By: Brianna Bleiwas

Everyone has heard of schools like Harvard, MIT, and Cornell. These are schools with great reputations and huge alumni networks. High-achieving students may be looking at schools with prestigious names due to their academic reputations, while B-students may be drawn to well-known schools with less rigorous admissions requirements. Every college is different, and with so many options, it’s a good idea to know what you want in school. Should a school’s popularity be a deciding factor? We’ll show you the pro’s and con’s of picking a school with its prestige in mind.

There are certainly benefits to choosing a school that’s well-known. Your future employers might be familiar with your alma mater’s programs, which would give them a better understanding of your academic background. Since prestigious schools usually have a large population, there are more opportunities to make valuable connections with students and alumni than at smaller schools.  If you’re looking to do research while in school, you’re more likely to find suitable research programs at a prestigious school than at your local small liberal arts college.

That being said, all of the above opportunities are available to students who don’t attend a school like Yale or UCLA. Larger state universities offer great research programs and expansive alumni networks for a fraction of the cost. They’re also recognizable by in-state employers. If you attend a school that isn’t prestigious, but graduate from a reputable program, it will serve you just as well.  Most schools have 2-3 programs that are generally associated with them. Graduating from one of those programs will set you up for just as much success as graduating from Northeastern.

If you’re stuck between two schools that are equally good fits for you, but one is prestigious, it would make sense to choose that school (assuming you can afford it). However, be wary of making a school’s reputation a major deciding factor when choosing a school. By pushing aside lesser-known schools, you block out options that may be a better fit. Sure, Yale is prestigious, but does it have the on-campus resources you need? The student organizations you’re interested in? Suitable on-campus living arrangements? Will the academic environment be too stressful? How will you handle being surrounded by highly accomplished students with privileged backgrounds? A school’s name may draw you to a school, but it shouldn’t be what makes you attend school there. You may also be spending more money on college than you have to by choosing a popular school. There are lesser-known colleges with great academic programs- you just have to do your research to find them. They may even be public schools!

 

So, what’s the bottom line? A school doesn’t need to have a well-known name to be worth your time. It’s great if your top school choice is well-known, but make sure it’s your top choice because it’s truly a good fit for you, not just for your resume.

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The Complete High School Timeline for Getting into College

 

Applying to college is a marathon, not a sprint. And it starts freshman year of high school. This book outlines what you should be doing each year of high school to be ready competitive for applying to college.

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