Pick a school only on prestige and job placement, unless it's very inexpensive


I would argue anyone who can get As at Dartmouth could do the same at Columbia and vice versa. One school may be better for a specific major due to undergraduate research opportunities or some other school specific factor, but I wouldn’t lump that under some amorphous fit category.

@iwannabe_Brown, Dartmouth and Columbia are both “prestige” schools. I wouldn’t have a problem with someone turning down Columbia and going to Dartmouth, even though Columbia is more prestigious. In the big picture, they’re equal.

My question was for people who pick a school ranked, say, #152 in US News and then criticize people for picking a school ranked #5. There is an “inverse snobbery” on this board, and in real life, by people at the #152 school, who think that they’re “better” than people who picked an elite school for the name, prestige, placement, etc.

There’s a real chance they would, but I bet if someone doesn’t want to be in an urban school with a very structured core curriculum then they will find As much easier to come by at Dartmouth, Williams, and Amherst than they will at Columbia or Chicago. I don’t know if I wouldn’t factor in specific majors or undergrad research opportunities since I don’t think those are necessarily part of prestige (Harvard certainly doesn’t put its undergrads as top priority). So if someone is going to sit here and say “choosing your school off anything other than prestige is misguided” then isn’t it misguided to choose based on those things? At the very least I am referring to things like curricular structure, class size (both overall school size and individual class size), location, access to professors vs. TAs. Seems to me like adults do this all the time when they prioritize having time for family as part of the job search, “family oriented” neighborhoods over others or factor in commute time or who the coworkers are (the employer at least is thinking about personality fit when they make their offers) when choosing jobs or where to live. Is it really questionable if happier students are more successful students?

Can’t really have it both ways unless you’re already starting to walk back your stance. If Columbia is more prestigious it cannot be equal to Dartmouth and if you are ok with someone choosing Dartmouth over Columbia you are ok with them choosing for some reason other than prestige.

Ok, so what you really are disagreeing with is the amount of weight people put in factors besides prestige such that large differences in prestige get outweighed. I’d imagine the kid who gets into #5 (coincidentally - that’s Columbia) but instead chooses to go 152 (Immaculata University - which I’ll admit I’ve never heard of so let’s go with 153 - Oklahoma State) is the majority of the time doing so because of money since IS tuition for OSU (yeah, I went there buckeyes) is <8k/year and OSU can offer merit aid which Columbia can’t. You already said money is an ok reason to sacrifice prestige so maybe a lot of those people are thinking the same thing you are and thinking you’re a sucker for shelling out 50k/year more for Columbia. Maybe they simply don’t want to leave the South or don’t want to be in a dense urban environment. As I said above, plenty of adults do this. Prestige according to whom/what? I’m guessing you’d say if OSU somehow was more prestigious than Columbia in a particular field (e.g. the aspiring future medical examiner who chooses to go to Tennessee and study with the faculty of the body farm) then you’d be ok with the person choosing 153 overall because it’s the more prestigious option? Or would you not be ok with that because what if the person changes their mind and now isn’t going to be in a more prestigious program? I’m guessing schools like Liberty, BYU, and the all girls’ schools are virtually off limits unless they are the most prestigious institutions someone gets into?

Personally, I would look down on someone who chose a school SOLELY for prestige/job placement (both of which are such BS stats) but the person who literally doesn’t care about anything else probably has a whole host of other things about them that I’m not going to like. The person who FACTORS prestige? By all means, go ahead. I’ve done it, and pretty sure everyone I know has. I also know that I haven’t met people who genuinely enjoyed being at Harvard - at least certainly not the way the Duke or Brown alumni enjoyed their alma maters. Was just reading the other day either here or on the Harvard reddit (I’ll admit, I was trying to find out more info on memegate2) someone post that Harvard is not supposed to be one big community and that it’s naive to think students will care about each other at all. That’s actually a pretty sad mentality.

I’ve never met anyone who felt they were better than me for going to a less prestigious school unless really it’s just politics and the fact that Brown is so liberal. Then again, I fully acknowledge that prestige was not the sole factor in my choice to matriculate there. I have met people who don’t think Brown is worth the COA over less prestigious schools - and it’s certainly a murkier argument - but it’s also one you agree with.

I’d love to see an example of what you’re talking about so I have a better sense as to what you’re really saying.

  1. I followed your link, and it doesn’t support the bit that I quoted above. Did you link to the wrong page?
  1. Accepting your claim as correct, said data is kind of pointless if it isn't normalized for major. (One expects that a comp sci major will have a higher income than an anthropology major, f'rex.) MIT has a very high proportion of majors in high-paying fields, which automatically skews their graduates' overall income up. To really test the proposition, one would have to compare MIT comp sci majors with Rutgers comp sci majors, and MIT anthro majors with Rutgers anthro majors. There may well be a difference, for all I know—but there might not, and **that**'s the comparison we need to start with to begin figuring things out.

“1. @DadTwoGirls you should take a look at this data https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/college-mobility/. Median income for MIT grads is at least 60% higher than for Rutgers grads. You can argue all day about why this is, but it’s just not factually accurate to say grads from both schools do just as well.”

I never said that the average Rutgers grad would do as well as the average MIT grad. I said that the student who was accepted at MIT would do just as well if then went to Rutgers instead. These are very different statements.

Of course, I have a bachelors degree in Mathematics from MIT, so what should I know about either conditional probabilities or the outcome for MIT graduates?

@iwannabe_Brown, feel fee to post lengthy criticisms of straw man arguments, but please carefully read my posts. I say what I mean and mean what I say.

I chose Harvard solely due to the name. That was a great decision and it has had excellent career benefits (leading to cash in the bank). Sounds like you’re not going to like me for that alone, but to each his or her own.

@HappyAlumnus: You’re being disingenuous.

You chose HLS for the name.

You never chose Harvard undergrad.

Honestly, I’m sympathetic to the view that no undergrad is worth $250K (more like $280K these days) or that very few are.

Then again, I’m also sympathetic to the view that anyone who goes the big debt/Big Law route is rather foolish.


I think that is the main issue. The smart kids pick the right schools and get their education at quite a reasonable price (due to financial aid). It’s the students who are less smart that end up with both less aid and a worse selection of schools (thus greatly reduced ROI).

This is mainly where you see the student debt crisis (people taking out a few hundred k and not being able to find employment that can pay off the debt). Any student with excellent grades and tests scores should have no issues finding an education with good ROI.

Let’s say you are a top academic in the highest percentile, High School senior that applied to 6 top twenty schools and 4 of the 30-45" ranked schools. You end up accepted to 4 of the top 30-45 “ranked schools” two with merit scholarships around 30k. You are waitlisted at the #1, #3 and # 5 schools and turned down at #2, #6 and # 7. If you imagine that your chances of being accepted off the waitlist are slim to none, you would most likely accept the merit scholarship 30-45 range University. Even if you prefer NYU .

  Then, after your caring parents pay all deposits to said merit scholarship University, you are suddenly accepted off the waitlist at the #1 University. You know your parents want the best for you, even though they never attended college, you also know that they saved so that you can attend full pay since they now make too much to qualify for a free education for you. Which University would you pick? I say the investment in the #1 University is the best choice. 

@HappyAlumnus I would argue a better way to phrase it is: Amongst schools roughly on the same tier, do not choose a school you hate just because of prestige.

example: You have a choice between Harvard and Yale. Harvard is obviously more prestigious but it will not provide you any more opportunities than Yale and being miserable at Harvard means a higher chance of underperforming/ not reaching your full potential. In this example I would say the same reasoning holds for Harvard vs the other top 10 schools, HYPSM vs other top 10/15 schools etc.

@Screennamekiddo: I’d say that that isn’t necessarily true and would depend on too many factors that you didn’t even mention; the circumstance and details. How much total costs at each? What potential goals? What is the kid like? What are the specific schools? Schools #1-20 are definitely not all the same and schools #30-45 differ massively in many respects as well. Looking at schools through only a one-dimensional lens really only shows a blindered viewpoint.

@Penn95 , How is it that Harvard is more prestigious? Yale is in a town that has crime issues but has a better undergraduate education. Princeton is the best undergraduate education by far. The Harvard yard is a mud pit, unless it’s graduation month, they inflate grades and accept mostly lower tier academic based students whom billionaire parents donated more. Jared Kuschner comes to mind.

@HappyAlumnus, I agree that the reverse snobbery on CC is silly - no a student population at a #150 school isn’t smarter than at a #15 school. Is it more prestigious? I have no idea as that never came into play when our DD’s looked at schools.

We were solely focused on - the smartest students that they could surround themselves with / learn from / leverage off of, the smartest school they could be successful at, and a nurturing environment that they would thrive in - future outcomes will be up to them and as I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t reverse engineer outcomes.

As @DadTwoGirls noted, students at smarter schools generally have better outcomes. Is that a guarantee no, but I have hired lots of recent grads, midlevel and executives over the years, and I haven’t seen too many from outside the top-100 pass through my door. That said, I have seen a fair share of Ivy/little Ivy prospects flame out, but at least they got on the field, after that it’s all about the individual…

@PurpleTitan , okay so,… Imagine the kid wants to go off and experience life and be challenged academically. The kid is tired of being the “big fish in a small pond”. I stated each ranking of schools in the top twenty and the 4 that the kid was accepted to have equal status in the field that the kid wants to pursue.
This post was one dimensional because it is in writing and conversing with video and in person isn’t available.

So, you will not know the nuances or exact detail. Just imagine the kid is willing to progressively move forward, likes an intellectual challenge and has the parental support necessary. I would pick the prestigious, highly challenging, undergraduate education and expensive University.

@Screennamekiddo: Again, not enough details. Some kids would suffer from being a big fish in a small pond even at a top 20 school. Many kids who may get in to a top 20 (and even more likely those who got in to a top 20 of a WL) would not feel that way at a 30-45 school and in fact would find the school more than challenging. And of course, this would depend heavily on the major and the individual. Few people find decent engineering programs or decent pre-med sequences anywhere to be unchallenging.

This is my opinion, but I don’t think you have done enough research in to colleges.

Well, any parent here is at least 20 years out of college. Times have changed. Ironically, today, the most prestigious colleges are quite sensitive to and can filter out kids who want them solely for their rep or the future success (“You’ll get me into a top med school” or “You’ll provide the ROI I want.”) So it’s going to boil down to perceived fit, no matter what OP thinks is correct behavior re: most prestigious.


You have to type in the school. MIT men have a median income of 110900. Rutgers men have an average income of 66500.

“I haven’t seen too many from outside the top-100 pass through my door.”

I have seen a LOT of very top performers in the high tech world (where I have worked my entire career) who did their undergrad at very good universities that are not in the US, and therefore are not on the USNWR rankings at all. I have also seen a few who went to undergrad schools which are too small to show up on “top university” rankings.

This statement says Rutgers not Rutgers grads admitted to MIT. It is ironic you felt the need to name drop you went to MIT in a post arguing against the value of prestige.

@roethlisburger I think that you are still twisting my words.

I said, entirely correctly, that I have seen a lot of Rutgers and UMass graduates who have done very well in the area that I work (which is high tech). I accept that the Rutgers and UMass grads that I have worked with have been selected by the work processes that caused me to end up working with them. However, among the top performers that I work with from many companies, the Rutgers and UMass grads are as common as the MIT grads, at least at the bachelors level. I understand that I am talking about students who were likely to have been very strong in high school, and likely could have gone to more prestigious schools. For some reason they didn’t, and they did very well anyway.

Personally, I don’t think that going to MIT had anything to do with my success in life. I mentioned it because you twisting of my words suggests some lack of paying attention to basic mathematical concepts such as conditional probability, and your words make me wonder whether you would trust concepts such as “conditional probability” coming from someone from an “ordinary” university. I am quite sure that any university in the top 100 in the US, or any comparable university outside of the US, could have taught me probability just fine.

And yes, my probability professor at MIT was superb and I loved the class.