Given our college counseling work, I have deep anecdotal research on (1) where students from Southeast CT apply to college and (2) what parents say about college behind closed doors versus what they say in public.
Watch what people do more than what they say. You can tell what they really care about. Many strong students from top public schools such as Daniel Hand in Madison, Guilford High School, East Lyme High Schoool, Old Lyme High School, Valley Regional and Old Saybrook apply to the elite colleges. Such students – and parents of these students – know that the prestige of a college does matter – regardless of how much anyone claims otherwise – for both job market prospects and self-esteem. Behind closed doors, we have very frank discussions on this front.
From my perspective, I hope the name of the school does not affect the self-esteem of my students (but it does). However, I have to report from our career counseling work that there is no doubt that the prestige of a college is an asset that can be leveraged, much like any other asset – great interpersonal skills, a strong work ethic, a million dollars and so forth.
But I am well aware that even some of the clients who fully understand this notion profess to others the nonsense “where you go to college doesn’t matter” and then in making the argument create scenarios that are easily refuted. “I’ll take a hustling guy with a great personality over some nerd.” True! But that’s not the question. What if you had two guys, both of whom are “hustling guys with great personalities” but one went to Harvard and the other to a school you never heard of. This requires you to focus exclusively on the single variable in question – the name of the school – to determine what matters. Now, let’s say each was described to in absolutely equal term but time being scarce, you can only interview one for your business. Who do you choose?
That’s why the name of the college is an asset that can be leveraged.