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

It’s not just a numbers game, though. The Ivies have long had an outsized impact on American politics, literature, etc.

To cite a couple of examples from politics, 8 of the 9 current Supreme Court Justices attended Ivies, as did all 5 of the most recent presidents.

We sure have a lot of Texans on this thread! And we haven’t even fought over the schools! I can imagine how a Texas guidance counselor would not tend to come up with Kansas State. What a great story and result.

I have a good friend who is a professor at A&M and he wanted his STEM-oriented kid to go to Tech just because it is not as huge and is more manageable. A fair number of kids from our high school go to Stephen F Austin. It’s a nice size, beautiful area of East Texas and not quite as intense as the big flagships.

William and Mary was established when Virginia was a colony.

^ And I believe W&M started as a private school and converted to public (perhaps after UVA was founded, not sure).

You are including law/grad school and referring to older persons who graduated many decades ago, but I do agree that Ivy grads are overrepresented in national politics. I think the more important question is why that relationship exists. Are people who aspire towards national politics and/or come from well connected families more likely to attend Ivies? Or does attending an Ivy make one more likely to be elected than attending a home state public?

It’s not a general rule that you need to go into Ivies to become a high ranking politician. For example, looking at governors of Texas, I believe George W. Bush is the only Texas governor who attended an Ivy. I believe all of the Texas governors for more than 100 years have either attended a college in Texas or did not attend college at all. In fairness Bush did apply to UT for grad school, but was rejected, so he attended Harvard instead. I expect both being admitted to Ivies and being elected had a lot to do with his last name. A similar pattern exists for many other states. If you include grad school, most governors attended college within the state that they govern and did not attend an Ivy.

Similarly if you look at the Texas supreme court members, I believe only 1 attended an Ivy for undegrad. By far the most frequently attended college was UT Austin – both the most common for undergrad and the most common for law school. Again a similar pattern exists for state and local elected officials elsewhere. As a general rule of thumb, I doubt that attending a big public in your home state is going to hurt you in being elected to a state or local office. If anything, it may offer some special benefits that would not be found at an Ivy.


As was Rutgers.

I believe the estimates are on the high side, but regional preferences certainly exist among applicants to highly selective private colleges. For example, looking at the 2019-20 class among selective colleges in CA

Harvey Mudd – 42% in state
USC – 42% in state
Caltech – 38% in state
Stanford – 33% in state

I attended HS in upstate NY and was interested in 3 of the colleges above. Literally nobody associated with my HS that I spoke with had heard of Harvey Mudd, including both students and teachers. Caltech wasn’t much better. Many people had heard of Stanford, but a good portion of the school knowledge seemed to involve sports teams, rather than academics. According to Naviance, my HS didn’t have any recent applications to Harvey Mudd or Caltech, and had very few to Stanford. In contrast, there were a huge number of applications from my upstate NY HS to the upstate NY college Cornell – more applications than to all other Ivies + Stanford combined. Like Stanford, Cornell gets ~1/3 the class from in state.

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@Camasite I think you’re absolutely right! I have a good friend who went to Harvard law school and she has found it incredibly difficult to find a job in our mid-sized midwest city where the state law school is clearly preferred. There is a network that my friend is not able to penetrate, and I think there are some preconceived ideas about what kind of person she is based on the school she graduated from. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it.

Great discussions and insight.

Very aligned to my thinking as I stated here:

The US is very decentralised with each region having its own fiefdoms, where people from non-Ivy and non-HYPSM universities can prove their worth at state level; hence giving them the credentials to move to federal level roles and compete.

The UK, on the other hand, is extremely centralised. A far smaller geography where every part in reachable, hence the aristocracy can impose themselves across the land with the excuse of “I attended Oxford/Cambridge”. Hence, only the aristocracy get the credentials to get the top jobs; limiting open competition for these jobs.

@Data10 I was admitted to USC Dornsife this year and the admitted student FAQ said that ~1/2 of the class was outside of CA, though this likely changes from year to year as you said.

Dornsife FAQ:

You’re absolutely correct. And, the first rule of Fight Club is - there is no Fight Club. :smiley:

As a bonus, going local, or at least within driving distance (in an electric vehicle) from your home contributes to reducing emissions, since air travel is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases.

With COVID-19, a larger portion of students are choosing to stay within driving distance than typical this year. With the trend line listed below, USC was expected to be ~40% in state this year.

Percent In State at USC, First Time Freshman
2018 – 42%
2016 – 42%
2014 – 45%
2012 – 51%
2010 – 58%
2008 – 60%
2006 – 61%
2004 – 63%

William and Mary has been public since very early 1900’s and UVA was founded in early 1800’s. Though this does not really matter the point is on my original response that they are both public schools.

Lets not forget our President Elect Biden, I believe he went to University of Delaware and she to Howard. Neither went to graduate school.

After graduating from Howard University, Kamala Harris earned her law degree from UC-Hastings

Joe Biden has a JD from Syracuse University.

From New England but have lived in FL for 28 yrs. Kids born and raised in FL. The predominant college draw locally is UF and FSU although recently UCF and USF are making inroads to that. All very large schools. Interesting to me, as I attended UMass in the '80s, and although it’s a fine state school, many/most considered it huge and “less than” many other local options. In reality it was small compared to these massive state FL schools. Lot of prestige hunting up north. UF is prestige down here.

From a networking standpoint, would almost (maybe actually) be better to be a Gator than attend a Ivy. That’s great if you stay in FL. The challenge is there aren’t many industry leading employers in FL. Even if you work in a local office of a national firm, it’s a smaller office with less key leadership exposure.

FL is not a bad place to finish a career or start your own shop (that’s what I did), but I wouldn’t want to start a corporate career here. Makes for an interesting scenario as the local schools are the prevailing dream schools but I’m not sure how that plays for placement in other markets.

Not like TX where you have the new Silicon Valley in Austin or the massive Oil and Gas industry. Of course we have the Space Center.

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I grew up in CA and went to W&M back in the day. I live in NorCal now. I remember telling people where I was going and getting responses like “what did you say? Loyola Marymount?” No one had heard of it. Four people from my Catholic high school went to Stanford my year, though.

Now, W&M is definitely on the list of prized schools. People lament how hard it is to get in. I see license frames and sweatshirts from time to time. I checked my old high school’s matriculation, no one got into Stanford, one kid is going to W&M! Go Tribe!

Most students in our public high school happily end up at Cal State or UC schools, lots to private West Coast schools, and maybe 25% elsewhere including regional publics - Az, Nevada, Oregon and WA.

P.s. There weren’t state schools in 1693, so gotta cut W&M slack on the naming issue. It was named after the crown, which was not a bad thing in pre-revolutionary days.

What are you talking about? Biden went to Syracuse to law school and Harris went to Boalt Hall (Cal) to law school. Both of their spouses have advanced degrees.

In Colorado, both senators are carpetbaggers who aren’t from Colorado and went to east coast LACs. Our governor was born in Colorado but raised in San Diego and went to Princeton.