Is Brandeis prestige worth the money?

I’m currently a senior in HS and I just got accepted to Brandeis, my dream school. I am so excited and would love to attend, but I unfortunately did not receive any money. My family is in the awkward middle class area where we don’t get any financial assistance but can’t afford to pay full price. My other two top schools are Clark University and Lewis & Clark College, both of which I received merit aid for, making them 20-25k cheaper than Brandeis. My family can probably scrape together enough to pay for Brandeis, but is it worth it? Would going to Brandeis over one of the other two schools help me more in life? Basically, I can’t decide if the prestige of Brandeis is worth the money.

I actually had to look up the rankings of the three colleges because I wasn’t aware that Brandeis was substantially more prestigious than the other two. In general I’d say prestige is never worth going into lots of debt for.

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First, congratulations on your hard work and resulting successful applications! Best of luck with your future, you are at a great time of your life and have some exciting decisions ahead of you. You represent the best to come for this country, that’s something to think about!

For most people, once you get into the work world, your school becomes a moot point. Generally speaking, your performance, aptitude, motivation (and sometimes post grad degree) count for more. To put this into perspective: I have never, never been asked about my undergrad school (which incidentally is far from prestigious). I have been asked about my post grad (which is from one of the well known schools in the Boston area).

However, that’s not to say an undergrad degree from a very well recognized school doesn’t count for more compared to a lesser known one. There are some areas that buck this trend and will only look for Ivy school degrees (I think there are “Old Boy Networks”) but even then, I still think the trend is to want a post grad degree. Additionally, more prestigious schools do usually have a better alumni network which can be vital when entering the work world. And if you decide to settle in the New England area, then yes, these schools are better known at the undergrad level.

But… in all honesty, I don’t think Brandeis is prestigious; a very good school, yes, but not extremely well known -particularly in the work world. Outside New England (and even at times in it) it is not well recognized. Of course this is my opinion, and I’ll also say it applies to Tufts, BC, Northeastern and BU as well (sorry to those who disagree, again it’s my opinion). Where Brandeis and Tufts does excel is their academic reputation with other schools. Translation: if you want to do a post grad degree, then it’s a good place to be to gain access to even better known schools.

So, my advice* is this:

If you think you’re only going to have an undergrad degree, get it from a better value school. With the savings, use it to give yourself a debt free or lower debt start, or put it towards other important things for life.

If you or your family has excessive amounts of money and are able to afford the costs (and it sounds like sadly you do not) then sure, go ahead. And then use your family money to get a post grad degree from a really prestigious institution!

If you really want to do a post grad degree (and it’s hard to know when you are so young) and you have a very specific area of study, it may, just may, be worthwhile.

At this point I might also say that how much you like Brandeis should come into play; after all if you think you really, really, really want to go there, it may be worth it to bite the bullet and accept you’ll need to spend more. But $20-25K a year more? I’d say not. That much money can substantially kick start your career in other ways.

*not professional advice, not intended to be, and keep in mind it’s very, very general, and there are always exceptions. If you parse the above carefully, note the use of the words “generally speaking”, “sometimes”, “my opinion” and “usually”. Also add in my bias that a post grad or specialist degree is usually (uh oh, there’s that word again!) a really good investment, but that may greatly be affected by your area of study.

If that is a difference of 20-25k per year, then the debt is going to stick with you a lot longer than the “prestige” will. I have to agree with the other post that needed to look up university rankings in order to even know which of the schools that you got into was higher ranked. Each of the schools that you mentioned will give you a good education.

What is your intended major? Do each of these three schools have a good program in your major?

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This should pinned somewhere above the “College Search and Selection” Forum.


Agree that “prestige” is probably not the best word choice. “Higher ranked” might be more appropriate.

I would disagree strongly with the “Brandeis is not prestigious” remark. Brandeis is extremely well regarded.

Brandeis is the college being attended by the valedictorian of my kid’s suburban public high school class, where other members of the top ten students ranked just below her are at Brown, Cornell, Williams, Vanderbilt, UC Berkeley, etc.

Brandeis has many special aspects. Here are two cool ones:

  1. It is a tier one research university, where two professors recently won a Nobel prize... and yet it is relatively small in size and has the small class sizes and close professor-student relationships of a liberal arts college.
  2. It also is the nation’s only completely secular, never-religiously-affiliated college not to have a Christian majority. No religion boasts a majority there, although Jews are a plurality. The campus boasts three temples from three different religions purposely built so that the shadow of any of the three never falls on any of the other three.

Only you and your family can decide if the intellectual experience of attending Brandeis, and your perception of its being a good fit for you, will be worth the added expense. In terms of later career/ grad school/ financial success, I agree with the posters above who stated that your individual achievements and drive will be more determinative than the college you attend.

We toured both Brandeis and Clark. Clark has a similar appeal to Brandeis in that it also is a small university and has a student body that includes many comfortably quirky kids and is oriented toward community service/ social justice.

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If have an acceptance from Brandeis, I’m pretty sure you applied Early Decision. Under the ED agreement you signed, you are committed to Brandeis unless the financial aid that they offer makes it unaffordable for you and your parents. It sounds like this is not the case since you said your parents could scrape the money together. Instead you have more affordable options. That is not the same as Brandeis being unaffordable - it means the other colleges are more affordable.

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Also, try appealing your financial aid offer and see what happens! Worth a try, anyway.

Brandeis University is a well respected school in the Northeast US.

A year or two ago, Brandeis was ranked by US News at #40 LAC tied with BU, Case Western Reserve, Tulane, Northeastern, and the College of William & Mary.

The Fiske Guide To Colleges 2020’s introduction reads:

“Founded in 1948 by members of the American Jewish community who sought to expand access to education, Brandeis is an elite institution seeking students of all faiths and backgrounds. Academic specialties range from the natural sciences to business and Near Eastern and Judaic studies. Has one of the top programs in neuroscience at a midsized research university. Competes with Tufts in the Boston area.”

“Brandeis University, founded to provide educational opportunities to those facing discrimination, has always had a reputation for intense progressive thought. Now it’s being recognized as a rising star among research institutions… The only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college in the nation, Brandeis appears to be focusing less on maintaining its Jewish identity and more on attracting a well-rounded, eclectic group of students from all backgrounds.”

“Brandeis is virtually unrivaled in Near Eastern and Judaic studies, and Hebrew is a specialty.”

As someone who’s lived in the Boston area for 20++ years I wouldn’t say Brandeis is prestigious. If you LOVE Brandeis it might be worth the money.

My guess is the val had another reason for going there. The kids I’ve know at Brandeis have been nice smart kids but not valedictorian level at all.

Debt is a killer. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you can love the options where the money is better do so.

Parent of a Brandeis student here. Congratulations on your acceptance! You should be very proud of your accomplishment! Our kid was an RD admit so could compare multiple offers and similar to OP was offered more merit at Clark which was also less expensive overall. We’re also parents who did not qualify on paper for aid (did get some merit at Brandeis) but are not wealthy so the tuition is very expensive for us. All that said, we made the family decision to send our student to Brandeis and we have not regretted it one bit because of the quality of the academics. Our kid is definitely heading to graduate studies and we have looked at the stats for admissions in the sciences to stellar grad programs coming from Brandeis and they are very good. Peers of our kid in high school were accepted to top schools. Current peers at Brandeis are high stats students. A seriously academic student would likely be happier at Brandeis than at Clark. It would matter, OP, what you are hoping to study – if you are a STEM student, you would really want to consider the investment in Brandeis as money well spent in preparation for a future career. If you are pre-med, certainly Brandeis is a better choice.

My kid is at Brandeis, and there are quite a few students there who were valedictorians or close to it. It’s a serious school for serious students, and the weekends in the library (for STEM students, anyway) attest to this. Anyone who has to look up Brandeis to see how it compares with other schools really isn’t in a position to comment on its prestige or the academic qualifications of the student body.

Thanks everyone for your comments! I ended up choosing Brandeis, as I was able to appeal my financial aid and get a significant amount of money! I plan to major in International/Global Studies.


There’s a story with a happy ending.

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Congrats OP! Based on our kid’s experience, you’ll be surrounded by highly intelligent, caring, unique, wonderful people and professors. We’ve been thrilled by Brandeis … Enjoy!

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Hi Pallasg… My son is almost at the point of committing to Brandeis. We were also looking into appealing for more merit money but not sure how to proceed and what might help. Could you pls advice. Thanks

Hey Pallasg,

I am also in the situation where my family may not be able to pay, but we have not done an appeal yet because we don’t think that they will give us any money because we don’t qualify for any aid according to FAFSA and CSS. Is the significant amount of money that they gave you merit based or did they classify it as need based. If it is need based, maybe It would be worth it for me to try. Look forward to hearing back from you:)

@pallasg we are in a similar situation this year. Planning to appeal for more aid. Do you have any pointers as to how to go about this? Any help will be appreciated

Have you tried appealing? We are also in a similar situation this year, where we don’t qualify for need but don’t think they will give us more money if we ask.