In younger years, I was more attached to prestige for prestige sake. I have mostly let that go. But I also scoff at cocktail party chatter from some Shoreline Connecticut parents who dismiss prestige entirely. Most of the time, they are reflecting their desire that no one else care about prestige while they secretly do.
Given my immersion in the career counseling space during the last few years, I can suggest the following without any reservation:
There is a direct relationship between the prestige of one’s college and one’s job prospects post college.
On Quora, I was asked the following question:
If you had the choice to hire a person from Harvard with a 3.5 GPA or a person from a state school with a 4.0 GPA, who would you hire?
This was my answer:
I realize the outcry that will stem from my answer. But I have asked similar questions to hundreds of managers with hiring responsibility as well as countless owners of businesses.
First, let’s set the ground rules. Many who answer this question create a false set-up. They load up the state school grad with all sorts of better traits than the elite school grad. The state school student is grittier, humble, and harder working etc. I’ve even seen answers that will assume the state school grad has better interpersonal and emotional abilities. That’s a straw man argument. No one is arguing that if the state school student has superior talent in other areas he/she would not be the superior candidate. Instead, this is a single variable question. We have to assume every other factor is identical.
Second, to make the hypothetical really consequential, strip away the notion that you are hiring someone for a big company. Instead, ask: “this is the person that you will trust with the success of your business.” Much like with a sports analogy – some might posit strong arguments for why one team is better than the other but change their mind when asked to bet real money on the outcome – many of those biased in favor of the state school student for “a company” change their mind when their own company is at stake.
Third, in the real world, this single variable set-up can’t be viewed post-interview. As soon as someone is interviewed, then a host of subjective factors come into play. Instead, in the real world, the question is “assuming other factors are essentially equal but one candidate has a 3.5 GPA from Harvard and the other has a 4.0 from State, and you only have the time to interview one candidate for your business, who do you interview?”
When put that way – which is the accurate way to analyze this single variable – the overwhelming response has been for the Harvard student.
This is not an advocacy for a position. This is simply reality.