What is better to get out of college, good grades and prestige or social skills

Assume two people go to university. One studies hard while the other goes to bars, hangs out with friends and meets people instead of studying hard. The first person goes to a high prestige college like Caltech or Harvard for their undergrad degree while the other person goes to a state college like the University of Georgia. Person A studies about 40 hours a week and person B spends about 40 hours a week socializing, learning how to ‘read’ people, how to settle arguments, how to communicate, etc. This goes on to graduate school when person A goes to MIT and person B goes to another run of the mill school. Person A gets A’s in everything while person B has a C+ average.

At the end, who is better off? I think person B will be better off because social skills come in handy in every area of life while good grades and college prestige are largely just used to feel superior to other people. One of my professors went to MIT, but now he is working at the same university as people who went to places like Ohio State. He probably worked his ass off to get there, but at the end of the day he is in no better of a position than people who got C averages and went to no name universities.

I remember reading once that being able to show an employer that you fit in psychologically with the other workers was more important than having the best job skills for a job. Many people have the job skills, but only some people will have the ability to fit in and get along with everyone.

So overall i’d say its better to learn social skills than to go to a prestigious university and get good grades. The social skills will come in handy at home with family, at work, in job interviews, and endless other places. The prestigious university and good grades just let the recipient feel smarter than other people and offer few tangible benefits. Who disagrees.

Just what I’d expect to hear from someone at the #1 party school in the nation. :wink:

Haha, kidding, how’s B’ton?

“Better off” is so subjective. Some employers might look for compatible people, but not necessarily the one you are applying to. The one you are applying to might look at gpa. Then it’s not going to help you too much that “some employers” look for partyers. I know many people, when given a huge stack of resumes that would take forever to read, narrow them down by pitching resumes with gpas under 3.5, or 3.0, or whatever. One thing is for sure, gpa will mean a lot more while looking for your first job than it will after you have some work experience. When you have no work experience they have nothing else to go on.

I personally would rather have someone with a high gpa and good social skills. The two are not mutually exclusive. I spent my fair share of time in Kilroy’s, and I don’t feel like my social skills are better because of it. Passing out and pissing on the floor usually doesn’t count as “networking.”

Well, I think perhaps you’ve neglected the most important thing one can get out of college - at least by my opinion. And that is, good work habits, self-motivation and some necessary research skills.

Swings and roundabouts innit.

There are people out there who wished they’d studied harder, as their poor degree is holding them back.

And there are people out there who wished they’d partied harder, as they spent all their time in books rather than with people.

I’m mid-way between the two - I studied hard at uni (although not obsessively) and wished I’d gone out a bit more, but I’m making up for it now… but I have a good job with excellent prospects that I would not have got with lower grades.

Ask me again when I’m 80 years old and I’ll be able to give you a definitive answer :slight_smile:

Best strategy is to “work hard, play hard” - 40 hours a week still leaves loads of time for beer bongs and casual sex. :wink:

Well, I went to two prestigeous colleges. Not MIT or Harvard prestigeous but highly ranked nevertheless. The answer is ‘both’.

Generally the guy from Harvard or Wharton is not competing with the guy from Bumblefuck State College for the same jobs. Harvard Guy might be competing for an analyst job at Merryll Lynch in London or a jr consulting job with Booze Allen in NYC while BS College guy might find himself doing project finance for some regular company somewhere in the suburbs.

Can the BS guy get into those companied? Possibly - maybe through an operations or IT track. It would be tough to get in though because for the most part really prestigeous firms recruit through a select list of schools they have already built relaionships with. That means that while Harvard Guy is competing against a pool of n Harvard classmates BS guy is in the pool of 1000s online resumes. And even if he gets in, he’s still in a back office function instead of the main analyst/B-school/associate/manager/MD track.

So basically simply going to a better school opens up doors that are not even open. You still need the grades though because at that level, there is a lot of competition.

“But I don’t want to work for those high pressure jobs” you might say. That’s ok. There are other jobs. They don’t pay as well, but they’re also a lot less stressful. And lets face it, if you couldn’t get into a top school, you probably wouldn’t make it as a Private Equity Analyst or Management Consultant anyhow.

“Good social skills” does not include an ability to rock at Quarters or drink tequila until you puke. In fact, a lot of those guys actually have horrible social skills - loud, rude, obnoxious, drug and alchohol issues. Not exactly a big crowd-pleaser in corporate America (except maybe on a trading floor).

As mentioned, they aren’t mutually exclusive skills. My college is a very prestigeous engineering school and a huge party school. We used to have jacket and tie cocktail parties like little yuppie kids every weekend (as well as the regular parties). Certain a valuable skill in the real world. Not so much with Beruit (AKA beer pong) marathons.

So in conclusion, go to the best school you can get into. Get the best grades you can.

Best results come from mixing social skills with academic skills in college.
Focus exclusively on either, and you’re screwing yourself.

I look at it this way. Grades can only take you so far. Grades may open door for you, but not necessarily. Maybe in the short term, the guy with stellar grades will be better off than the guy with average grades but after that there is a uncertainty. Why isn’t every valedictorian a billionaire? How can there be so many college drop out billionaires? That’s the mystery. I think that it’s a balance between studying and socializing.

And think about this: many Dopers are here in Great Debates while going to college. I doubt much of the discussion is related to college homework. Are you getting an "A’ for debating these topics, are you getting paid? No. Learning, which is happening right here, is something that is intrinsic. And education should never stop at college.

For me it’s been about getting “an edge” in the field I want to work in (regional government administration).

I got a place on a fast-track management position which means I’m two or three years ahead of the game compared to colleagues my own age.

What I do with it from here is entirely down to me - I could rest on my laurels and coast along, and I’ll go no-where. But the edge my university grades gave me means I beat off 300 other applicants for this position, but what I do with it from now on has zip to do with uni and everything to do with me.

I was recruited by a senior Director in our administration, and the first thing he said to me when I called in for a “chat about the job” was ‘Oh, I see you played football [soccer] for your college… we used to play you chaps when I was at Cambridge, seem to recall we wiped the floor with you’. I commented on his college cufflinks, and 30 mins later the job was mine. I’d been through the tough selection procedure on my own merits, but the fact I’d done well enough as an undergraduate to get a post-graduate place at Cambridge meant that I got one foot in the door.

Hard graft will get you anywhere you want to be, but corking grades makes it happen that little bit more easily.

(I’d also say that the type of person who’s driven to succeed at university is likely to be driven enough to succeed at whatever they do, whether they had the chance to go to university or not.)

I think the social skills are more important and more applicable in general. However, going out and drinking doesn’t necessarily help you become a more likable and sociable person. I find most people are like that naturally.

In addition, I think ivy league educations tend to be more valuable because of the name, not because you learn more. If you work in competitive field like finance, it will help you because many of the people you work for will have gone to your school or a similar school. The fact that your boss also went to Harvard is a type of social currency that all the jokes and personality can’t compete with. A well regarded school’s reputation precedes its students, and provides them with credibility that others have to work to earn. In that regard, it is important, but I think most people work in a more static work environmoent where advancement is based on good work and personality.

As has been pointed out, this is a false dichotomy.

Going to bars is not a great way to learn social skills. Not the ones you need in the real world any way. Good grades do not mean a good education. Both assumptions show a bit of naivite.

The most important thing to do in college is to obtain a good education with an emphasis on critical thinking skills. Grades and reputation may or may not well correlate. The grades and the prestige may get you looked at, but long term the education will win out.

Just like in the rest of life it is important to maintain some balance. Isolating ones self is rarely good for ones long term functioning in society. But one presumes that one doesn’t need college to teach one to play nice.

Damn straight that social smarts are extremely important for career success. Partying is not equal to social smarts. Being able to discuss the merits of different martinis and wet T-shirt contest results is not per se bettter than being able to discuss philosophy and literature and science.

I think you’re confusing things by conflating two separate questions: (1) is it better to go to a prestigious university than a no-name school, and (2) is it better to spend most of your time trying to get good grades or socializing? It’d be a clearer question if you had your Persons A & B going to the same school; or if you had them going to different schools but focusing on the same things.

My answer to (#1): A college/university can be “prestigious” for a number of different reasons, some of which are related to the quality of education a student gets there, some not. It can, for instance, expose you to some really top-notch professors and fellow students. This one would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis depending on the particular school(s), the particular student(s), and what they want to get out of college.

My answer to (#2): A lot depends on the career or path in life the student intends to pursue. It also depends on whether you want to focus on grades for their own sake, or on what the grades measure (which could vary or be different at different schools)—hard work? intelligence? knowledge gained? originality of thought? ability to meet requirements and play by the rules?

I’ll add: Why is your Person B going to college at all? If the only thing he’s interested in is socializing and developing his people skills, there are other environments where that can be accomplished.

Also, another reason some people get good grades is that they are competitive as hell, or who place high demands upon themselves to excell, and these are positive work-place traits of their own, above and beyond whatever you may have learned. As a teacher, I’ve found that people that are willing to cut corners and settle on grades tend to be pepole that are willing to cut corners and settle overall, whereas people who tend to challenge theselves in school will tend to continue to challenge themselves in everything.

Furthermore, “socailizing” can happen in an academic setting: I learned a great many social skills in study groups, and in mixers hosted by faculty. In fact, my first experiences “mingling” on a professional, networking-type level were all in receptions following big-name speakers at my University. And an academic department is possibly the most political enviroment around: being active in your department is a crash course in back-stabbing, underhanded, subtle office/professional politics.

Put me in the “Attitude and Skills” camp.
I work for a company that has a fetish about PhDs. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not inherently bad people, but here’s the thing: No matter what you studied at school, and no matter how hard you worked, you didn’t learn what we do and how we do it. Every company works differently. This means we will have to teach you what and how we want you to do things. The problem I see again and again is that freshly-minted PhDs, having just spent 4-6 years of their lives chasing down a very specific and tightly delineated research project, tend to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t revolve around that particular axis. They tend to try and fit everything into a perspective of what they were trained to do. Simple things tend to turn into 6-month research projects, as opposed to getting a perfectly acceptable down-and-dirty answer that should only take a day or two. Also, they tend to think that a PhD means that they now know everything and (in my experience) have a hard time saying “I don’t know,” or having that fact pointed out to them. They also are very resistant to learning anything new, especially if it’s outside their field of study.

So give me someone who’s been around the block a few times. Someone who’s not afraid to ask stupid questions, who’s aware of the gaping holes in their knowledge, but are confident and experienced enough to know how to fill them in, and actually do it.
I don’t care what school they went to, nor what their degree is in. If they can get the job done, can convey information in a readily-grapsed manner, and are reasonably pleasant to be around, they’re in.

Wesley Clark, I disagree with your analysis. First, as several have noted, it’s a rather extreme dichotomy that you describe. The other aspect depends on the intent of the graduate. Both of your students go on to graduate school. It’s a cert the C+ student would be wise not to mention his/her GPA when interviewing, as graduate work is generally expected to be B+ or better work.

Let’s discuss this in terms of economic returns to higher education. Again, if the goal is to get a great job immediately after college, I’m of the opinion that your Harvard grad is going to come up a winner primarily because of his/her better performance in school (a productivity argument - student appears to have learned more) and to a lesser extent, because of the fact that he/she attended Harvard (a signalling argument - school appears to be “better” than the others). This would be mitigated by a strong performance in undergrad from your state school student, as Harvard/Caltech types are relatively rare and most employers likely feel that a comprehensive state institution is plenty prestigious - especially if they went there, or they have a particularly strong football team…

There have been quite a few studies on this - I’ll cite Hoxby (1998), Hoxby and Long (1999), and Dale and Krueger (1999) (Note I don’t know the names of these studies; I took a class on economics and higher education and they’re in my lecture notes). The general rule is this: given the option of attending a highly selective institution (think Caltech) and a significantly less selective one (think Mantako State), over a lifetime the Caltech student will earn more. However, as I said, a strong performance at any institution would likely serve both students quite well.

Dale and Krueger point out that among the highly selective schools - let’s compare a Yale with a Bard College - there is something called the “Spielberg effect” - students will do as well at Bard as they would do at Yale. However, students who are from lower socioeconomic strata and first-generation students do benefit from the Yale brand, probably because they have less access to networks from their family, neighborhood, etc.

At my institution we have huge master’s cohorts, and significantly smaller doctoral cohorts. For students here, the signal of attending a highly selective graduate school will likely assist them greatly in the job search - though there is the “backlash” factor, where some interviewers expect the candidate to know all there is to know about a topic because they attended Fancy University (yes, I’ve been on the receiving end). But that is by no means the predominant experience. What I tell students - and I think this is where I find some agreement with you, Wesley Clark, is that it is probably more important to make some solid connections with classmates, alumni, and faculty than it is to make all A’s and do little networking. If in your hypothetical, the state college student wants to work in real estate, and he’s networking with people in the field, and friends and family in the field, he/she is doing a good job with the networking but it isn’t going to compensate for a miserable academic record.

The fact is, alumni and peers are often in positions to hire and appoint positions, and in a one-year master’s program, it’s assumed if you graduated, you did well. It would be far more impressive to walk into an interview with a glowing letter of rec from a prof than to walk in with a perfect GPA and generic “well, this guy made an A in my class” letter.

bizzwire, I think the signal that a Ph.D. gives is that the person is capable of conceptualizing and executing a complex project from soup-to-nuts. A Ph.D. is also a signal of a strong analytical bent, but of course these things all have their place - not much logic in spending months figuring out a solution that should be done rather quickly. I’d think that if those qualities aren’t important in those jobs, Ph.D.s are a poor fit for those positions. But I know doctoral students here that can organize like you wouldn’t believe and are ruthlessly efficient… a Ph.D. is not going to transform your work style, you’ll just earn the degree in the way you work already.

oh, and Manda JO? That’s an incredibly terse, yet accurate description of academia!

It’s not an and/or thing. A good college not only gives you good prestige, but it provides an opportunity to learn more sophisticated social skills and develop a better social network. Yeah we had keggers and beer blasts in college. We also had jacket and tie coctail parties every weekend too. My fraternity brothers work in investment banks, law firms, consulting firms and Fortune 500 companies. But there’s plenty of people from my college with nothing jobs or who even failed out. Those are the people who who fail to see the “work hard” side of the equation and only party.

“social skills” as defined as a kind of frat house/ post-college 20 something party mentality adds no value in the working world. I see it in my firm now. All our happy hours and beer bashes only succeeded in producing hangovers and lost productivity. It hasn’t reduced retention by a single person. Talented people leave and mediocrity stays. But, hey. They think it’s the best company because everyone has “social skills”. Quality backgrounds are overlooked because “college prestige is largely just used to feel superior to other people”. Hiring is based on the same idiot criteria they use to evaluate each other. End result is a thoroughly mediocre group that can’t see how poor they are.
I can see a world of difference between employees who come from NYU or Columbia vs Rutgers or Fordham. The NYU and Columbia folks are professional and career focused. The Rutgers clowns are still in a post/college 20-something party mentality. They goof off. They glom onto each other like their still in the dorms. Probably the most limiting behavior is how they create barriers between themselves and management. Essentially dooming themselves to permenant worker-bee status while I (at a similar level as the Rutgers guys) am interacting directly with sr management (who happen to be alumni from my college).

I think Paul Graham made the very accurate comment that even if MIT consisted of jamming people into an empty room for 5 hours a day and locking the doors, it would still be worth the money they charge for you to go there. The simple fact of the matter is that smart people go to MIT because other smart people go to MIT and, if you want to meet smart people, then MIT is the place to be.

I’ve tended to find the whole “geeks don’t know how to inteact with people” thing to be a whole lot of bullshit. Geeks are incredibly social but, crucially, they tend to interact with other geeks, given the chance. I would say, at the undergrad level, almost anything you could get at MIT, you could get at a decent state school. Sure, it has a nuclear reactor but, from what I’ve heard, the professors are ordinary to above average at actual teaching and, from a cusorary glance at the literature, some of the most groundbreaking work in many different fields are happing at places like Case Western University, University of Ohio or University of South Carolina. But what you absolutely don’t get is this critical mass of geeks.

Maybe it’s different in business or in arts, but in technology, nearly all the big names have come from a very few schools and I think theres a very good reason for that.

I’ve heard statistics like that before. But I’m sure the Caltech grad with a 4.0 is smart enough to know that there is no guarantee that he will earn more than the guy graduating down the street.

There are a lot of billionaires who dropped out of college, maybe I should too. I know of many world renown Ph.D’s, maybe I should earn the right to have people call me “Doctor”, then I’ll be famous.

The truth is there is no fool-proof road to success.

In fact, I believe it’s been shown that you are less likely to make mega-bucks if you’re highly qualified.

If you look at many of the world’s richest people they often started out age 16 with nothing - Bill Gates was a college drop-out, Alan Sugar and Richard Branson don’t have degrees, and so on.

The reasoning is that educated people are less likely to take careers risks - they think to themselves “Gee, I’m earning £100k as a lawyer / GP / exec… life’s OK, let’s not rock the boat”. This means that when the “big chance” comes along to properly coin it, then hesitate.

If you start with nothing you perhaps are more willing to take risks, and if those risks pay off you make the big time. But for every billionaire who started with nothing, there are 1000s of similar people who guessed wrong.

Basically, educated people tend to play the percentages and (in a career sense) don’t drawn on 19 hand.

:rolleyes: Yeah that’s a good plan. I think you should do that. Do you know how many billionaires there are? A little over 400…in the entire WORLD.

What career risk can a high school dropout take that will payoff better than a six figure job? A lawyer making six figures has disposable income. He can put it into real estate, stocks, business ventures. He has contacts with people who can provide him with information and opportunities.
Statistically you will earn a great deal more as a college grad than a high school grad. Without a college degree, you rarely even have the opportunity to take big risks, let alone see them pay off.