Does name recognition matter?

<p>Right now I am trying to decide between Williams and Dartmouth for ED. My biggest hangup about Williams is the lack of name recognition. The other 'negatives' everyone else seems to cite -- small size and isolation -- are actually very attractive factors for me, since I love tight-knit communities and the idea that the popular or wealthier students won't be disappearing into the city every night. Anyways -- </p>

<p>I had a discussion the other day with a Yale grad, and he said that name recognition actually has been burdensome for him. If he's in a conversation with new people, admitting that he went to Yale can alienate him from strangers since there are all sorts of assumptions that come along with being an Ivy League grad. He said there's value in saying "I go to a small school in the Berkshires," since people won't make any assumptions about you. And that when name recognition matters (grad school, employment), Williams is regarded as similar to HYP for those in the know. So it's the best of both worlds. </p>

<p>Also, I was thinking that if I was to go to a big-name school like Dartmouth, would I just be surrounding by obnoxious people who are attracted to big name schools? Does Williams draw Ivy League caliber students who were humble and didn't want the glamour of an Ivy?</p>

<p>My train of thought is shallow. From my point of view, Dartmouth is worse than Williams: smaller endowment per student, larger average class size, consistently ranked much lower by Forbes/US News, no 'entry' system, dominated by frats, graduate students abound, language requirement... on and on. But still, I don't like the idea of having to explain to my family members where I'm going to school. And, this is the worst part, I like the idea of people thinking, "Oh, you went to Dartmouth, you must be smart." </p>

<p>I guess my question is, does going to very elite, but relatively unknown school like Williams have its own value? Is name recognition overrated?</p>

<p>It seems like you prefer Williams over Dartmouth based on your comments. It also doesn't seem like money is going to be an issue, or you're not letting it be an issue. From what I've heard, Williams has a great rep in the job market. It is not unknown. It is the number 1 liberal arts college in the nation basically every year, and occasionally will be the number 1 overall. However, I've also heard that for many degree programs Williams sets you on a path for grad school, not right into the work force. This doesn't hold true for everything, like I know a couple people who majored in economic and went straight to Wall Street. Dartmouth has a more even split of people go to grad and right into the work force. I have visited both, and loved Williams. I thought Dartmouth was nice, but not for me. The admission counselor at Dartmouth seem to have the attitude "We're a great school, just see if you can get in." That was off putting to me. Besides her, the people at Dartmouth were great. They were by no means snobs, or elitist since they go to an ivy. Dartmouth to me seemed like the most down to earth Ivy. Both Williams and Dartmouth had very similar feels. They both are outdoorsy schools, with smart (brilliant even), but down to earth people.</p>

<p>In my experience, people who have not heard of top liberal arts schools like Williams are also unfamiliar with non-HYP ivies like Dartmouth. So if your goal is validation from the average person, you won't receive it by going to either of these schools.</p>

<p>I think you'll agree that's a ridiculous concern. If name recognition is important, it's when you are applying to grad school or the work force - and you needn't worry that top programs and companies will think highly of the Williams name. It does not matter at all when you are bragging to your high school classmates or your family members. Once they look up the school and check out its acceptance rate they won't question your decision - and if they do, I really don't see why it should affect you. Letting their lack of information about top colleges affect your decision or the way you feel about a certain school.</p>

<p>When I was accepted ED2 to a well known liberal arts college, very few people in my high school (including teachers) or in my family had heard of the school or thought anything of it. Those who ended up looking it up were impressed, and those who didn't continued to feel bad that I wouldn't be attending a "bigger name." It might have been a little annoying in the beginning, but I know the value of a liberal arts education (as you mentioned small class sizes, tight knit community, etc.) and the merits of my school. I would choose it again twenty times over rather than spend four years at a larger research university with a more public name.</p>

<p>Of course you'd like the idea of people recognizing your hard work. But frankly, I've never seen people go nuts about the Dartmouth name anyway. Anyone who's worth their salt to you (friends, family) will find out what "Williams" [cue Boston Brahmin accent ;) ] means if they don't already. As you said, grad schools, Wall St, etc. recognize that successful Williams grads are indeed the creme de la creme, the educated elite. </p>

<p>And FYI--you're not going to make tons of new friends in your hometown or get a hot new girlfriend just because you can tell them you go to Dartmouth or Williams. No one else really cares, despite what it may seem on the surface. The layman's understanding of a name-brand school is so limited and distorted that someone who doesn't know you well will not fully appreciate what you've devoted 4 years of your life to.</p>

<p>I was in a relevant position when I was in high school--I had to decide between Williams, Harvard, and Brown (among others). At first I thought exactly in the way that you describe now. Coming from a no-thrills, suburban public high school, I felt a sort of guilty indulgence in the reputations of the latter two. </p>

<p>But think about this: would you rather be "that guy that went to Dartmouth," "Mr. Ivy League," etc., or Jack Tornson, the insightful man and compassionate citizen? Alas, people will always be judging you in this world, but receiving a top-notch education from a school with strong name recognition only in the necessary circles gives you more control over how others perceive you. IMHO, that level of freedom is really worth pursuing! :)</p>

<p>In summary: screw the names. If you get the right education, i.e. one that forges you into who you really want to be (it could be Williams, Dartmouth, Harvard, or your local state school), you'll be better than what the names are worth anyway. </p>

<p>Let me know if you any other questions for a current Williams student. We're few and elusive on these kinds of forums.</p>

<p>And FYI--you're not going to make tons of new friends in your hometown or get a hot new girlfriend just because you can tell them you go to Dartmouth or Williams. No one else really cares, despite what it may seem on the surface. The layman's understanding of a name-brand school is so limited and distorted that someone who doesn't know you well will not fully appreciate what you've devoted 4 years of your life to.</p>

<p>this is absolutely 100% true</p>

<p>Both Williams and Dartmouth are among the best schools in the country and the world. Which ever you choose your education will be fantastic. Therefore, choose the school you just like the best. Forget about whether or not others know of the school; it's your education and your life, not theirs. As others said, people "in the know" will certainly know of Williams anyway. Whether you're going into the workforce or onto grad school, being a Williams graduate will open up many doors for you just as other big name schools. Anyway, the point is, go to the school that you want to go to, not to the one all your friends have heard about.</p>

<p>FoxboroPiper: great comment.</p>

<p>Agreed on all counts.</p>

<p>I don't disagree with any of the comments regarding validation via brand name. However, I think it's important to mention that while you will get pre-judged for being a snob by going to an Ivy (I get it more often than I like), you 1) have to also consider the positives: they do think you're smart, it does open doors sometimes, and you often may be treated or spoken to by strangers with a bit more respect and 2) who cares whether or not someone thinks you are a snob for having an Ivy league education? Just like someone's disregard for a SLAC education shouldn't matter, neither should someone's preconceived judgment of ivy league educations. Also, at the end of the day, most of those people who judge you to be a snob will still attach a good number of positive assumptions to your ivy league education. The worst case scenario is that you have to make a tiny effort to prove the few negatives wrong. </p>

<p>I'd just never let a few negative assumptions, outweighed by many positives, get in my way of a great school, ivy or not.</p>

<p>Bottom line, the important thing is how you feel about the school. Regarding name recognition, it depends on whether grad school is also on your horizon. If so, the grad school's reputation will be the first line of recognition. My nowhere undergrad institution isn't even really noticed one way or the other because of where I went for grad school (that's not to say that my husband's Stanford undergrad doesn't help him along with our grad school ;)). But I agree, while I also really like Dartmouth, it isn't HYP ivy...I think Williams is certainly equal to Dartmouth in name recognition...</p>

<p>In nearly every quantitative measure I have seen, Williams bests Dartmouth. </p>

<p>1) Feeder rate to elite schools
2) Endowment per capita
3) Alumni giving rate
4) Ranking on Forbes Magazine</p>

<p>At this point I have seen like 15 schools more or less and my criteria has been where I think I will have a great 4 years, get to do what I want to do, and then go on to grad school. I can do the grad school part from almost any school but I can't get to do "what I want to do" for 4 years in college at just any school. Name recognition is great and interesting but kind of irrelevant to my long-term plans since those are to go into my family business.</p>

<p>I was unprepared to like Williams as much as I did, but I had a great time while I was there. Maybe it's because there's a lot of construction going on but everything seemed really informal and on a level I liked. The person showing us around even said "I wish I could tell you what's in that building but I really have never figured it out" and it just seemed funny to me. </p>

<p>I have always known about Williams because I have visited eastern MA a lot but what I never really got until this summer is that there is a wicked subtext about Williams. It's like knowing about a really awesome musician or band that no one else knows about because it's not in the top 40. So maybe you get to walk around telling everyone you went to Williams and maybe only 20% or not even of the people you see know what the school is. Then maybe they look it up later and go oh, damn, that kid was actually smart. </p>

<p>Maybe it turns into a litmus test for you to see if the person you're talking to is smarter than the average bear, rather than having everyone go OH HARVARD. I kind of like that idea. It's kind of like being undercover. Ha</p>

<p>^I like your post Condor! :)</p>

This is an old thread, but I think it is a common concern among students considering Williams.
When I was at Williams and went to the staff orientation for a summer camp where I was going to be a counselor, all the counselors got excited and exclaimed, “What a great school!” when another counselor said she went to Yale. Guess who was the only person who made the same exclamation when I said I went to Williams? The Yalie, of course. People who went to top colleges recognize and are impressed by the Williams name. Most other people you’d meet on any random street do not.
It depends what matters to you. If to you, college is about having four great years of intellectual stimulation, it will be AMAZING at Williams. If being well prepared for graduate schools and careers matters to you, Williams will do that for you. Picking a small liberal arts college over a large university with greater brand recognition (whether an Ivy or your top state school or NYU or Boston U or Notre Dame or whatever) means picking the college experience over name recognition. Yes, if it matters immensely to you that your waiter or hair stylist or aunt or family friend will be impressed when you say where you go to college, then Williams is not the best choice.

It looks like you like Williams much more, but looking from a statistical point of view, I would choose Williams for ED even if I liked the two an equal amount. Williams’ ED acceptance is close to 50%, while Darthmouth’s is around 25%. Just from that, it seems like you should apply to Williams if you don’t mind going to either. As for name recognition, the grad schools and jobs that people from “elite” schools typically go to will almost certainly recognize Williams, even if any given person from your hometown may not.