Originally Posted by shawbridge
If instead, you drop a tier or two to schools without the same resources or student bodies (as examples, you suggest Colby, Sweet Briar, Russel Sage, Manhattanville or Ithaca), would students at such schools regret their choice relative to, I guess, the larger schools to which they were admitted? Would their employment or grad school prospects be diminished? I'm guessing that they would still have very good academic experiences -- professors who are really interested in teaching likely teach there. Research opportunities would be weaker (I know mini will disagree, but I'm unpersuaded). But, would going to such an LAC hurt on grad school or employment fronts?
First, I agree with Haystack that you and blossom are making a huge category mistake listing Colby (ranked by US News the #21 LAC) with the other schools you list. There's just no comparison. But even taking Colby out of that group, you're taking a middling bunch of LACs (or not even LACs; US News lists most of the schools as "regional universities") and implicitly comparing them to top research universities. Take Sweet Briar, for instance. US News ranks it #99 among national LACs. Not terrible, but not great. Comparably ranked research universities would include the likes of University of Dayton, University of New Hampshire, University of Oklahoma, University of the Pacific. Not terrible schools by any means, but hardly research powerhouses, either. Middling, I'd say, and in that regard a lot like Sweet Briar, only bigger. Would a Dayton or a UNH better prepare a student for grad school or the job market than Sweet Briar? I don't have any reason to think so.
Ithaca, Manhattanville and Sage aren't even listed as "national" schools. US News lists them as "regional universities" in the North division--Ithaca #11, Manhattanville #46, Sage #49 in that category. With some exceptions (Villanova is a pretty good school in the same category), it's generally going to be harder for a student to make the leap from a school that is perceived to be a "regional" school to top grad programs, and one suspects the employment opportunities for graduates of such schools will also be more limited. But what's your point? If your argument is just that the graduate of a small and relatively obscure regional college, especially one ranked #46 or #49 in that category in its region, isn't going to have the same employment prospects and graduate-level educational opportunities as the graduate of a top-tier research university . . . well, doh! But they won't have the same employment prospects and educational opportunities as the graduate of a top-tier LAC, either. Nor will the graduates of the University of Dayton have the same opportunities as the graduates of the top-tier research universities and the top-tier LACs, but in my opinion the prospects of, say a Bowdoin graduate will be much more similar to those of a Brown graduate than either will be to a graduate of Dayton or Manhattanville. In short, it's not about size.