Paying more to attend a big name school doesn’t pay off.
Getting a degree from Harvard or Yale might sound prestigious and it might help you get your first job, but there is no evidence that an undergraduate degree from super elite schools is better than a degree from a lower tier, lesser known school.
The research on this has been repeated over and over again with similar results. The studies have looked at students who were accepted into the Harvards and Yales of the world but for whatever reason ended up attending a state school or middle of the pack private school. These students were compared to the students who were accepted and actually attended the elite schools. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty years out of college there was no discernible difference between the two groups in terms of income, happiness, job satisfaction, etc.
Getting into an elite school does identify you as an exceptional student, but you will be successful in life NOT because of what that elite school gives you in terms of connections or a better quality education but simply because of who you are already! It should be noted that this research is only for undergraduate degrees, there is evidence that going to more elite schools for graduate degrees does in fact make a difference and is often worth the extra money these schools cost.
The moral to the story? If you’re an elite student, only go to an elite school if you’re getting an aid package that makes it comparable in price to other schools. Otherwise you’re better served saving your money and enrolling in the honors program at a more affordable college.
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