Does the college name count?

So I’m a sophomore in HS right now and starting to look at colleges. So far two vantage points have been thrown at me.

Go to a smaller school, get your bachelors degree and then go to a big name school (MIT, CMU, Caltech, etc.) to get your graduates degree.
From basic logic, I know this will save me money. Compare a $7,000 UCONN in-state tuition to a $40,000 MIT tuition. However, when I go for a job interview at Big Company after graduating from UCONN, will someone with a degree from MIT get a better shot at a job then me?

Go to a big name school for your bachelors. The bigger name will get you bigger jobs.
Well, this would cost me a lot more money, but if it’s true I may also be able to pay that student loan off faster. Does the “Wow, that guy went to School X!?” factor count much in a hiring process?

So, from your experience, does going to a bigger name school get you more/better jobs than going to someplace smaller?

The pedigree of the college you go to, the grades you earn while there, and the activities that you engage in above and beyond your course work all count. The pedigree counts because potential employers know the competition is stiffer, the level of instruction steps up to this higher bar, and you will be driven to work harder and learn more as a result. By the same token, it is easier to “stand out” in a “top 50” school, as opposed to a “top 5” school.

My advice would be to go to the best school that you can get into and can reasonably afford. If you find that you can afford only a state school, you should not worry too much about that. The best graduate schools do pick from the top students available from a reasonably broad spectrum of schools.

I graduated with a BS in Physics from University of Maryland in 1977, without carrying any debt. I had state scholarships that covered about half the costs and I earned the rest by working during the school year (after the freshman year) and during summers. I did some experimental work during my last two years there that was published. The experimental work was likely key to getting an opportunity to go to graduate school at Caltech and I graduated from there with a Phd in theoretical physics, again without debt. The old adage, “be careful of what you wish for,” does apply here. Those were glorious, but highly stressful days…

Just as participation in FIRST can generate opportunities with respect to college, participation in research and development efforts while in college can generate opportunities with respect to graduate school and you should seek them out. Potential employers will also appreciate seeing these things on your resume.

From what I’ve heard (via an MIT information session, they’re really good about getting you people to talk to), graduates from an MIT have like upwards of 5 or ten job offers before they even finish school. Sounds pretty great. However, the money is an issue, and you’re really not getting any more education necesarily, it’s just of a different type. You will still, eventually, need a graduates degree, probably.

However, with the really good schools, it’s not an issue of money so much as an issue of getting accepted. As soon as you’re accepted, the college tries to get you as much aid as you need. MIT said that, though they offer no acedemic scholarships, the average student recieved enough aid to lower the price down to only a few thousand more than state schools, like 16,000 a year, room and board included. As far as Pennsylvania goes, I think our total tuition/room&board comes to around 13,000-18,000, no aid. For a few thousand more, the better name on your diploma is far worth the money. The problem is, getting accepted. Everyone wants into MIT, and they only accept something like 1500 a year, of which 1000 actually go. Pretty freaking difficult.

But, don’t be discouraged; engineers have to come from somewhere, and somewhere might be some rural town in nowhere! I’d better hope so, or else I’m in trouble!

14% of first year applicants were accepted.

Mike - It’s great that you’re looking at this now.

Your first priority should be atmosphere. MIT will have a different atmosphere than U Conn, which will have a different atmosphere than say, a small liberal arts college. I highly recommend applying to schools across the spectrum. Try to apply to a couple schools with Rolling Admission. These schools analyze applications “first come, first served”, so you can get your app in during September and be accepted by November, giving you a chance to consider what you want and compare financial aid.

Whichever school is the best for you will be the best one to get you a job. I would say that in undergraduate, it doesn’t matter, and many professors and other people I know have taught me that for a long time. I’ll be very honest, if you are wanting to go to grad school, it is what you do during undergrad that determines where you to go grad. Most people rate PhDs by where they went to grad school, not where they got Bachelor’s. I would say if you are going for just bachelor’s, try to get to a big name school, but if you want a PhD I think there is more flexiblity, and you could choose the less expensive option. Good luck with everything!

Visit both of them, whichever you like better… go to it…thinking about it this way could drive you nuts…

There are a few factors to keep in mind. The biggest one is finding a general field of study that you’re interested in. Keep in mind that you might change majors, even if it’s a change within the same school/department. Then find a school that is well known for producing great students in that field. 100% job placement is a great thing to hear too, because that’s ultimately why you’re going to college. Cost is another issue. MIT is reputable, but so are many other schools. Not everyone goes to MIT. I stayed in state because the cost was so much lower than going out of state. Scholarships are a way around the cost issue, student loans as well.

Just keep this in mind, economics 101 - If the costs out way the benefits, don’t do it. It’s as simple as that.

While it can easily be argued that schools with a better “pedigree” may attract a lot of companies looking for new hires, the most important thing to remember is that, in the final analysis, it is the quality of your education that matters most. Check out the reputation of the department at all the schools you are interested in and do a quick comparison, and compare these rankings with what you think might be the highest rated school in that field. Though this may not help with your decision, you will have a better idea of how potential employers might view things.

In my opinion (and experience), once you have been out of school, and into your career, for about 5 years, nobody really cares anymore about where you went to school. They are more concerned about what you have accomplished in your job. (I’ve been out of school for 27 years now and nobody cares that I graduated 2nd in my Geophysics department!).

Another way to think about it is that your diploma (BS, MS or PhD) is only a licence to go out and LEARN how to do your job. Your education will give you all the fundamental information and background to understand how to do what your employer wants you to do, but you still have to learn how to do it.

The bottom line is that how prospective employers will view you will be a combination of your school and your own performance. I believe that more emphasis will be placed on your performance.

Good luck, and work hard

Everyone I’ve ever talked to about this issue, who I had an ounce of respect for, echoed all of the above. Including MIT alumni. :wink:

I should hope not.

I wanted to throw one more option out there on the table.

You could go to a smaller college and get your associates first, and then transfer into one of the bigger names, thus graduating with your Bachelors from one of the bigger names. That will save you money in the long run, but it may be a struggle if you arent careful about the courses you take/miss at the big school.

And I have to agree with a lot of people here, apply to a large range of schools. I think I applied to 10, and Clarkson was #10 for me, I only applied because my biology teacher told me to… but once I interviewed, got my financial/scholarship package, and went on campus, I realized it was the perfect school for me. I have to admit I cringed a bit when Eugenia said it was about the atmosphere, but I think thats what won me over in the end. It appeared to me that Clarkson was the perfect balance of fun, hardwork, friendliness & outdoors that I wanted, and thought I could get in all these other schools but really couldnt.

Another factor is where you think you want to work. UCONN actually has a really good engineering program from many of the schools that I looked at, and it is fairly selective as well. So if you want to stay in the CT/MA area, you are probably going to do well with a degree from UCONN. However, if you want to work out in Silicon Valley, UCONN probably isnt as well known. As a Recruiter, I know that we get the majority of our college applicants and hires from within our “region”, because those are the schools that we primarily recruit at, and the people that are most likely to stay with our company.

In the end, the ball is in your court. Apply to as many as you think you might like to go to (forget about money at this point), and see 1. if you get accepted, and 2. How much financial aid/scholarship they will give you. THEN once you see what they can offer, decided based on your financial situation. You might be suprised what a phonecall can do. Clarkson called me to ask how my decision was going, and I said I wasnt sure because I had gotten accepted to WPI, and was reviewing the financial packages… and immediately they offered to increase my scholarship! I never even said that WPI was offering more (which they werent!). Many colleges these days are hurting to get students into the Engineering fields, so a lot of them will do what it takes to get the good ones that they know will make it through the 4 years.

So make sure you apply to your “Reach” schools… I think I had 3 reach, 6 likely, and 1 safety.

I don’t know how much you’ve thought about actual college admissions, but this is a good time to remember a few key things…

  1. Slacking off senior year will hurt your admissions status at many big-name schools. You don’t have to take 9 APs, just don’t sit on a pathetic schedule. Colleges appreciate people who don’t slack off once they get something.

  2. Do something fun the summer before senior year that reflects your interests. Go with something awesome: robotics camp, internship, go out of country, go on some backpacking/hiking thing, whatever. Many interviewers I have had so far have asked about programs I did outside of school.

  3. Take your tests. Multiple big-name schools require SAT IIs, and taking the ACT doesn’t hurt you (some regions have less prevalant ACT takers, and vice versa). If you get a good score as a sophomore or junior, you can stop worrying and submit scores.

  4. A few Ivy League/ major private schools are VERY picky about visitation. I know Yale and a couple others seem to prefer that you have visited their campus before you apply, for varying reasons. If you’re applying to a large amount of private schools, try touring their campuses and introducing yourself to admissions people…one conversation can go a long way.

/random tips

I just wanted to add to the sentiment of apply to several places and visit to see what you think about them. I went to WPI over RPI and Lehigh because of my experiences while visiting them. In the end I’m glad I did.

Also because I ended up with a job in CT I’m able to get my masters from RPI (August I hope :smiley: )at their satellite campus. My point being that maybe one school isn’t right for you at the time you graduate highschool because of who you are, but down the road it may. Remember its easier to transfer into some more competitive than to get in as a freshman.

Oh 1 last thing the associates before entering an engineering program I’m wary of based on seeing people who did a program WPI had for that. The students weren’t able to adapt to the pace and workload of the WPI system with easier courses and I think it hurt them. This may not be true for all students and schools but in a technical major its a consideration I mention in hope that you think about it carefully.

In the end where I work we hired people from MIT, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, WPI, RPI, UCONN, and Florida State. All of whom are good engineers, and I even work with a ChemEng who was valedictorian of his class at UCONN (I only mention this because he gets embarassed when we crack jokes about it).

What? I’m a bit confused here, are you saying that job placement isn’t largest reason for going to college? I think it is. Why else would you be spending four or more years in school other than to learn the skills you need to know and get the degree you need to get the job you want. People in FIRST have diverse interests but I would vouch that all of them go to college so they can pursue their interests and passions.

In an idealistic world college would be entirely about learning.

But we don’t live in such a world. Ours is materialistic, thus college becomes job training.

I still remember what my older brother told me when I was debating which of the schools I got into:

You might change majors, so go with one with the better reputation, not the one that has the major you want now.

I took his advice and don’t regret it one bit. I ended switching from being a biology major wanting to go into genetics to geology to English (which I graduated with). Even with all of those switches, I got the best education I could have.

The point: Make sure the schools you are looking at produce good students in a variety of fields, not just the one you are interested in.

indieFan (UCR class of '98, CSUN class of '05)

I’m also having a hard time with my decision; I’m a senior and I got into all 5 colleges to which I applied, and now I am having a very difficult time figuring out which one to go to. I think the top two contenders are University of Michigan and Rose-Hulman. U of M is huge, recognizeable, and a good school, and Rose-Hulman is tiny, unrecognizeable (outside of Indiana), and a great school, but costs twice as much.

Really my dilemna comes down to whether or not it is worth it to sacrifice recognizeability and convenience (RH is 6 hours away) to get a (probably) better education. I think I’m most likely going to end up at U of M.

I’m only in my first year here at the University of Michigan. I’ll admit, part of my decision to come here was influenced by the prestige of Michigan Engineering. However I quickly learned that in many ways, reputation is overrated.

I agree with what Mort said, visit both, and just see which one you like better. That’s what matters most. There’s no wrong answer, it’s just about what you like the most, or what feels right. Big schools and small schools each have their advantages and disadvantages. Wherever you decide to go, take advantage of whatever’s there.

And from what I’ve heard time and time again from so many different people: your degree will get you your first job. After that, interviewers probably won’t even ask you where you went to college, they’ll just want to know what you’ve done.


Many big companies only recruit at top 10 schools. Due to the expenses of sending a recruiting team, and the numbers of new hires each year, companies cannot send teams all over the country to interview. They tend
to go to schools that have solid reputations in their fields and where the graduates have a good track record at the company. This doesn;t mean they won’t hire you if you go to a different school, but youhave to open more doors for yourself.

When considering schools, don’t just think that because YOU have not heard of a school that it doesn’t have a good reputation. Check the major new magazines annual surveys and other publications for rankings. Call some potential employers and ask them where they recruit (or if they recruit at all).

I also agree with the comments about finding a good school with several strong programs. The average new college student changes majors several times. You want to be able to stay at the same school if you decide to switch majors - credits don’t always transfer if you move.

Be careful with your college rankings though. Rose-Hulman is ranked near #1 Engineering College in all these books, but people who work with my dad (who hire people) frequently have never heard of that school. Good rankings in the books doesn’t mean good reputation.