Big Fish + Small Pond, Or Small Fish +Big Pond (Big Name)

<p>Are kids in certain majors/careers better off being small fish in big name ponds or bigger ponds
Big Fish in smaller ponds?</p>

<p>Does it matter if grad school is in the mix?
or if the student would be
Heading to the market place straight from undergrad school?</p>

<p>Would passing on the hype of big name uber selective schools
in favor of being
at the top of the heap in GPA/scores at a less selective
and then hopefully at the top of that less selective school
be a better thing...</p>

<p>for which career tracks
for which grad schools?</p>

<p>Clear s mud?</p>

<p>IMHO this issue is irrelevant. If Wall Street firms favor top grad from tops schools ... Law schools don't care ... the student is thinking about a public service career ... </p>

<p>My point is that:
a. No guarantee what kind of fish s/he'll be where s/he attends; and
b. The answer (if there is one) may change as the student grows.</p>

<p>It's clear, but the real problem is prediction who will be the big fish in either situation. Some kid will skim along being the B+ student no matter where they are. Some will consider the small pond a challenge to excel. Some will get bored in the small pond and achieve less. Some will get to the big pond and continue achieving while others will be overwhelmed.</p>

<p>It also depends on the program. Even the kids at the bottom of Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science are extremely employable.</p>

<p>It also depends on the fish's personality. Some fish like to be out in front of the pack. Others swim best when challenged by fellow fishes.</p>

<p>Yes of course depending.</p>

<p>Seriously, you can find plenty of stories of either path working out or not working out for a particular kid. One of the rabbits in the hat is whether you can really assume that a kid will be "at the top" of some less selective school. If he or she is -- and is really at the top, over the top -- then you can see some great things happen. (Check out the well-documented stories of curmudgeon's and newmassdad's daughters here on CC.) But there are lots of slips between cup and lip in that regard.</p>

<p>I think it depends what you mean by "graduate school", and what sort of career you are thinking about, too. For PhD programs, a close relationship with plugged-in faculty probably matters more than anything else. The hype-y universities have more of those than the rest of the world, but it's somewhat harder to get good access to them. A LAC or third-tier uni may only have one, but all you really need is one. In some fields, like math, there simply may not be enough top-tier talent at some LACs to give students enough background to qualify for top graduate programs.</p>

<p>If you are talking about professional school, the common wisdom is that only grades and test scores matter, but that doesn't explain why brand-name professional schools are chock full of students from brand-name schools. A 3.4 at Harvard may not beat a 3.9 from Podunk State, but at 3.7 from Harvard may very well, all other things being equal, and there are lots of 3.7s at Harvard. Also, it depends on what you mean by a "less selective" school. Amherst, Swarthmore, Caltech and Chicago are all much less selective than Harvard, but I don't think their brands mean less to professional schools. Michigan and Berkeley are much, much less selective than Harvard, but a really top student at either is going to be a big deal. Eastern Carolina? Bowling Green? Lake Forest? It's going to depend on the kid, not just the GPA.</p>

<p>As for direct-to-market jobs -- If you want Wall Street / hedge funds, go for the prestige (which can be Swarthmore/Amherst prestige). If you want accounting, or engineering, and know where you want to work, a good regional school is a fine way to get a good job where you want it.</p>

<p>The final goal and personal circumstances are of great relevance. One choice for Med. School/limited resources/no connections/non-URM, another one is for Law School/ unlimited resources/connections/URM, completely different one for Engineering, no Grad. school/unlimited resources/connnections/non-URM....... You can built endless combinations each with different outcome. It is important to figure out exact combo for your particular case and assess your specific situation based on this. Our own example of Med. School/limited resources/no connections/non_URM resulted in Honors at State school on full tuition Merit Scholarships with awesome non-monetary opportunities offered by school. The choice has been proven correct with opportunites beyond all (monetary and non-monetary) expectation. Make intelligent choice based on your own circumstances and do not listen to anybody, people have their own goals...etc, which are completely different from yours.</p>