It’s no secret that college prestige affects people’s choice of educational institutions. Just take a look at the Varsity Blues scandal – the prestige of the colleges involved mattered so much that these parents actually committed crimes to get their kids admitted!
But is prestige actually useful? Can it really help you in life, other than stroking your ego? What’s more important than prestige? And how can you really use your college degree to get to where you want to go? Let’s find out.
Can the Prestige of Your College Help Your Career?
First and foremost, you must keep in mind that the prestige of your undergrad is not what will make or break your career. Yes, there are some colleges in the US that are famously reputable, but attending one of them does not guarantee a successful path to medical school and residency, law school, graduate school, or a prestigious job. Attending Ivy League schools or other seemingly prestigious institutions will not help with a low GPA or poor reference letters. Your performance at college is much more important than its reputation.
So, if you think that attending college with a brand name will help you be a competitive graduate school applicant or professional, think again. It’s what you do in college that matters more! Your grades, your extracurriculars, your accomplishments, your communication skills, and other personal achievements will play a much bigger role in your success.
What’s More Important Than Prestige?
If prestige is not important, what should you focus on instead when choosing colleges to apply to? The answer may seem simple, but it’s true. You should focus on the mission and opportunities available to you in colleges. Just because the college you apply to is not famous, does not mean that they do not have great curriculum or learning and advancement opportunities, such as summer programs, conferences, research positions, and other such prospects.
Choose a college that offers you opportunities to explore your interests and develop your skills. It is not enough to simply choose a school that will look good on your resume. Remember that you have to spend a lot of your time there – it’s not going to be easy if you choose to attend a college only for its seeming advantages without really knowing what it offers.
Are There Colleges That Are Better Than Others?
There are better and worse colleges for you specifically and what you want to do – that’s what’s important. If you read about “objective” rankings of colleges, proceed with caution. Rankings are always subjective because they can be based on any variety of criteria: funding, faculty, acceptance rates, required GPA or standardized test scores, and so on. So, there is really no one standard measuring stick when it comes to school rankings.
Keep in mind that your own performance in college will determine whether you can go on to grad school, medical school, MBA, law school, or other cool jobs and educational opportunities. Even if you attend Harvard or Yale, if your grades, experiences, and references are mediocre, the name of your school is not going to get you anywhere.
How Can You Choose a College?
The best way to find the right program for you is to search for college programs that fit your values and goals. Not many students know exactly what they want to major in when they apply – that’s okay. Starting with an undeclared major is a great option if you’re still searching for your vocation. As long as you learn what a school can offer, you can have several plans of action when it comes to specific choices in programs when you’re ready to make that choice.
For example, if you are applying to schools that use the Common App, you can apply to up to 20 colleges that fit your interests and values. You do not have to specify a major. When you are in college, you can explore a variety of courses, opportunities, and clubs, and get to know the faculty in different departments. That’s when you can make a choice.
We should all be less susceptible to seeming prestige and reputation, especially if you’re a college hopeful. Focus on what can make you happy as a college student and a future professional. Whether you choose to attend an in-state college that can help you establish yourself in your own state or whether you choose to move across the country, try to remember that your college education is about the experiences you gain and the skills you learn rather than prestige.
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