Does What College You Go To Matter?


does what college you go to matter?

Deciding what college to attend is a big decision. It could potentially affect your entire life. But will it? Does what college you go to actually matter?

Prestigious schools definitely have some benefits, such as networking opportunities and name recognition on your resume. But do the benefits outweigh the costs?


Public schools and community colleges can both offer a high quality education at a fraction of the cost. But are you giving up opportunities that a name brand school could give you?

Society values education and they may respect education from a prestigious college even more. Is there proof that prestigious universities offer more opportunities and financial footing, or is it just a dream we’re bribed to fall into?

Why Attend A Prestigious School?


There are lots of reasons to attend a prestigious school. One of which is the relative ease of finding a job upon graduation. They also have lower student to faculty ratio which could mean more attention from your professors. The major drawback, of course, is price. 

If you are lucky enough to get a scholarship or grant that will allow you to attend a prestigious school at a reduced rate, you should probably take advantage of that. The kickstart that an Ivy League school can give your career is likely worth the additional effort it takes to graduate. 

Some educators stress that those from a lower socioeconomic background can benefit more from prestigious colleges than public schools. Dr. Anastsia Lindo Anderson, CEO of Emerge Fellowship, states,” Prestigious colleges often can provide more robust financial aid, allowing students to graduate debt-free or very nearly so while focusing more on their studies rather than having to work entirely or even part-time.” 


Prestigious schools also have much higher graduation rates for first-generation, low-income college students because they can receive more individualized services.

Dr. Andrew Hsu, president of the College of Charleston, said, “As a college president and the father of four daughters, I understand the kitchen-table conversation and struggle of thinking through prestige versus the pocketbook. Undoubtedly, the top-ranked schools provide wonderful opportunities to their graduates, as do all colleges and universities.”

Pros Of Attending A Prestigious College

Access to a world-class facility: Private schools tend to have lovely grounds and up-to-date technology and can afford to upgrade buildings well before they are needed.

Better networking opportunities: Many schools have had famous or notable attendees to their school, which can be a sign of better networking opportunities and also better resources to make sure their students launch their careers further.

Name recognition: Having “Harvard” on your resume is going to catch more eyes than your local community college. That means a better chance of scoring that interview or internship

You’re more likely to graduate: A 2022 study published by the National Center for Education Statistics in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education and Institute of Education Sciences found that private schools had a 68% graduation rate over six years while public schools had a 63% graduate school. For those who finish within four years, the numbers became more drastic, with a 33% graduation rate at a public school, while private schools have 55%. 

Families having to pay higher tuition may make students feel like they have more skin in the games. Private schools most likely have a smaller class size so students can get early intervention or services as needed.

Cons Of Attending A Prestigious College

Competitiveness: Going to school with the country’s brightest students can be a double edged sword. It can be difficult for some students to go from being top of the class to average. If the desire to be valedictorian is too strong it could lead to unhealthy, or even dangerous, habits.

It doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily earn more: Private schools may brag that their graduates earn more, but studies have shown that it’s not by much. There are other ways to overcome this gap, such as gaining additional certificates and being strategic with your career. 

Price: Dr. Hsu also mentions that the quality of your undergraduate education may be the same as a public school, meaning you can get your degree for a fraction of the price elsewhere and might even be able to still live at home, saving money for room and board in the process.

Why Attend A Public University or Community College?

Speaking from experience, I earned an AA from a public school, and it was half the price of what I would have paid at a private school. Public schools have an equally valuable network and just as many experiences regarding your education as private schools. 

“An Ivy League education may open certain doors in the short run, but performance in the workplace (not the degree) provides and ensures long-term success and true social mobility,” states Dr. Hsu.

Pros Of Attending A Public College

Figuring out what you want to study without going into debt: It’s stated that most college graduates change their major at least three times during their academic careers. Every time you switch a major, you’re most likely to be starting all over again, which adds both time and costs. 

Public schools are still a hub of opportunities: Hsu says these schools offer study-abroad opportunities, internships, undergraduate research, mentorships, and close faculty/student relationships, just like a prestigious one. Some school programs even outrank a private school. For example, Arizona State University is ranked #2 for criminal justice programs out of the country, only second to USC-Irvine. Getting a better education for ¼ of the price wins every time.

It’s cheaper: Classes at a community college or university are typically much lower in cost than private schools. So, instead of getting a degree for $120,000, you could walk away with one that only cost you $30,000.

Cons Of Attending A Public School

Bigger class sizes: Public schools have bigger classes due to more students attending. This can be frustrating when trying to pay attention or access your teacher for help. 

Spots fill up quickly: Despite offering a more comprehensive course catalog than private schools, it can still be challenging to reserve a place in a class you need to graduate. Upper-level types are more difficult to register for, as most courses are marketed toward those who need introductory classes. It’s also more difficult because upper-level methods are typically only offered once a semester, making it hard to know if they will fit into your schedule.

It’s not always cheaper: Even though public schools offer more opportunities for students to attend classes, it can still be pricey if you are considered an out-of-state student. Out-of-state students must pay much higher tuition for at least two years before they can qualify for the in-state tuition rate, which means more potential to get into student loan debt.

Education Is What You Make It

Deciding between a prestigious school and a public one can be challenging. Tuition rates, course availability, and networking opportunities can make it even more difficult. But one thing you need to know is that your education experience is precisely what you make it out to be. Your success is not the result of what college you attend. Instead, it’s the result of what opportunities you took advantage of and, if they run short, the ones you aren’t afraid to find on your own.

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