Does it matter where you go to college?

I am transferring soon. I will be majoring in Computer Engineering. I wanted to ask if it matters what college or university that I attend for college. Are grades more important or the name? How important is it? How much of a difference does it make both financially as well as job opportunity wise?

For computer engineering, no. What you can do matters far more than what college you attended. I’ve heard that for teachers, it is helpful to go to college in the state in which you’d like to teach. Wall Street does prefer prestigious names. However, very soon after college we all reach the point where experience matters and where the degree came from does not.

It matters, of course–college experiences vary widely!
But what do you value? Nobody else can tell you whether it matters to you.

Especially for computer science folks, for your first job out of school, it absolutely matters. Google and Facebook and the like aren’t out there throwing out $150K starting salaries to just anyone. Having said that, once you get the relevant experience, then things start leveling out a bit and the degree starts to be less important.

There’s also the alumni network that is really important as well for good schools. Everyone hits a crossroad in their career at one point or another, and your alumni network is a very key part in finding opportunities.

Google and Facebook do not appear to be the same in recruiting and hiring practices. Google is known to recruit widely at dozens or hundreds of colleges for new graduates, though the interview process is difficult (those who can solve hard technical questions are more likely, but not exclusively, found at more selective colleges). Facebook appears to be much more college-elitist than other large computer companies.

For smaller companies, being at a local school can help, since smaller companies may not have enough recruiting resources or needs to travel everywhere to recruit.

Much of the alumni network and bias seems to be regional, rather than elitist. For example, the colleges with the most alumni at Google, Apple, or Facebook’s SV locations, as listed on LinkedIn are below:

  1. Stanford
  2. Berkeley
  3. San Jose State

If I instead search limit the search to these 3 companies’ NYC area locations, then NYC area colleges come out on top, as listed below. In Austin, UT Austin and Texas State come out on top. HYP do not do not have an especially large number of LinkedIn alumni at any of these locations, even though many would consider them more elite than the other listed colleges.

  1. NYU
  2. Columbia
  3. Cornell.

Yes, OP, your choice of college matters, but not probably for the reason you’re considering; rather, it matters because not every school will fit your preferences the same. If you consider fit (academic, environmental, sports/social, housing, etc.) in your decision, you’re more likely to be happy than if you choose based on rep or by throwing darts at the board.

Here’s an example of how it might matter for CS students. A former student of mine is at Harvey Mudd, doing CS. By the time she was a rising junior, she’d already had paid internships at Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Now, that was surely partly because she’s awesome, but it’s undeniable that it’s also partly because those firms seek out Mudd CS majors for those positions.

Companies that are familiar with Mudd CS likely do think favorably of the college, but 1 student receiving internships is not good proof of companies favoring Mudd over other colleges for internships. For example, you mentioned Microsoft. LinkedIn shows only 1 current Microsoft intern who attends/ed Harvey Mudd. Interning at Microsoft doesn’t appear to be common in the current class, although given the small class size, it may be more of a sample size issue. The 3 schools that have the most current Microsoft interns are UW, Bellevue, and Year Up (I realize Year Up is not a college), which each have dozens of current Microsoft Seattle interns. UW and Bellevue likely get more applicants and have more special connections due to their location near Microsoft’s main headquarters. There is not enough information to say whether Microsoft is likely to prefer an intern from Harvey Mudd or Bellevue, if all else was equal.

I am friends with the parent of a 20 something who works for google in CS. Kid went to the University of Hartford. Just one small data point, but it shows you don’t have to go to a top school to get hired at these places.

There are six-figure jobs for CS graduates in every state. You don’t have to work for Google or Apple to make a nice living with a CS degree.

@Data10 - At no point did I suggest my single data point was “proof.” The point is that the student I was referring to was presented with opportunities that aren’t available to everyone. Recruiters don’t go everywhere; not every school has established relationships with the biggest firms.

The question of whether your college matters has no single answer because it depends on what you mean by “matters.” But it’s undeniable that some places have established pipelines to some career opportunities (if that’s part of what you mean by “matters”) just as it’s true that some places have established pipelines to professional sports (if that’s part of what you mean by “matters”). While some NBA players come from surprising places (Damian Lillard from Weber State and Steph Curry from Davidson say hey!), it’s also true that going to, say, Kentucky or Duke is a better-trodden path with a greater likelihood of attracting NBA scouts and interest. The same is true for academic pursuits: @me29034 is right that “you don’t have to go to a top school to get hired at these places,” of course, it does help and it does increase the likelihood. There’s simply no way around it.

@data10 the problem is that she could only be at one internship at a time…jeesh.

Larger employers recruit at a wide variety of colleges. Flagships with larger student bodies tend to have a larger number of employers attend career fairs than smaller colleges, such as Harvey Mudd. Flagships that have a large number of engineering/CS grads also often have their share of the more highly desired “NBA” companies. For example, looking at the Missouri S&T career fair employer list, I see the 3 companies you listed – Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. One could get special recruiting benefits for these 3 companies at Missouri, just as one apparently can at Mudd. However, the Missouri S&T career fair also includes a larger number of additional employers. The differences are likely to be more notable is among smaller companies, rather than “NBA” companies… Many smaller companies emphasize recruiting at smaller number of relatively nearby colleges. If you want to work in Missouri, Missouri S&T is likely to have far more of these smaller, nearby companies and present special advantages… If you want to work in the southern CA area, Mudd is going to have far more related connections.

Right, so even in that instance, it matters–if you want to work in Missouri, Missouri S&T is a better choice. All of what you wrote supports my contention that {for whatever variable of “matters” you select} where you go to college {matters}.

Yes locale is very important but so is the school. Opportunities wise in Silicon Valley Stanford > UCB > SJSU > CSEB

And school can trump geography–MIT would clearly be ahead of at least two of those schools for SV gigs…

It may not be clear from reading the previous responses on this thread, but the vast majority of CS jobs are at places not named Facebook or Google. If the school you love is affordable, has a solid CS curriculum, a well established job placement program, and a good internship/co-op program, then you have your ticket.

For SV gigs, MIT comes in at #20.


That is unfair, as the article states “What most of the schools in the top 10 share is size.” MIT has an undergraduate enrollment of less than 5,000. It is super tiny compared to most of those schools and therefore will not have as many people.