Sin of pride and college choice


I have a child who is a senior in high school. She is realizing that as she is trying to choose the right college for her, pride is an overlooked factor. For instance, it is considered more prestigious to go to a flagship public university, or smaller private school than a local branch of a public university. I think this may be partly why so many kids / families take on lots of debt! Any thoughts from the peanut gallery? I would appreciate any consideration and comments. I’m probably overthinking this!!


You nailed it.

Pride (perhaps expressed as vanity).
Often it’s the parents that drive this…all understandable, but our motives should be examined thoroughly and rectified against the rest of the family budget!!


Don’t let the name, the location, the hype or the rumors about any college determine your choice. Check them out especially if you prefer good Catholic friendly colleges.


But, how does education quality come in? Getting accepted to Harvard, and to your local community college, are two different things, with different results.


A couple of notes:

  1. Prestigious universities aren’t so prestigious in a lot of cases. A recent poll done by Rasmussen showed that 97% of people couldn’t have cared less about if someone went to a state school versus an Ivy League School. Plus, Harvard apparently thinks it’s okay for you to identify with whatever race you want on the application.

The only time I would advise your child to go to a really expensive school is if it were paid for or if she/he had the right connections and knew he/she could make use of them.

  1. A lot of the good vs bad decision depends on the major. If your child is going to major in a field where there is no market demand, that’s a problem. They’ll give him/her all the loans in the world to go nonetheless. So you’ll want to have that conversation.

And look at the real, hard numbers. Don’t buy into anecdotal evidence of “well, my friend did this and it’s okay”.

  1. Be involved. A lot of teenagers don’t know what they are getting themselves into. All a lot of universities want is for your kid to sign on the dotted line so they can get tuition money and run their operation whether it’s good, bad or ugly.

  2. For the most part, no one really cares where you go to college. The biggest boost comes from various alumni connections with can help, but admittedly the majority of alumni are too busy working or having families to be super-involved----AND they will be more interested in hiring someone who can do the work at the end of the day.


What makes you think Havard will just give you a good quality education? Going there could put you at a disadvantage if you have a worthless major with no connections.

Community college students actually are doing as well as they ever have. They get into skills professions that are in high demand, and if necessary, can transfer into a four-year program.


While I’m not keen on people who brag about "name " schools, in some cases - SOME, not all, depending on the specific school, the field of study, and the student’s goals and personality - the “name” school does provide better opportunities for jobs and grad school admissions than the public school. Obviously if the public school is itself prestigious, as some (not all) are, then it’s a wash.

I have known people who had great careers although they went to Podunk State U because that’s all they could afford, but they had to hustle a lot harder than elite private school folks in the same field.


yes, but achieving admission to Harvard is much more difficult than community college, and usually denotes a higher level of academic achievement


Yes, and there are studies regarding prestige universities/top tier universities as it pertains to placement, recruiting, and networking success. Here are several that examine both sides: Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be; The Platinum Study; Catching Up Is Hard To Do: Undergraduate Prestige, Elite Graduate Programs, and Earnings Premium.

Depending on the field chosen, then employer of choice, and the location-- school chosen could indeed have an impact. Some employers only recruit from certain schools. For the majority of people, this probably isn’t an issue. But it could be. And it is not necessarily tied to pride. It can be tied legitimately to career goals. Of the top 250 Fortune-500 CEOs, 2/3rds of them did NOT go to elite schools.


The name prestige doesn’t matter anymore for undergraduates (except in very few niche degrees).

Today, most of the prestige only matters for graduate school in select degrees / highly competitive professions.

It’s simply not the same anymore. Most jobs know that attending an Ivy League school today as an undergrad doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as it did 30 years ago. Today, all it really means is that mommy & daddy can pay the bill.

Today, employers and grad school admissions offices want to see what your grades were and what you did while in school. They are far less concerned with where you attended unless it’s a niche degree or something unique to the school you attended.

God Bless


I am a junior in one of the top universities in the country. I don’t want to give my location, but, it is in the top 20. I would advise students looking at colleges to opt for schools that focus more on teaching and stay away big name research institutions.

Problems I have had with my school:

  1. People are really fake and all about appearances. If you are a genuine person and of lower socio-economic status, you will have a really hard time. I have no friends on this campus and other students have treated me like a plebe or a retard.

  2. The thing my school is really good at is teaching people how to be academics. But, there are no pre-professional majors and you get a lot of people wanting to go into health careers, law, and business complaining that they are forced to learn stuff that will be no use to them. There is also a dearth of practical language courses. I am in the one Spanish for health professions class offered all year.

  3. Instruction is abysmal. There are very few instructors who actually take an interest in their students.

Now, the only reason I am in this school is because I got a scholarship that made this school cheaper for me to attend than other “lesser” schools. Sure, my health is in the toilet, but, at least I won’t have any debt for undergrad.


Depends on what her plans are. Some fields are very conscious of the “prestige” associated with the degree. Others not so much. I don’t think you can come up with a hard and fast rule here. It depends on your kid’s individual circumstances and goals.


The quality of the education may not necessarily be better, but it’s a sorting mechanism. Getting into an elite university signals to employers that you’re smart and hardworking, simply because those schools reject most applicants. If employers know you’ve already been through a highly selective screening process, they can use that as a shorthand for “this person is probably pretty bright.” Which isn’t to say that people who go to community colleges or Podunk Universities aren’t smart and can’t be successful. Just that those schools admit virtually anyone who can fog a mirror, so they can’t coast on the name very much.

Plus there’s probably something to be said for being around peers who are all academically bright and driven as opposed to a community college where half the class is made up of directionless 27 year old potheads. (Before anyone gets offended, obviously that doesn’t apply to all community college students.)


Graduate schools, even more than employers, look at where you went to undergrad when they choose who to admit. These days, probably about 75 percent of the young people I know who aspire to professional careers are planning on grad school. The large employer who hired me and my husband and tons of our peers with bachelor’s degrees, which in those days were a step up because most of their older employees back then did not have a degree, now only interviews people at masters degree and higher for the same entry-level jobs we got with a bachelor’s and the generations before us got with a high school diploma and some real world experience. It’s like that at a lot of large STEM employers.


Interesting, not so much for law school these days. All law schools care about is your GPA: A 3.8 from Podunk State U is better than a 3.3 from Princeton. And I’m talking about good law schools, too, not “Jim-Bob’s School of Legalin’.”

As an aside, law is a profession that is HUGELY obsessed with school prestige. The opportunities a lawyer will have graduating from, say, UPenn are simply light years apart from what a new lawyer graduating from a random state school can expect.


Law schools are on a whole different wavelength. Particular schools are looking for particular things, and in many cases that’s lawyers who will hang around and serve the people of the local area. Graduates of elite undergrad schools are not going to do that and often aren’t even that interested in practicing law. My husband and I weren’t lawyers in any event in those days and weren’t planning on going into that field, or MBA either.


No I know, just musing. That would be a field where, for example, school prestige would be extremely important. MBA programs are also like that, I understand. For the OP’s daughter going into undergrad, no idea. I’m sure there are some fields where undergrad prestige matters a lot, some where it doesn’t matter at all.


On that, we agree. Bottom line is to figure out what schools the employer or grad school you want to attend recruits from, and go to one of them and do well. Like I said, I know young people who graduated from schools no one has ever heard of, have no debt and great jobs. They pretty universally report that many of their peers are not motivated or aware of the process for going out and making contacts and selling yourself to employers.


I can only speak for the what I’ve seen with Engineering. First, I’ll give you some background. I went to Middle-of-Nowhere State U because I got a full ride scholarship and was from Little Tinier Podunk, which meant that as Valedictorian (4.0) with a 31 ACT and 1350 SAT, I couldn’t get accepted anywhere else. I got a lot of rejections and only a few letters that allowed me to go to school if someone else decided not to, for full price. (Note, my parents swore never to pay a dollar to my college education.) So I went to the free college and I got my degree in Chemical Engineering with a GPA of 3.397. I then went on to grad school with a full ride scholarship and kept a minimum 3.5 through grad school. When searching for a job in the middle of the economic downturn, it took me three months to find a job, for 60K a year, starting salary. After three years, I was pulling in 6 figures, and was working with my team to find other candidates in Chemical Engineering.

We actually looked down at people who came from high dollar schools, because they tended not to mix well in our team. We hired one guy who had the fancy credentials and his attitude and lackadaisical attitude made him one of the most disliked members of our team. We hired lots of people from Little-Tiny-University and they tended to be more humble and harder working. The things we cared about were, if there was no experience, GPA and interview readiness. Otherwise, if there was more than 5 years experience, we looked only at previous employment and not colleges attended. There was a belief in my company that the fancy schools weren’t worth a plugged nickel. Unlike a previous poster, we felt that most small universities had hard workers and the big names were for parties. This may have changed in the four years since I left the workforce, but we simply thought that high dollar schools were worthless and only good for lazy snobs.

If you are targeting a degree that focuses on networking, there may be a point to the high dollar school outside of simply pride, but my experience dictates that for the STEM stuff, unless you want to work for Google, Facebook, etc, stick with the small (accredited) schools that don’t cost a fortune. You’ll get more bang for your buck and not have the debt.


Here’s where I have to show you guys this t-shirt from Lark News, the Evangelical parody news site.

The t-shirt text says:

Heard you got into that Christian college.


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