectations are. In business and medicine, it matters more where you studied than in science, engineering, technology, and math disciplines. The curricula across most colleges in these areas are mostly the same. Your business opportunities if you go to, for example, Yale University, may be better due to alumni networks and employer connections. A teacher may not need a prestigious school, but a doctor or CEO might benefit from the accolades.

At the top colleges, almost all students graduate. These institutions begin by only admitting top students, so they’re already predisposed to succeeding. The motivation is already there, but those schools also offer strong support services and the guidance that students need to overcome any challenges in earning their degree. Still, the question of where you go to college and how well you can do later is often asked.

Professional Success Is Possible without a Prestigious College Degree

Many studies have shown that students who graduate prestigious or less selective schools can do equally well. If you have what it takes to appeal to a competitive admissions process, sure that will help you in the business world. However, even the Wall Street Journal has admitted many students can still earn the same salary.

Another consideration is the cost of an elite school. In some fields, earnings after graduating such an institution can be higher. There has been much debate as to whether that offsets the cost of tuition and student debt. The choice of one school over another, over time, can mean the difference of over $100,000. If you earn just a couple thousand more per year by attending a prestigious school, it could take decades of extra salary to cover the extra cost. That is unless generous financial aid is offered.

The Same Attributes Matter Everywhere

Whether you go to Yale or pursue UAB online, your future is more influenced by your work ethic and character. You should focus on doing well no matter where you are. Your grade point average is going to carry much more weight than the name of the school, in most cases. As long as you can demonstrate aptitude and learn, pick a school that works. For example, U.S. News once rated the University of Utah as the best college for aspiring video game designers, even though it was ranked 115th overall nationally, so school choice can weigh more heavily on your interests.

The truth is employers are more focused on skills you can bring to the table. Research has also shown that it is not a major factor in job satisfaction later on or even salary. Then again, that depends on your field of choice. If you plan to go to graduate school, the school where you complete your undergraduate program may matter even less.