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Should Connecticut Parents Care About Name Brand Colleges?

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Yes, college rankings matter. Like it or not.

The complicated but real answer is: “it depends on your future career goals.”

Some clarity first: this particular article is not about the cost-benefit analysis of attending a name brand school.  The insane cost of tuition at many private schools has definitely made it sensible from an economic perspective for many students to choose less expensive schools.  We totally agree.

 This article is on different aspect of the analysis. Among a certain few in the Shoreline, CT area, it seems fashionable lately to claim that prestige does not matter. Those who make the claim are often focusing on issues unrelated to career practicality.
Some are focusing on the actual experience of being at the college.  And, yes, this could be true.  Many students will have an equally wonderful 4 years at a relatively unknown school as they would at an Ivy-league school.
Some are focusing on unhealthy pressure that some parents and students feel about going to top schools.  And, yes, parents should focus on building what we call the “work character” of their children and perhaps hope they wind up at a college of their choice.
This article is addressing one very distinct issue: does it matter where your child attends college in relation to generating jobs, particularly first jobs?
The name of the school really does not matter for (1) students who are heading towards professions where the name brand of the college won’t help them much and (2) for those who are heading into a family business or some other pre-destined job path in fields that do not require high credentials.

But, the name of the college does matter for most others.  I double emphasize that how much the name is worth paying for is a different and more complicated issue.

For the sake of examining a single variable, let’s simply say that a student is comparing a school that is highly regarded by many with a school that is not well known.

Large organizations are the most likely place to hire recent college graduates. Small businesses usually cannot afford to train inexperienced workers so they rarely recruit on college campuses. And, despite the last decade’s romantic shift towards entrepreneurship, almost all recent grads are not in the position to start a business.

Moreover, most college career planning and placement offices exclusively work with large companies, non-profits and government agencies.

That large and/or prestigious organizations and companies spend the bulk of their recruiting time and resources at highly ranked universities is a simple fact.

For that reason, if having the possibility of working for large/prestigious organizations is part of your practical investment in choosing a college, then “yes”, the name of the school does matter.

Indeed, it matters a great deal.

The counter-argument may be that you can still send resumes to any organization in order to land an interview. Here’s our real-life observation and one that has been confirmed by many others in my research.

Hiring committees need to sift through hundreds of resumes to choose the few people that warrant an interview. Candidate A from Yale, or other prestigious school, had his/her resume moved to the interview pile without much consideration about the rest of the resume. Candidate B from Relatively Unknown College had to have some combination of (1) top grades (2) the right major/experiences and/or (3) a recommendation by someone with influence in the organization in order to get an interview.

If having your child have the greater ability to land job interviews after college is important, then “yes” it does matter.

There are numerous other reasons which will be addressed in separate articles.

I hesitate to provide arguments against those whose hearts might be in the right place. But, we have worked with too many unemployed 20 somethings from relatively unknown schools to believe that we should let the sentiment – that the name of the school does not matter – go unchallenged.

 We also suggest that many parents who make the claim that the name of the school does not matter are overtly saying: “your child shouldn’t care about a name brand school” while behind the scenes are doing everything possible to gain their child entrance to a name brand school!