How does the importance of prestigious national colleges vary by region?

I have found that there are cult-like followings in many places. Being from CA, it’s a high achievement to attend UCLA, UCB, or USC. Even Cal Poly SLO is pretty well regarded for its business and engineering. Now, if I were to ask someone in Texas about SLO, they most likely have never heard of it.

Similarly, when I tell Californians I attend TCU, in Texas, there is almost always (no joke) a physical recoil from people. Usually its followed by a joke about cowboys and “Why?” Back right after I had committed, I would have people ask me why I didn’t apply to/ wasn’t going to a UC or Ivy. It’s pretty simple to explain that away with financial prudence, but I still think its hard for some Californians to wrap their heads around Texas, and vice versa.

The important thing is to remember that no matter where one attends, they should choose somewhere that lets them thrive. The friends you make and people you learn from will be much more lasting in the long run than the impression of the name of an institution to hiring managers after you have had a few jobs in the industry.

Texas is almost a unique case. We lived there for 13 years. Part of it is geography. Every state surrounding Texas is universally poorer, less developed, and less sophisticated and urban. Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. In fact, the neighboring states to those states are no more prosperous: Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, and Arizona. If you grow up in Texas you have to go all the way to Denver, LA, Chicago, or Atlanta to find cities that are on par with DFW or Houston. In fact Texas’ medium sized cities like Austin and San Antonio are still twice the size and more prosperous than the largest cities in any neighboring state.

So it isn’t surprising that Texans become so parochial about their own institutions. They truly are better for the most part. The only other state that is so regionally dominant is California, which also far exceeds any of its neighbors in terms of universities or cities or economy.

The HS I taught at in TX was a major football factory and I usually had 5 or 6 students every year who were being recruited for D1 football schools. I always advised them to get as far from Texas as the could, for a whole lot of reasons. Texas will still be here for you to return to. But if you don’t get out now to see another part of the country then you’re never going to leave. That was the opposite advice from all their parents and coaches who were always pushing Baylor, UT, TAMU, Tech, OU, etc. The kids who left the state to go to places like Oregon State, USC, Florida State, etc. usually ended up doing better because they left their posse of friends behind and all the distractions that brought.

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Prestige is the eye of the beholder, and what is considered “prestigious” in one region is not always as prestigious in another region, and there are regional preferences as well.

In many states in the SE and Midwest, the state flagship often has more prestige than any Ivy league. So Ohio State rules in Ohio, U Alabama in Alabama, etc. Moreover, there is also often a general suspicion of East Coast Schools in many places outside of the NE and Mid Atlantic.

Moreover, as @HighTide2020 correctly states, the biggest advantage of attending a “prestigious” college is the networking, and most people grow up, go to school, and settle down in the same general region. So there will not be many people in Omaha, NE who attended Yale, but there will be a great many who attended U Nebraska, Lincoln.

In the business and law world of the NE and the Mid Atlantic, I would assume that the Ivies, MIT, and the “elite” LACs reign supreme. However, the further you get from there, the less people are impressed by degrees from these schools. I am not sure how many people in Idaho have actually heard of Brown, Dartmouth, or Columbia, while it is likely that even fewer have heard of Williams or Amherst (I’m not even mentioning Bowdoin, Middlebury, Colby, etc).

For the vast majority of the positions for which people apply the difference is between whether a person has a degree or not, rather than where the degree was awarded

I think it’s hard for a LOT of people to wrap their heads around Texas.

Outside of Texas, it would not be surprising if TCU were known mainly in a college football context, and that those who do not follow college football may think “religious college that they never heard of”.

I live in MA. Its true that the best colleges in the area are nationally prestigious ones. If you have a kid at the top of the class, that’s where they will be applying (in addition to safeties, of course). UMass is widely looked down on as a safety school for top kids. This doesn’t mean that smart kids don’t go there - many do - but it is usually due to financial restrictions. Lets face it - the top public university in the state, UMass Amherst, is ranked 66 by US News. Why wouldn’t you aim for the local private ones that are more highly ranked? There’s also almost no school spirit associated with following the sports teams. More people follow BC.

In the workforce, I come in contact with a lot of engineers who went to UMass. There doesn’t seem to be any stigma associated with it. However, I can’t recall meeting a single UMass grad outside of engineering. Obviously there are lots of them, so they must be around and be employed, but I don’t see them. Probably should add that I deal mainly with engineers, lawyers, and regulators in my professional life.

This type of discussion comes up regularly.

I grew up in So Cal. I guess I had heard of HYP. In my high school, people aspired to USC (awesome) or UCLA (losers. Haha, guess where my parents went?) All the others didn’t really come into the picture.

People want others to be impressed with their schools, and most just aren’t struck in awe if you announce you’ve been to an elite college. If you say you went to Harvard they know it is a hard school and you are smart, but most are not going to hang on your every word.

I worked in a small department with lawyers, some who had gone to Ivy undergrads. One guy went to Yale and he was very impressed with himself but the rest of us looked at it as he had the same job that we did and we didn’t go to Yale. Another had gone to Dartmouth. She was also very impressed with herself but she wasn’t that good at what we did. She was smart but she wasn’t part of the ‘team’ because she looked down upon the rest of us. Mr. Yale, who I liked very much, worked “Yale”, “New Haven” or “The Game” into every conversation and his alumni magazine was tossed casually onto a table in his office for all to admire.

He really wanted us to be impressed with Yale and we, mostly Midwesterners, just weren’t.

You’re not wrong. But, look at the SES make-up of those Ivy/NESCAC colleges: Forty-five percent of the students at Wesleyan are from families composed of the top 5% income earners in the country. If Tiffany offered you a discount on one of those fancy tote bags with the name “Tiffany” emblazoned across it, wouldn’t you at least be interested?

When we moved to TX, my D20 was in 3rd grade. We live in a very small town with a lot of ranching and a genuine western vibe. It’s actually really beautiful here and we got a TON of tourists. Despite the pretty surroundings and interesting culture, D20 could not WAIT to get out and chose a college in the PNW. Of course, they did not open dorms this fall and just about all the rest of Texas colleges and universities did with few exceptions. She is soooo not happy. But generally speaking, people here have no idea what schools are in the Ivy League. Most of our grads go to A&M, UT, Texas State, and UTSA. There are very few SLACs and the best one (Trinity) is becoming very difficult to get into since they take a lot of Rice rejects.

Not really, but you make a valid point. Many people care about status symbols, even people who claim, or even believe, that they don’t care about status symbols.

Midwesterners are not easily impressed about much anything, especially things which originate outside of the Midwest…

I’m not sure what that even means. Most of our extended family lives in the Pacific Northwest. D21 wants to live in the Pacific Northwest after graduation. How is a group of Wesleyan friends from the top 5% of CT, NY, and MA families going to help her? And I don’t see Wesleyan offering any “discounts”. Their current cost of attendance is pushing $80,000 per year and they don’t offer merit aid so it is likely to be nearly double the cost of private offerings here in the PNW and nearly triple the cost of our in-state public options.

My kid has plenty of friends right here at her HS who are in the top 1% and I’m sure there will be no shortage of wealthy friends at any of her regional choices. To the extent that it even matters. The NE doesn’t have a monopoly on wealth. The community we live in here in WA is actually considerably more wealthy than Middletown CT, home of Wesleyan.

Wow. I can see, you took that the wrong way. My fault. FWIW, the average grant for the 40% of Wesleyan students who qualify for need-based aid, is ~$40,000. That’s the discount I was talking about and it makes Wesleyan pretty competitive with the best flagship universities in the country. But, that’s not the point of this thread.

I’m a native of CA. One of my D18’s HS friends (SF Bay Area public HS) had a graduation party at her home. I remember her parents telling me she would be attending TCU. I didn’t recoil, but I was certainly a little confused all things considered. :smile:

It’s quite rare when a HS grad from our area attends a college in the South or Southwest.

We are in NorCal. Moved here 6 years ago from overseas so didn’t grow up with any preconceived ideas, haha. A lot of parents in our town went to Cal or Stanford (one said to me about Stanford: “it was much easier to get into back then, much harder for our kids.”) But we also have a fair number of transplants into the area from the east coast or immigrants, so maybe that affects it too. Of D19’s high school class, I think around 40% -50% ended up in the UC/CSU system. A number went California private. Other west coast states are popular, but there were also a significant chunk of the class, maybe a quarter, that went east. So it doesn’t seem quite as “parochial” as some other areas described in this thread, even though we have an excellent instate public system.

D20 has a very close friend from TX attending her LAC. Both parents are Ivy grads and settled in Austin. It was an equal desire for both parents and student to look to the northeast for colleges. Good, bad, or indifferent, I think a lot depends on what anyone’s frame of reference is. People tend to know what they know and like what they like. D20 wanted to stay a certain radius from home, a small LAC and a certain vibe. It doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have an equal, or better, experience at a similar school in another part of the country.

We live in a pretty small town that sends kids to the same handful of schools every year. Even a T20 LAC with D1 athletics 2 hours away gets a blank stare from most people. With an eye toward grad school and employment, we know it was a great choice for her.

I commuted to a job in Texas from NJ for 2 years, and I literally gave up trying to understand the college culture.

The one major difference between TX and (maybe) anywhere else was the “auto admit” based on class rank in the state. My recollection is that if you were in the top 6% (?) of your class it is an auto-admission to UT or some of the other schools in the state. I’m sure I’ve got it wrong, but Texas made it really easy for the best students to stay local. The financial differences (including travel) make it very hard to justify the cost of NE schools.

Williams, Bowdoin, Amherst, Swarthmore…what are they? Penn…you mean Penn State? I’d bet most Texans can’t name 4 Ivies.

That’s not good or bad…but it was real. UT was the gold standard in the office I worked in.

Gotcha. I misunderstood. Instate tuition here at UW-Seattle is $11,745/year and total cost of attendance is about $29,000/year with dorms and meal plans. So even $80,000/yr Wesleyan with $40,000 of need-based aid which might be part loans and work study is going to be substantially more. Over at Washington State the cost is about $5,000 less and merit awards for in-state students are automatic for GPAs above about 3.7 which pushes the cost down to the $20,000/year range. As good as Wesleyan might be, no employer here in WA is going to question the credentials of anyone with a UW or WSU degree.

But I understand how the calculation might be different if you are a CT resident and comparing UConn to Wesleyan.

That is actually the result of court-ordered desegregation and affirmative action. And it’s a good thing in my mind. It means that kids across the state in inner-city minority schools, rural schools, immigrant schools along the Rio Grande valley and everywhere have a chance to get into UT and TAMU if they can graduate near the tops of their classes, no matter how poor and under-resourced their own schools are. You have just as good of a chance of getting into UT if you are an immigrant kid on the border in a run-down school without resources as the rich kids in the upscale Dallas suburbs. And that’s a good thing.

Without that top 10% rule (which has slid down to the 6% range in recent years as the state has grown), both UT and TAMU would be packed with mostly white kids from affluent suburban school districts. Now those kids just move on to Baylor, SMU, TCU, and out of state options like OU, Arkansas, and LSU when they don’t get into UT or TAMU. So they don’t lose much, while a lot of bright kids from disadvantaged backgrounds get an opportunity to go to UT or TAMU when they likely wouldn’t otherwise have that opportunity.

Top 10% class rank Texas resident => automatic admission to any Texas public university except UT Austin. UT Austin sets its own automatic admission threshold (currently top 6%) to fill about 75% of its admission space.

Automatic admission to a campus does not necessarily mean admission to a specific major.