Why so much debate about which school has the most prestige

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Discus: College Search and Selection: August 2004 Archive: Why so much debate about which school has the most prestige
By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 08:36 pm: Edit

on this site? I understand that, as one of our rising seniors likes to say, "prestige runs the world". However, there is a very enlightened group of posters on this board.

I am flat out impressed with how much collective knowledge about schools exists on this board. The more enlightened a group is, the more I expect the group to make their decisions based on, the quality of the education of the institution.

The more enlightened the group is, the more I expect the group to not have a servile response to US News rankings.

Perhaps, it's only a vocal minority, but it's so vocal that the impression is given that, a significant number of college confidential posters, are obsessed with which school will create a bigger "WOW" effect when others find out that are going to "Big Name U".

I feel sorry for those who buy into this thinking because it inevitably produces a sense of entitlement that those who go to "Big Name U", will expect to get jobs and promotions when pitted against students who opted for "Quality U that is not Big Name U". Their lofty expectations for how the name on their pigskin will help them will almost assuredly be dissapointing.

It's not where you went, but who you are, and who you know, that will ultimately carry the day.

Am I overreacting or do I have a legitimate beef?

By Arthurd (Arthurd) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 08:54 pm: Edit

I've been wondering the same thing for a while now, and I'm glad I am not alone.

I, personally have always been one to look deeper into a university than its name. I would expect the same from such an informed crowd, but it appears that this is seldom the thought.

Thanks for expressing your very legit ideas.

By Stanfordman99 (Stanfordman99) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:05 pm: Edit

Both of you are absolutely right. Although it's wrong, I do hope the WOW effect of going to Big Name U will help me greatly in the future. Then again, if I was on the other side of the fence I would probably think that it is unfair (which it probably is).

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:23 pm: Edit

I went to schools with a lot of name recognition and I think this sometimes opens a door for me. However, the door would shut very quickly if I didn't deliver. In the part of the world I live, Asia, it is a huge reality however that beyond the "top" schools there is virtually no name recognition and hence, depending on the potential employer, there can be limitations at certain levels. This is mitigated if you stay with US based firms, in my observation.

I have many friends (Americans married to Asians) here whose kids attend an International school where the idea of "right fit" is the guiding philosophy of college counseling. Nonetheless, they say their spouse would never pay for a school they had never heard of!

All things being equal, why not go to a school with name recognition. Should this be the deciding factor as to where to go, where to apply, etc....absolutely not! Clearly it is what you do with where you are that makes the difference- and if it is a bad fit, and you are unsuccesful and miserable, the name means very little.

By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:32 pm: Edit

The whole prestige thing is kind of moot where I come from, since when my friend tells people she is going to Brown they say "What's that?" Cornell (because it's close) and Harvard (because it's Harvard) are pretty much the only prestigious places the majority of my area recognizes. Which just shows how stupid the whole issue is.

By Arthurd (Arthurd) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:35 pm: Edit

Robyrm, I think that was Admissionsrep's main point, and I agree with both of you. I don't think anyone in their right mind would preach against attending big name schools, but it seems that people too often get mixed up in the school's name more so than whether or not they would be happy attending that school.

Also, the names of schools that are often hyped up in the public's eye give the impression that one who does not attend one of these schools will not be employed after graduation (or not gainfully employed).

In fact, there is a wealth of schools that aren't as widely known publicly, but just as respected in the business world, where it counts. Some of these lesser known schools include Rose-Hulman, Cooper Union, and my very own RIT. While they are not household names like MIT or Cal-tech, students who do well at these schools generally have the same advantages as grads from more popular universities.

Don't get me (or anyone who shares these views) wrong, there are schools for everyone, and some people indeed do find their niche at big name schools. However, it seems tradition that many students prefer to go straight to the name rather than finding whether their niche is at one of these schools or somewhere else.

By Bettina (Bettina) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 09:43 pm: Edit

This will only be perpetuated with companies, such as Google that request a 'top flight university' in their employment postings, even for very modest jobs. No definition is given, however, the founders are Stanford MBA's.

When I worked in banking, no one really cared where you did your undergrad work. MBA's from Wharton, UCB, Chi, Northwestern, however, were highly valued.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:13 pm: Edit

I will be the first to admit that in many Asian countries, Palestine, Trinidad and many other places, you are frequently judged by the school behind your name. It is very troubling to see how much pressure the International Asian students put on themselves at our boarding school; they feel the need to live up the expectations of their parents and their parents feel that, it's all about prestige.

One thing that I think is really underestimated, is how much of a network is out there for the student who attends the flagship school in their state, and then goes on to live in that state.

Who would argue about the power of Michigan St or Michigan in the state of Michigan.

Who would argue about the power of Penn St in Pennsylvania. I once worked for a boss who attended Penn St and Harvard. She told me that Penn St opened up more connections for her than Harvard. When I was in business, I was always blown away by the Penn State alumni networking that went on in Pennsylvania.

The same can be said for Georgia, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. The school spirit that exists at schools that are sports powerhouses, tends to be a very bonding factor.

Can anyone comment on how going to their flagship U, and then living in their state, has been a great door openor for them. I suspect that we will have quite a few people who can attest to this.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:26 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, I so agree with you. Your observations are mine as well. Until I came to this forum, I never realized how huge an issue this "prestige" factor is among some students and/or their parents, as I have found represented by some who post. The kind of thinking or attitude in those certain types of posts are hard for me to relate to. It really is not the kind of way my own kids think or choose colleges by. My kids are not aware of rankings such as US News. Of course, there is NOTHING wrong with going to very selective schools that are, yes, prestigious. Afterall, my own kid is going to Brown and I have a graduate degree from Harvard, so I am not knocking these type of colleges nor those who choose (or are chosen) to attend them. But it is more of the attitude I have observed in SOME posters that I find hard to relate to. I know I showed this forum to my own kid and she, too, could not relate to posts that emphasized choosing and wanting schools with prestige as a major criteria. For her, it was just about picking schools that were appealing, a good fit, had the criteria she wanted (prestige was not one of these) and so forth. Yes, she wanted a challenging learning environment, so yes, some schools on her list are ones thought of as prestigious but that was not what drew her to schools on her list. In fact, for instance, after all her acceptances came in, she was considering two colleges as her final choices over one of the Ivy league schools she got in cause she liked these two better. When I read some other attitudes on here, I get the feeling other kids would think she was out of her mind to choose X college over X Ivy!

But the many posts about which school is more prestigous, yadda yadda...and then some kids even post their college criteria and say they want Ivy, for example. I have seen some kids' college lists and it consists of all 8 Ivy schools and no others....or something like that! Each Ivy is so different that I can only imagine that the schools got on their list cause they WERE Ivy in the first place. So, all I can say is that we live in a community where this kind of competitive atmosphere and striving for prestige in college admissions is nonexistant. Now that I have been exposed to some other ways of thinking, I am grateful my kids grew up where they did. I know my D had trouble relating to many student posts I told her about when I first found this forum. It is more of the attitude or outlook I am referring to, than where each kid ended up going or anything like that. It is almost as if prestige is the goal for some and certainly IVY league or bust....even though there are many top notch schools that are just as good but if they don't have the Ivy name, it seems some kids I have read post here, don't feel it is worthy. I even think there are kids applying to Ivy league schools who really should not be but the draw seems significant to them. It appears like it MUST be that or else nothing else will do. I have trouble understanding it but I have learned a lot about the various perspectives that are out there! Even though my child is going to an Ivy, she was just as interested in many schools that were not Ivy. She said she could care less if it were Ivy, she just had a list of specific criteria she wanted and tried to find the school that best matched what she was looking for. I can't imagine doing it any other way!


By Familyguy24 (Familyguy24) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:28 pm: Edit

I completely agree. I question the motives of people who make their decisions on which school to apply based on name prestige. The important thing is what you do while your in college. Going to a big name school won't do anything for you if you dont get anything out of it. Some people here become obsessed with getting into their top university which they believe will guarantee successs.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 10:53 pm: Edit

Well simply, this is the US News generation. In my day, other than Harvard, an ivy was an ivy. Now kids feel lesser if they go to a lesser ivy. And they judge schools by yield! It's crazy but let's all write a letter of thatnks to the folks at US News. I'd love to know how much this added to their bottom line.

By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:03 pm: Edit

I thought I read somewhere that US News was dropping yield out of their rankings because it was influencing schools' ED decisions too much.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:18 pm: Edit

How big of them. The damage has been done, the kids will just make historical projections!

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:27 pm: Edit

Until I read this forum, I was totally unaware of how people put so much weight into US News rankings. My kids are totally unaware of them! I don't hear anyone discuss them in my neck of the woods. I have seen that issue of US News and found that it was handy having many statistics to view in one place but really do not care how each school is ranked.

I recall a thread on the parent forum where there was a poll if your kid had chosen to attend the school he/she got into that was ranked the highest. I was not even totally positive where my kid's schools ranked as far as US News went and was not positive of my answer!

This phenomenom about prestige and college rankings is more what I have learned reading these forums than anything we have thought about in my home or community.


By Hayden (Hayden) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:29 pm: Edit

Two examples: First, our state newspaper did a story on the 5 most influential scientists in our state (and this is NJ, the home of the major pharmaceuticals in the US, Lucent, etc.). Not one - not a single one - went to an Ivy. These were scientific geniuses, who went to SUNY, etc.

2nd example: I work in a large multi-billion dollar firm. We have a bunch of people who attended everything from UPenn, Cornell, Duke and NYU. The head of our office, however, is a young guy who attended Seton Hall University, and the #2 guy attended Farleigh Dickinson. They are really, really smart. They just spent more time learning to work with people and communicate, than they did in academics. Some people do well at both, but some people just aren't interested in doing that. But both can succeed in business and life in general.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Thursday, August 05, 2004 - 11:30 pm: Edit

Sooz, what is so great when you post an entry like you did, is that you went to Harvard. There are some who dismiss anyone who decries the prestige obsession, as being motivated by jealousy.

When a Harvard alum like you, or Jay Matthews (the writer of Harvard Schmarvard) comes out and says, "stop the madness", it at least makes people stop and think.

I had a feeling others were feeling the way I was; it's been encouraging to read posts where people are as passionate as I am on this subject.

By Stanfordman99 (Stanfordman99) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 12:09 am: Edit

"I will be the first to admit that in many Asian countries, Palestine, Trinidad and many other places, you are frequently judged by the school behind your name. It is very troubling to see how much pressure the International Asian students put on themselves at our boarding school; they feel the need to live up the expectations of their parents and their parents feel that, it's all about prestige."

Yeah Asians are responsible for all the prestige-whoring. Way to pereptuate those negative stereotypes. I guess blacks steal cars, mexicans are poor, and all whites are racist.

I hope you aren't a real admissions rep, cause that would suck.

By Bioeng (Bioeng) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 12:27 am: Edit

As a recent high school grad, I can share the other side of this detrimental effect of all this prestige craze. I was lucky to have gone to a h.s. where the pervasive attitude of the school is self-discovery and nurturing of the intellectual curiosity and maturity. There was no pressure of the college scramble. In fact, our headmaster often remind us that we can only be in h.s.once in our life, therefore we should strive to live in the present and participate as fully as possible in the various academic and extracurricular activities. College will takes care of itself. As a result, I had the grandest four years and I feel that I have also learned a lot. Since I got to understand myself pretty well, I also feel confident about my choice of college. Now on the flip side, some of my friends that attended other schools where the pervasive attitude was h.s. is just a stepping stone to college - the definition of success is to score the most presigious college's acceptance.They end up spending four years obssessing over SAT, GPA and E.C. Studying for the sake of scoring rather than learning. At the end, there is a strong sense of emptiness after the college admission process is over. Those that got their wishes fonund out the satisfaction is short-lived. And worse off are those that were unfortunate. They finally realize that luck has a large part in the admission process and now they have also lost four precious years of conciously directed experience and education. The price of this prestige chase is just too great.

By Jonw222 (Jonw222) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:16 am: Edit


Thank you very much for this post. I've tried to make similar comments about prestige, having been in graduate school but for some reason people won't understand that the name alone isn't an instant ticket to success like people think it is. It's upsetting that there is this line of thinking that measures self-worth by the name on the diploma.

I say this a lot on the boards but I'll say it again. For every person in my graduate program who went to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, there are students who went to Cal-State Riverside and Houston Baptist University. If I'm in the same place now as people who went to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, as well as those from Cal-State Riverside, and Houston Baptist University did it really matter in the long run where we did our undergrad?

In the education field for example, the connections are made on the local level. So going to a school nearby where you want to teach will help you get a job in that area. With my friends from Steinhardt trying to find teaching jobs, I'm amazed how much easier it is for them to find jobs in the area then even try to go away despite having the "NYU name."

Thank you again for creating this post.


By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 09:19 am: Edit

As I've thought of it, I think that this board tends to be a magnet for obsessive compulsive types. The profile of the kind of person who feels they must go to HYPS, is to look under every nook and cranny, in attempt to find some angle that will get them over the hump. Well, there aren't many better sources than information and information is what this board has to offer.

Of course, the majority of posters on the boards don't fit into this category, but the minority is still rather sizable and very vocal.

I also believe that the posters who said, we can blame US News for this paranoia, have a lot of legitimacy. It used to be far more subjective as to what truly were the best colleges, it's still subjective, but since the arrival of USNEWS, the peception is now that educational quality can be measured by objective rankings.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 09:34 am: Edit

I was reading Soozievt's post. My son was aware of USNWR, but we used the ratings more as an information source. Mid range SAT's, etc. I realize that schools fudge the factors to present themselves in a better light, but it is a good starting point. My son did end up at the highest ranked school, but because it is a private research that offered merit and made it economically feasible, and that was the type of school he most wanted. It is only ranked about 10 spots above his safety, which I think is splitting hairs, and the safety in fact has higher rated engineering programs. So much of the ratings is about stuff I have a hard time fitting into the equation. What does it matter is you have a high percentage of alumni contributing? If they're only giving $50 or $100 or $500 for an alumni association membership level, will that net you more than one or two super wealthy alumni giving multi millions? What mattered to my son was the school itself and the undergrad experience. He is so excited about going in two weeks and is eager to start. That is more important. Enthusiasm is available at all colleges if you are focused on being happy and making it work for you.

By Willywonka (Willywonka) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:02 am: Edit

As a person who really prefers liberal arts colleges (and LAC-like places, like Dartmouth) it would be kind of hard for me to thrive off of US News prestige. Probably the school that I find the best fit for me is #12 in the LAC category, and no one knows what I'm talking about when they ask me where I'm applying. Then I throw in the "#3" LAC and they still don't know. LACs really lose when it comes to the prestige game, even though there are so many quality institutions in the category. It's really a testament to the schools that an applicant has to have stats comparable to Ivies to get into the "top" LACs, because that means that almost the entire student body chose that school over a more prestigious school they probably could have gotten into.

However, I do know and completely agree with the other posts already made. I think for kids from competitive high schools or big cities, the prestige factor becomes big for them because they probably know so many people who have attended a big name school. It's hard to look past that at such an uncertain time in their lives. For people like me, in the middle of nowhere where so few go to college, prestige isn't something used to "keep up" with others, but that makes it even more alluring as a "WOW!" factor.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:12 am: Edit

Admissionsrep, my experience in dealing with kids and families who are entering the college admissions process is that most people go for the familiar. I tend to see two types at the onset--those whose children are good students and the family has considered for years that they will go to the "best" school they can. And unless one has done research in the area of colleges, it is easiest to "cherry pick" right off the top. It is so simple to start the college list with HPY & co, as I like to call them, and we all know who those regulars are. It takes a heck of alot of work to discover schools that are not as well known. There are some interesting schools out there that are better fits for many childeren, just from the selectivity issue alone. Schools like the College of Charleston, Flagler College, Grove City, Clark University, College of Santa Fe, ST Mary's of MD do not regularly show up many people's initial lists unless they live in the area of those schools. (The second type of people are those who are considering only local schools or the state U as that is all they really know. Familiarity is the issue here as well.)

When you want the "best" for yourself or your child and you pick up nearly any rating book, not just the USN&WR, certain schools top the list in academic calibre, student retention and graduation rates, student satisfaction factor, really all the things that are important even without that lustre of reputation which I agree can loom to importantly.

I have found that it is a waste of time to try to talk anyone out of wanting to go to these schools. They are truly good schools. And really if they want to buy that lottery ticket, that is really up to them. I always say, "That is a great list of some very good schools. But anyone can come up with that same list. Now comes the real work which is finding schools that have what you want with varying selectivities." I have actually had people tell me that the "name" is really the most overwhelmingly important criterion to them and I have a strong feeling that more feel that way who just don't want to say so. In that case, it is easy to find those other schools--just look for the biggest "names" to those people at the lower selectivity. Sometimes going through that exercise, makes them realize that this way of thinking is not the best way to look at colleges as they find it repugnant to even apply to some of these schools as safeties and yet those may be the only "names" they know at those selectivity rates. The alternative is to roll up the sleeves, start the research and learn more about the school than its name. Some people say they are their main criterion is the selectivity. The old "don't want to join a club that'll take you" mentality. I try to get them to understand that one of the reasons that this process is difficult is that one should have varying selectivities. Usually pragmatism kicks in.

Having said all of this, I can well understand why the prestige issue is all important. I fell into that miserable trap a few times myself and though I knew it for what it was, I felt pretty bad while in it. My niece cleared the waitlist for Cornell, which was a miracle. But her true heart's desire was to become a doctor, and her SAT1s were in the 1200 range, and she struggled for those grades in bio, chem and math. I well knew what the calibre of those premeds at Cornell were, and I also knew a good many of them with premed aspirations were not even going to make the short list to apply to med school to even become a statistic in who gets in from Cornell. She was much, much better off in the little school we found with a premed program that nurtured these kids along to the med school application process and the college has an affiliation with a medschool where many of the kids who complete the program do get in. She is half way through medical school after a successful undergraduate life. Her best friend, who went to Cornell, (another source of pressure to go there--they were great high school chums) who was a much stronger candidate (1500SATs, 5s on the science and math APs, higher GPA in highschool) did not make the cut for the med school committe. She did not do well in O-chem there. She has been working as a grad student in Biochem trying to garner a medschool rec from a committe to get her in, and also taking classes to bolster her gpa. But I can tell you that the looks on people's faces when we tell them where each of our girls went to college makes it obvious that the answer is being dismissed. Many people have not heard of the schools and are not interested in the names registering in their brains.

Having said all of that, I do not know if I would have recommended that either girl turn down HPY for their schools. I do not know anyone who turned down the big 3 or Stanford except for each other and possibly the ITs and Juilliard, unless money was the issue or for a guaranteed admissions to med school in one of those highly selective BA/MD programs. To ignore the fact that there is lustre to having a Harvard (or like) degree is not being honest. The lustre is definitely there. These schools are truly good school, and it is highly likely that kids who go there will enjoy it more and graduate on time. These schools often have the endowment and the physical base so that they are very fine schools in not only the academics they offer, but in the facilities and the resources. The stats are all there. And you cannot beat the impact of say "she's going to HYP" in a conversation.

If you take a peek at the "What are my chances" threads, you'll see numerous kids just list their basics without giving a clue on what their interests are and what they want in a school and their lists of schools are all the familiar names. They are just listing the best colleges they know without regard for fit, and for most kids who really do not know what they want to do or what they want in a college, all they know is the name. And no one really wants to do the WORK it takes to get beyond that name.

By Toblin (Toblin) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:43 am: Edit

This the most intelligent, thoughtful and civil thread I ever read on CC. Thanks all.

By Rogracer (Rogracer) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:04 am: Edit

Here is something to ponder: I'm a graduate of MIT and was a T/A there during graduate school...so I had lots of exposure to students comming from a variety of undergraduate programs. I saw virtually *no correlelation* between a student's capabilities and the "prestige factor" of the school he attended. The same appears to be true in industry. It really does come down to the individual.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:22 am: Edit

Willywonka, you could argue that the top LACs are super prestige in that many have not heard of them. The elite in this country are the ones in the know (a well kept secret that keeps NOKOP out) which is why the "entitlement index" is so high at those schools.

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:33 am: Edit

I have noticed that in highly educated circles, prestige often is of little importance. Recruiters in large corporations and professors in Universities are usually not bogged down by prestige. But to the masses (which are usually not that educated), and to human nature in general, prestige will always be a point of contention.

By 3togo (3togo) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:55 pm: Edit

> I have noticed that in highly educated circles, prestige often is of little importance. Recruiters in large corporations and professors in Universities are usually not bogged down by prestige

I think this is generally true ... I think this often plays out in a bi-modal fashion.

If anything I do not think most people how much hiring is done locally. I live near Boston and there are tons of jobs around here where, if my kids were lucky enough to be accepted, being at Stanford would make getting a job back in Boston tough ... lots of companies will not pay for interview trips or pay to move new hires for entry level jobs (the majority of jobs are created by smaller firms and they tend to hire locally). I think this is the most common experience.

At the other exptreme is "high-powered" openings and then it seems the focus shifts very much to high prestige hires. Many companies will only hire top-10 MBA grads for marketing or consulting jobs ... or only visit high powered schools for new hires into their management development program.

By 3togo (3togo) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 01:55 pm: Edit

> I have noticed that in highly educated circles, prestige often is of little importance. Recruiters in large corporations and professors in Universities are usually not bogged down by prestige

I think this is generally true ... I think this often plays out in a bi-modal fashion.

If anything I do not think most people how much hiring is done locally. I live near Boston and there are tons of jobs around here where, if my kids were lucky enough to be accepted, being at Stanford would make getting a job back in Boston tough ... lots of companies will not pay for interview trips or pay to move new hires for entry level jobs (the majority of jobs are created by smaller firms and they tend to hire locally). I think this is the most common experience.

At the other exptreme is "high-powered" openings and then it seems the focus shifts very much to high prestige hires. Many companies will only hire top-10 MBA grads for marketing or consulting jobs ... or only visit high powered schools for new hires into their management development program.

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 02:12 pm: Edit

Well, there are tons of other reasons why she is doing so, and this wasn't even a consideration at the time, but I need to point out that, given our family finances and her academic qualities, my d.'s going to a prestigious LAC is much, MUCH cheaper than attending our local state u. (which would have been a stretch for us.)

By Shyboy13 (Shyboy13) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 03:16 pm: Edit

I agree totally with that hiring locally thing. I work for a huge company and you would be surprised how few people were educated in other states. There are some but most transfered from another branch. Then again, I dont know everyone. Here in Los Angeles, there is a huge representation of UCLA and USC grads. In the Western San Bernardino area, there are alot of UC-Riverside and Cal State San Bernardino grads. It may make sense to get educated where you want to work. Please dont get me wrong, I met a Harvard grad in the lounge the other day. Harvard grads (and others) can get jobs in LA too but there just arent as many around.

By Frustrated24 (Frustrated24) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:19 pm: Edit

Admissionsrep, I hope you can shed some light on my situation. I immigrated at the end of 2003 and I was almost finished with my high school ( I took british based exams, "O" and "A" Level). Seeing that I had very little time to apply to colleges, I took my SAT and TOEFL ( as english was not my native lagnuage). As expected I did not do very good (1260 SAT , 290 TOEFL). I quickly applied to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (honors college), where my brother had recently graduated. I obtained a out-of-state tuition scholarship and living with my brother meant living expense would be very little. So I joined.
I know I am not going to survive in a big name, cut throat competitive school ( eg gatech).
But I am contemplating transferring to Uni of Texas, Austin which I think has more to offer me as an engr student. Also another important factor, I think, is the fact that a friend of mine recently joined Gatech, paying 28,000$ every yr told me its not worth studying engr in the south, if it's not gatech. But I know , I won't do good at a school such as Gatech.
Should I transfer or stay here?

By Alexandre (Alexandre) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:03 pm: Edit

Who told you it is not worth studying Engineering in the South if its not Georgia Tech? What's this person been smoking because I want some of it! Obviously, Georgia Tech is the best school of Engineering in the South. However, UT-Austin is arguably as good. Texas A&M, Rice, V-Tech, NC State and several others offer excellent opportunities. And why stick only to the South. Purdue is an awesome school of Engineering too, as is Wisconsin-Madison and many others. Don't limit yourself and for Heaven's sake, don't listen to your friend at Georgia Tech.

By Thesbohemian (Thesbohemian) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:18 pm: Edit

Awwww Maaaaaaaaan!!!! I just got through putting together my final college list and now y’all have me rethinking it AGAIN! I started my search with ideas similar to what some of you are suggesting. The fit had to be first and I was writing off some of the more “prestigious” schools because they didn’t seem like good fits for me, personally. I started on College Confidential last spring when one of my teachers started getting really aggressive with me about not having any “prestigious” schools on my list and challenged – no ordered - me to find ten other schools that suited me. In my case, the pressure is on to try to get into the “Theatre Ivies” and now I have two right at the top of my list. I had decided that I didn’t think they’d be right for me as a whole person, but the pressure from my teachers and some theatre professionals I worked with this summer have me feeling like I’d be crazy not to go to one if accepted. My grandparents are even caught up in it and have offered to pay for Juilliard if I get in there. Otherwise, I'm going to need a full ride to go out-of-state and my recent thinking has been to take them up on it even if I get one someplace that might in reality be just as good. Kinda lame, eh? I guess what I’m getting at is that some of the pressure the “prestige whores” might be feeling could be coming from their teachers and families as much as anything. Now I’m starting to feel stingy about that application fee, again. Maybe I can get the people who would REALLY benefit from my acceptance to pay it. LOL

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:23 pm: Edit

Frustrated, my experience has been that there is not a tremendous difference in job pay scales for engineer, nor are there big differences in curriculum. I would not say that about every major as studying English at some colleges is worlds different from the top schools and LACs. If things are working out for you in Arkansas, I would stay put. Spending a lot more for an engineering degree is not going to reap alot of benefits, nearly none financially. All of my engineer friends are in agreement with this. Also because of the similarity in curriculum, you will be in good shape for graduate studies at any engineering school if you do well at Arkansas.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:30 pm: Edit

Thesbohemian, theatre and other special interest schools often have the issues of unfamiliarity with the name even more than the usual schools. When you tell people that your kid or you are looking at schools like Oklahoma City University, Cincinnati Conservatory, the eyebrows go up. Waste of breathe to even try to tell folk like that about reputation of those programs within a certain field. Heck, I remember one grandmom who was disappointed that her grandchild got into Curtis!! It was Juilliard or bust as far as she was concerned.

Nothing wrong with giving it a try. My S is going to audition at Juilliard. Not shabby at all to be able to say, "When I auditioned at Juilliard......" or "when my grandchild auditioned at Juilliard...."

By Thesbohemian (Thesbohemian) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 05:50 pm: Edit

True. I think teachers have more interest in it than anybody else. When they can tell benefactors they've gotten X number of students into Juilliard in the past few years, the checkbooks probably tend to open a little quicker than for places like SMU and others which are probably just as good. Maybe I'll see your son in warmups at the auditions. Could be future studiomates. Ya never know ... I'm thinkin' NCSA is going to be a walk-in at the Unifieds, though.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 06:27 pm: Edit

Jamimom, you are so very right when it comes to well regarded schools for BFA programs in theater. The names of these schools are ones that make the general public often raise an eyebrow. They have no clue how difficult it is to get in or that these are tops in this field. What I have prefaced it with when people ask where my younger one is applying to...I first explain that there are not many programs for BFA in musical theater and she has to go to where these programs are offered and thus it is a different college search process than for my other kid or most kids. Then I name the schools to answer their question.


By Bioeng (Bioeng) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 07:04 pm: Edit

So far, I have noticed all your points relate schools to career and job opportunities. They have been very sensible and I am in agreement generally. Howeve, I'd like to play the devil's advocate and raise a question concerning the college experience as related to school prestige. I think in addition to academic learning, a large part of the college years have to do with the overall experience, intellectual and personal exploration, making friends, learning about human relationships and interactions with establishments, developing contacts and networking. I envision spending nighhts having intellectual discussions with my peers on subjects that are totally unrelated to our studies. Even though prestige does not garrantee you all these. But wouldn't a more prestigious college give you a greater probability in running into these opportunities simply because of the self-selection of the candidates. Please enlighten me.

By Chicken123 (Chicken123) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 07:08 pm: Edit

You are so right admissionsrep. It doesn't matter where you go as long as you have good grades. Thats why I don't understand why everyone wants to go to ivies. In my opinion they are way to expensive and are not worth it.

By Shyboy13 (Shyboy13) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 07:21 pm: Edit

I disagree. Prestige has little to do with overall experience. I know people who went to schools that were not the least bit prestigious but absolutely love their school and the experiences they had there. Also, look at studentsreview.com and you will see that many people who attended prestigious universities that were completely dissatisfied. Another example would be a school like San Diego State. It is hardly what people would consider a "prestigious" university but I would bet that attending school there would be awesome. I have visited the school and the atmosphere is great! From what I understand, alumni satisfaction is high. Now, these are just a few examples and I’m sure there are more but I just cannot see how there would be a high correlation between prestige and overall experience.

By Mikemac (Mikemac) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 07:37 pm: Edit

for programs like engineering the choice of school is less important than probably any other major out there! ABET is the standardizing body for engineering education. An engineering program is ABET acredited, or its not. If it is, the curiculum is the same as at any other ABET program. Sure, the overall level of the school affects the caliber of students you find there (my guess is that Stanford engineers are a bit better than those 20 miles away at SJSU) but a graduate from an acredited program is an engineer. Period.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 07:40 pm: Edit

Bloeg...well, I also agree with YOU. I am not sure I was so clear in my post. You see, I agree with Admissions Rep about this prevailing "attitude" I notice on many posts where kids really care almost FIRST about prestige. It is like, "I wanna go to an Ivy league and only Ivy will do....and actually only UPPER Ivy will do!" They may even want to apply to all eight Ivies, and why? cause they are Ivies! The driving force is prestige and in fact, if they list their college criteria, they readily admit that prestige is a major factor in their preferences. It is hard to explain but it is a certain attitude or way of looking at it.

However, as I mentioned in my post, I have a kid about to enter college and she actually is going to a college that is quite selective, Brown. But I can say positively that prestige was not on her mind. She did not want to apply to every Ivy. She chose schools that fit specific criteria she had. As with you, ONE of her criteria was to attend a school that had a challenging learning environment with a student body that was highly motivated as she is this way. So, I am NOT knocking Ivy or selective schools by ANY means. As I said, I went to Harvard for grad school and actually Tufts as an undergrad, two quite selective universities. But again, prestige was not the driving force.

For example, after my kid got her admissions letters, she was seriously considering attending Smith or Tufts and ruled out attending Penn which is an Ivy league school and she was one of 100 Ben Franklin Scholars there. Now, some on these forums, would have thought, this girl was going to pick Smith over Penn??? But she liked it better as the school fit her criteria a bit more closely. She really had three tiers of favorites, a little less favorites, and then a pile of schools she liked and would be happy to attend but liked least of the entire list. These three "piles" or groupings of schools on her list in terms of preference are NOT the same as one would group her schools in order of prestige or ranking or even reach, match, safety. So, while all her schools had challenging learning environments (one of her criteria for reasons similar to ones you wrote about) and a student body that was diverse and very bright, she preferred some schools over others for other reasons (once challenge was fairly equal among them), and these kinds of preferences had nothing to do with prestige.

So, you can surely desire and hope to thrive best in a challenging selective school, but still not be driven by name or prestige. Some kids on here, however, seem to pick schools by name and cannot articulate why that school over some other schools other than the prestige factor. For my kid, she did not consider every Ivy for instance. Cornell's architecture program (five year professional program) was not the kind she wanted; Harvard really did not have her intended major; Columbia was in NYC and she did not want to be in that type of urban setting; Dartmouth was too close to home and she could not ski on their team; yet Yale, Princeton, Penn and Brown had the criteria she was looking for. She also liked many schools that were not Ivy. She liked her safety schools just fine as well, even if they were not her absolute favorites, she liked them. And I am sure she would have thrived fine at them (Conn College and Lehigh). She may have easily picked Tufts over Brown and came close to that til she did the final revisits for accepted students. So, it is not like she got her acceptances and said, wow, let me pick the top one here! It truly was about which school fit her in her mind. Granted, she was looking for schools with selective student bodies and very challenging academics. So, I hope you can see that it is fine to want that kind of school or learning environment but still not be caught up in name or prestige so much.

As I said, when my kid read some posts here or "what are my chances type threads" a long while ago, she could not relate to some that were very caught up with prestige and competitiveness. And yet, she is going to Brown. I don't know how else to explain it but it is a certain kind of outlook I guess.


By Bioeng (Bioeng) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:23 pm: Edit

Susan, what makes your DD pick Brown over her other choices? How does Brown provide more of what she is looking for? Does the fact that Brown has a pre-selected higher caliber student body lead to a higher chance of providing for her criteria of intellectual curiosity and learning enviroment? Personally, I picked Penn over Stanford, UCB, UCLA and UCSD because I want to experience the east coast culture.(I am a Californian) If I were to worry about getting a job in California, I should have picked a CA school as many of you have suggested. But I think the college experience is much more than that.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 03:02 am: Edit

Frustrated24, I don't know enough about your situation to give you guidance. It would be irresponsible for me to do so. I do know that Ga Tech, is not the only good engineering school in the south. There are many excellent engineering schools in the south.

I think you need to ask yourself, why you want to transfer? Is it because you are not happy with your life and the quality of your education? Is it because you are concerned that your degree from Arkansas honors, will not land you quality jobs?

You should be able to do some research to see what jobs, graduates from your program, are getting in engineering. Go to one of the job fairs that come to your school and have a candid conversation with several of the recruiters. This is one of the many practical ways, you can shed light on your job prospects from your school.

BY the way, I do not mean to imply that HYPSM degrees, never make a difference in the real world. I think their impact is more prevalent between Philly to Boston (IVY mentality territory). I also think that degrees from certain schools are more important in some fields, such as, MBA's and law degrees.

I just think that less than 1% of students go to these schools. The other 99%+ of students who opt to go elsewhere, will find that their character, work ethic, passion, talents, people skills, and networking ability, will be substantially more significant in their career opportunities, than the school behind your name.

Once someone is hired, people all but forget where you went to school. It's all about production, performance, competence and people skills once your in the door. Once you establish yourself, it's all about your references and experiences in most fields.

There are so many intelligent and informed posters on CC, I would have thought that a higher percentage of posts, would discuss the educational caliber of one program compared to another; or one school compared to another.

It is so refreshing to read posts that deal with educational substance on this board; they are here, but you have to cull out all of the posts about which school has the most cachet in order to get to the substantiave posts.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 06:19 pm: Edit

Bioeg, I can't tell to whom you were addressing your post about focus on careers and job opportunities. I can tell you that it is not my focus for my children when we are looking at schools and programs, but it certainly is a factor somewhere in the back of my mind. People are always asking me how I feel about a son going into theatre. My H says he should go straight into bussing table and waitering for his training and we could pay him the $180K that his education in the performing arts could cost and save him a few years before starting his career. My older son graduated as an English major, and there are ever so many posts on what to do with English, history, philosophy, political science as majors.

The truth of the matter is that most kids who graduate from college spend a few years just catching as catch can in the way of jobs. Some exceptions are those who go directly into graduate or professional schools (and many of them are just delaying that period of working at whatever) and those who studied in preprofessional fields such as engineering, computer science, nursing, to name a few. (Have been getting ominous vibes about the computer science these days after the dotcom crash but it seems these kids are still getting employed, just not at such big pay figures anymore). So in my opinion, finding a place you will like and grow up is of primary importance for most kids, all other things equal. But for some kids, my girls being an example, other goals are more important. Both of my girls really wanted first and foremost to become doctors and were planning to do nearly anything to make their goals. They were looking at foreign island med schools and every other avenue to get that MD. They were quite willing to give up prestige and other factors about schools to enhance their chances of getting into medical school. Not without some regrets. My D was seriously considering transferring and taking time off to spend in artistic endeavors last December. The school she picked with a wonderful premed program has but the most rudimentary art offerings. And she knew this upfront, we discussed it, and she did end up missing the stimulation she gets working in a studio. She did decide to stick with her MD goals but I am sure she will go back and forth many times. But it is alot easier finding artistic avenues when you change gears, than trying to get into med school. That path is one that dicatates direction and commitment.

When responding to Frustrated's post, I am just letting him know that engineering is one field where you really do not have to worry about much variation in curriculum from school to school for reasons Mikemac explains. And job opportunites do not seem to differ quite as much for engineers by school. Unless there is some PERSONAL interest reason for him to look at other colleges, staying at Arkansas may not be a bad idea. Perhaps being a foreign student, having a brother nearby, saving some money, and being in a smaller, honors program would be more beneficial than going to a big boy like UTexas. He can get used to college in the US in a much smaller setting in Arkansas. Later for grad school (and Arkansas is not going to disadvantage him in engineering studies) he could go elsewhere. But if it is atmosphere and other school amenities that he is seeking to change, perhaps a look around is in order.

Thesbohemien, if you do run into my son, staaay away. He is the type of boy I warned my girls about.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 06:44 pm: Edit

There is a debate going on in a thread on the parent's board, State schools lowering funding, which frustrated may want to read. Engineering jobs in the US are moving abroad quickly, and people have differing opinions on what a would be engineer should do. Frustrated may well be advised to not be as concerned about where he gets his engineering education, but what else he should be studying as well to increase his job opportunities in the future. It's not the dot com bust, the issue is really outsourcing. And it begs a big question: does this generation need to be more career minded earlier than others to gain rewarding employment in the long term?

By Slipstream99 (Slipstream99) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 07:29 pm: Edit

they must be prestigious for a reason...

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 07:30 pm: Edit

"Admissionsrep, I so agree with you. Your observations are mine as well. Until I came to this forum, I never realized how huge an issue this "prestige" factor is among some students and/or their parents, as I have found represented by some who post. The kind of thinking or attitude in those certain types of posts are hard for me to relate to."

Out where I live (Pacific Northwest), most of the stuff I see on these boards is a non-issue. In my office at work, we have Cougs (Washington State Univ) and Huskies (Univ. of Washington), and various assorted state u.'s from out west, couple of state u's from back east, and no prestige LACs, and no Ivies. When my d. contacted adreps out here, the Yalie was an unemployed woman who couldn't find a job, the Mt. Holyoke rep was an economics major who couldn't find a job and is now in nursing school with my wife, the Smithie is a wonderful woman in her 70s, and we never met anyone (or even heard of anyone) from Princeton. When I tell folks I went to Williams, they hear "Whitman" (which is fine -- it has a great reputation out here.) Brigham Young is BIG, and carries prestige, of course only in Latter Day Saints' circles, which are very extensive. We have some athletes that go south to Stanford or UCLA or Oregon State. Lots of folks in little Bible colleges. And a ton of folks at Evergreen State College (the local school), and Pacific Lutheran University (very popular here). Not many local folks go to Univ. of Puget Sound. Reedies are thought of as really weird, especially since folks think that for that kind of experience they could go to Evergreen at one-third the price. Currently, Western Washington University is hot.

If you went for a job, you'd certainly get more points for the right football school (Cougs or Huskies) than you would for Harvard (where people would nod, and then ask what have you done for me lately.) If anything, I think an Ivy might actually hurt your job prospects in many areas out here - it just doesn't carry much panache. The few Ivy students who head east from here almost never return, so they don't build up much reputation as being folks that are desirable for companies and organizations.

In Seattle, we do of course have Harvard clubs, and Yale clubs, and Smith clubs, and Williams clubs (the major activity of the last is going to a bar annually where they satellite in the Williams-Amherst game). The northeast prestige just doesn't reach out here much.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 09:37 pm: Edit

I think that Susan struck the perfect balance in one of her posts. One of the most important thing in picking a school, is the selectivity of the school, in their selection of their students.

A student will be in classes for less than 17 hours of a 168 hour week. The other 90% of the time, a tremendous amount of student to student learning will take place. Of course, student to student learning also takes place in the classroom.

I will acknowledge that almost all prestigious schools are also very selective. However, there are a lot of very selective schools that aren't that prestigious. Sometimes it's because they are small. Other times it's because they are relatively young. Sometimes it's because they are not in the East, but located in some remote location. Rice, Pomona and Deep Springs are three ultra selective schools, but neither of these schools comes to mind when anyone mentions the supposed top 10 schools. The same things can be said for another 75+ schools.

The problem with the prestige mentality is that it assumes that more presitigious, not only means better, but even worse, "better for me". The decision to go to a college or university is too personal to have a one size fits all solution.

If some collective group ranked women or men by which ones seemed to be the most attractive and have the most going for them, would number 48 be a better husband or wife than number 148? This is ludicrous because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, the same is true for schools. The problem is, that perspective doesn't sell millions of magazines.

By Frustrated24 (Frustrated24) on Sunday, August 08, 2004 - 01:02 pm: Edit

Hello. Thank you all for your replies. Actually I was not much aware of rankings before I came here. After going through the rankings, I saw universities like Uni of Texas, Austin had a very high reputation but was ranked at like 55 or sth and some with a lower reputaion score ranked higher. And my brother also said, if you are good enough companies will hire. Attitude makes up a large portion of who you are. My brother who graduated from here (arkansas) was offered a job by microsoft, which he declined because he wanted to stay here.
I do not have any problem living here. Coming from a 3rd world country, Fayetteville is like a whole new country. And the engr programme here has been accredited by ABET continuously since 1936. I said what my friend told me in my first post. But I cannot afford what he is paying (30,000$)/yr whereas I am paying 2500$/yr(courtesy of the scholarships). But I am not sure whether its a good decision to take out loans and attend a more well known uni?
What I am worried about is going to a good graduate school ( whether being a graduate of Arkansas will hinder it) and also the possibility of a job( that fact that jobs are being outsourced).
Thank you.

By Admissionsrep (Admissionsrep) on Sunday, August 08, 2004 - 04:25 pm: Edit

Slipstream, I saw where you said that they (prestigious schools) must be prestigious for a reason.

Well, I think that is an oversimplification. While it is true that in most instances, prestigious schools have earned their reputation through there excellence, there are several factors that either inflate or diminish a school's prestige, to the point where the prestige is not a reflection of the quality of the education.

Boston is considered a hot area; so schools in the Boston area, often have a level of prestige that is not commensurate with their quality.

Large schools get more notoriety than small schools.

Older schools get more acclaim than newer schools.

Some schools were stronger in yesteryear than they are today; these schools still benefit from the reputation they had amassed in prior decades. Howard University is an excellent example of this.

Northeastern schools in general, have more buzz than schools in other regions in the country.

Schools that have run masterful marketing campaigns often have an inflatred sense of worth. The converse is also true.

While it may be true in general to say, "there must be a reason why they have their prestige", it's oversimplistic and inaccurate to think that the higher the school is on the prestigometer, the better the caliber of the education is at that institution.

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