Is going to a Big Name school worth it?

A couple of people have asked me advice lately And I was wondering what your views are.
Do you think it is worth it to go to a Harvard or Yale type school? Personally I got accepted at those schools, but didn’t go. Some of my current friends did. Now when I look back at school Im really glad I didn’t go to those and instead went to an easier school(U of Michigan, so it wasn’t exactly a joke school, but it was big enough to have some big cracks to slip though if you looked). As much as I look back at school I don’t remember classes or serious study sessions. I remember screwing around with friends, taking week long road trips and skipping classes, passing out drunk in the middle of a chemistry midterm, and all the various things that parents don’t want to think about. My Harvard, and Stanford friends seem to have fewer memories of this type.I was able to do it because it wasn’t a maximum challenge of my abilities, and there was room to not be serious. When I got out It made no difference in the job market what so ever, and if I met someone who actually looked down me cause I didn’t go to Hahvahd, I wouldn’t be likely to be friends with them anyway.
Anyway back to the original point. Like I said people have been asking my advice about college, and my gut feeling is to tell them don’t push yourself, go to a school where you can have a lot of fun. It really is a time in your life you can’t go back to, so don’t waste it studying in the library. Obviously I’m kind of hesitant about giving this kind of advice so I haven’t, but I really want to. Did anyone get a point later in life and say “damn, I really wish I would have worked harder in High school, so I could have gotten into a school one more notch in ranking”? I realize that if you want to get into Law school or Med school, then it does make a difference, but other than that does it ma6tter if you go to a name school?

Sigh, I’ve been meaning to post this for over a month, finally I get around to logging on and writing it, then I look around and realize a thread about college life had already been started.

A scenario like yours is what kept me out of Princeton. I considered many schools, but finally decided against Ivy League-ing it because of the sacrifice involved. I’m going to the University of Pittsburgh in the fall, which really means nothing to me, since undergraduate school is pretty standard. If figure that I am capable of shouldering the responsibility of graduate studies elsewhere if I choose. I have several friends who have taken the same route, and they are very happy with it.

i definitely agree with you there… go to a school that you’re comfortable with and that you would enjoy more, rather than base your decision on some kind of ranking system, is what i would recommend.

A number of people have told me that undergraduate educations at these universities aren’t all that great because the professors are more interested in research than their youngest students. I went to a well-regarded public university - one of the campuses of the University of California - with an extreme emphasis on undergraduate education (we had something like l0,000 undergrads and 1,000 grad students), and I felt that this was a great advantage. My professors weren’t too busy to talk to me - that was what they were there for.

Basically, don’t beat yourself up over it. I spent my third year abroad and met people who went to Ivy League and other prestigious schools all over the place, and after discussing curriculum and difficulties, I came away with the realization that college is what you make of it. You can get a fantastic education at your local state college if you put enough energy into it, and you can get a crappy education at Stanford. (A school which has no failing grade, and therefore you can do nada and still stick around because you automatically pass every class! And people think narrative evaluations make Santa Cruz graduates look flaky!)

If you’re happy with mediocrity, choose the easier path. And continue to do so in your job choices, friend choices, relationship choices, voting choices, etc.

There are plenty of more ambitious people who will be excited to take the slot at Stanford that you vacate.

Party on, dude…

From what I hear once you’ve been in the workplace a while nobody cares where you got your undergrad. I think it is more important that you get your Masters, Phd… from a well respected school.

See, this is the part that bothers me a little. You will only get out of an educational experience what you put into it. If one really doesn’t want to study; well, it doesn’t matter where you go to school.

I, myself, rejected a full scholarship to Tulane in favor of LSU. Did that mean I didn’t study? Hell no! The curriculum I was in was extremely demanding. Easily more than 50% that enter do not finish. In fact my first semester roommmate used to make fun of me for studying so much while he played pick-up basketball and pledged a frat. Of course, I had the last laugh when he ended up with a 0.9 GPA. They don’t even bother with probation for a 0.9; your ass is gone.

But I digress. Did my undergraduate choice affect my grad school acceptance? Not one whit. I was accepted into one of the top grad schools in the nation for my field.

So, I agree that one shouldn’t necessarily feel compelled to go to a “prestigous” university for name’s sake. If the program you want is there, then go for it. But the Princeton label is just that, a label. I think it was Brooke Shields(?) that went there and didn’t have to take any classes in math, science, or history. How impressed are you with that education? And did it help her career?

It’s just that the choice shouldn’t be made based on how much you think you will be slacking off.

I agree with Bill H. Hell, why bother to attend college at ALL? Why waste time on a silly liberal arts education?

The important thing, after all, is the JOB TRAINING one gets in a graduate program. THAT’S what will steer you to a good, high-paying career, and after you get off work you can come home and sit down to eat your frozen dinner in front of the wide-screen teevee and ingest commercial messages, like you’re supposed to.

Print is dead, anyway. And you can get plenty more drinking done if you don’t have to get up for ANY classes.

Yeah, that’s true, Ike. You went to one of the most prestigious colleges in the U.S., and what do YOU do for a living? You sweep out the mens rooms at Port Authority. Just THINK what you might have done with your life had you attended Assboink Two-Year College!

OK, I didn’t go to Ivy League. I went to Georgetown. The only real thing I got out of it was the year I spent in St. Petersburg.

Of course, I had three strikes against me on this one:

  1. I was a good 5 years older than most of the students in my class.

  2. I came from a working-class background. I just didn’t see things the same way as someone who thought nothing of dropping $200 for a night on the town while $200 for me was two weeks’ pay at my PT job on campus.

  3. Being a Socialist at an institution that was a funnel school for the State Department.

In retrospect I coulda gone someplace and had more fun goofing off, that’s true. But I chose Georgetown because it had a good Russian program, and starting off in the third-year courses as a freshman certainly didn’t hurt.

I guess my take on it is go to a school that’s got good programs in what you’re interested in, not just for the name on the gates. If you’re not sure what you want to do, avoid the big-name places like the plague. Go to a state university or other such institution where there’s a wider variety of things to get involved in and a lot more wiggle room should your interests change.

Is it worth it, eh? That’s a tough question, highly personal, and in the final analysis, you probably won’t know the answer until it’s too late to do anything about it.

From the standpoint of getting a job, then yes, having a diploma from a top-shelf school helps. OTOH, once you have that job, you’d better be able to prove your mettle, or else they’ll think you got the diploma because Dad endowed the new library.

I can only comment on schools in California, but I can tell you that, for the most part, grads from the UC system are viewed as being a little more…uh…just more…than from most other schools. Not that they’re tougher to get accepted, but it’s tougher to stay in once you ARE accepted.

I’m going to make a bunch of sweeping generalities here, so bear with me. (Also, because they’re sweeping generalities, don’t bother trying to refute them…I’m well aware that there are exceptions to my broad statements.)

The education you get at a UC campus is on a par with just about any school in the world. It’s also a bargain, dollar-wise. Basic economics says that if a great product can be had for a low price, there’s going to be a lot of demand for it. Hence, once you get in at a UC, you’d better perform, because if you don’t, there are scads of other people willing to take your place. It makes for a very competitive environment, and it’s sink or swim.

This isn’t quite the same as at the typical private school of similar prestige. Take Stanford, for example. Tough to get in, but once you’re in, there’s a tremendous support system to KEEP you in. They want the tuition bucks to keep rollin’ in, and need you enrolled to get it.

What school you go to is important for just a little while. Eventually, nobody remembers who went where…except for the small minds that remind everybody where THEY went.

I did go to an Ivy League school, and I’ve never regretted it for a second. I worked my ass off - 30 hours a week as a computer tech with a full course load to pay rent and feed myself (not to mention a mnonkey or 2). I studied my ass off, and I finished a four year program with a BS in civil engineering and half an MS in environmental engineeering. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I found time to design and build sets for a small student theater, take road trips, indulge my bad habits (and pick up a few more), and do anything else I felt like I really wanted to.

Basically, I think Kyla’s right:

There were people I went to school with who did nothing but study, and people who did nothing but party. They got out of it what they put into it.

The most important thing I can say is go to a place where you’ll be happy. Not just the school, but the location. The school is what you make of it, but the environment you live in is different, and you’ve got a lot better chance of tailoring a school program to fit you than trying to adapt to a place you don’t want to be in. I never would have made it through 4 years in a big city; instead I had lakes and woods ten minutes from my house whenever I felt like going for a walk. And I knew people who were miserable because the town there wasn’t big enough - I don’t think I ever went one day without hearing “God, I miss Manhattan, there’s nothing here” (this in the biggest town I ever lived in). It’s four years of your life, and it’s a wonderful time, and you shouldn’t spend it wanting to be somewhere else.

I’m still paying for my education, and I will be for another seven years. But I was the happiest kid in the world for 4 ears, and I don’t regret a thing about it.

And Ricepad’s right too - you won’t know until you’re all done. This is just my perspective three years after graduation.

As someone who interviews and hires college graduates, I would say it matter very little attending a big name Ivy league school over a state university. However, there is a difference between State U. and Johnson Community College or the Devry Institute. And once you have 10 or so years on your resume, it only matters to have a degree, no matter what school. I deal with mainly engineers and technical people, it is probably totally different for lawyers & doctors.

The company to which I hired on out of college had five target schools that it mostly hired from - Ga. Tech, MIT, Michigan, Stanford, and Cal Tech - plus local universities. My current company lists the schools from which its employees have graduted as somewhat of a “brag.” Whetherjyou agree with them or not, many companies will consider the school you attend as part of your qualifications.

Like divemaster, I’m an LSU alum. I had scholarship offers from some Ivy League schools; I had a letter of acceptance from MIT that I used as a bargaining chit with the LSU Dean of Engineering. Why didn’t I take those other offers? Lots of reasons–reasons that everyone should probably take into account in their own decisions.
LSU was close to home. I wasn’t the rebellious teen who wants to get AWAY–I love my family and wanted to be close. LSU gave me a really good scholarship setup, which eased the financial burden (though I did have to work the whole time I was in college). I was comfortable with LSU culture and people. The curriculum was adequate, provided you grabbed for additional challenges along the way. A number of my friends were going there; some were already on campus.

As a result, I studied like mad for 4 years–spiced with a little playtime, of course, but nothing like LSU’s “party school” image–and came away with a very good GPA and quite a bit of engineering theory that has since proved utterly useless beyond securing a decent job right out of college. If you apply yourself, and look for your own challenges, the school you choose for your Bachelors generally doesn’t matter for very long after graduation. Your job experience quickly takes precedence in most cases.

Silo wrote

Well that’s true, but every stage in life feeds the next. After you’ve been in the job market for a few years, no one cares where you went to grad school either, they just care about your last job or two.

You should do the best you can at whatever stage in life you’re at. And I’m not just talking about making the most money you can; if ballet dancing or parenting or politics is important to you, do it to the best of your ability.

If it is not important to you to accomplish something in this life, go party it up! Just stay out of the way of those of us who do want to accomplish something.

Anybody who thinks Harvard or Yale, etc., can give you a better education than any other reasonable university is practicing cultural elitism and snobbery. Knowledge is available to anybody looking for it, and you only get out of school what you put into it.

I graduated from Virginia Tech, and I have no doubt that my education was as good as I could have gotten anywhere.(Not to mention I was financially solvent when I graduated!)

A degree from Harvard or Yale may open some powerful doors more easily, but only for the reason above.

To anyone making the college decision: Are you going to school to learn something, or is it just a path to higher earning power?

my opinion is that if you were accepted to a great school, go for it, do the best you can, because in the real world, it’s not neccesarily how well you did in school, but whether you actually learned something and graduated. Your’e going to learn all the real stuff on the job anyway, it’s the only way. But if you’re given the chance at a prime education, why turn it down? The name does matter to a lot of people and businesses, so you’re only doing yourself a favor. forget the elitesm, snobbery theories, and go with what your gut tells you is the sensible, reasonable and smart way to go. The better job you get in the end, from going to a great school, the better chance you have at paying off your loans and such later on. I never went to any amazing school, unless FIT counts as amazing, i knew more than my professors, but the name is what got me my job, and i’m making decent money for my age. The important thing is that i got an education where i learned a little at least to help me on my way out into the real world, and anything else i didn’t know i learned on the job. Billy H. and Uke have it right.
don’t become complacent and settle for mediocrity.
if you should aim for the mark, than aim above it - i believe that was Longfellow who said that. if you’re going to go for something big, go for it all the way and more if you can, otherwise, why go for it at all?