The Ivy League

How influental would you say a contemporary Ivy League diploma is? As an employer, how big of a boost would give a candidate compared to a comparable applicant from say, a state school? As a parent, how much more would you be willing to pay to send your son/daughter to one of the “Elite 8”?

Feel free to break down responses between “For Harvard, Princeton and Yale…” and “For the rest of them…”

I always figured most of the influence was due to the networking a student could do among the future rich and powerful.

The most astonishing thing that I learned in my ivy league education is that it’s possible to get into a top school and still be a bottom-feeding idiot who gets drunk and rams his head into a gas-lamp for fun. It was not what I expected.

As an employer, I don’t give a crap what school someone went to, but then I hire for a very specific skill-set; the set of people who can do the work is much, much smaller than the set of ivy-league graduates. Can’t address the “as a parent” bit, as I’m not one.

In general, a top school (I’d include Stanford, MIT, and some others in this category, not just ivy league) on your resume still carries some weight; it will help get your resume read, but beyond that it’s all about your skills and personality. You can get just as good of an education at most state schools, you just have to be more aggressive about it.

I don’t regret having done it, and I think it did help me land a scholarship in grad school, but I don’t think it’s directly affected anything I’ve done since then.


Education should be chosen solely on the quality of the institution’s podiums.

It’s incredibly important if you want to become Mr. God King of society’s standards for what wealth, power, and happiness are.

Otherwise, not so much. They don’t have much effect on the ability of the students they turn out compared to other schools, that’s for sure. Interestingly, the engineering schools are the exemption to this.

See here for my justifications.

How so? I don’t recall Ivy Leagues placing rediculously high, reliably, across all fields of engineering. Some schools do well in some, some in others, and some state schools do just fine in all.

It’s a lot more about picking the proper school/program for what you want to do really. Not that this is an easy thing if we’re talking about Bachelor’s degrees and sending 17-19 year olds in.

Well, the fact that you were astonished means you didn’t go to Brown.

Mouse, I meant how impressive the Cal Tech and MIT type schools are. Even considering how talented and rich their students are, they do amazing things with them. Harvard, not so much.

MIT/Cal Tech are incredible schools. I’d sell any of your souls for a high enough GPA to go there.

Harvard, meh. Yale I hear has a good Law school.

Their methodology is laughable. Total number of Ph.D.'s granted? Automatically biases it in favor of enormous diploma mills.

How about something more meaningful, like Rhodes Scholars as a percentage of the undergraduate population?

Sheesh… GPA isn’t the issue. $40k a year is. And there are other equally good schools that cost nowhere near that much.

How about something more meaningful, like Rhodes Scholars as a percentage of the undergraduate population?

There are only like 30 of those a year.

Woot! 16 in Liberal Arts Colleges. Take that, Carleton College! Go Mac! (Now quit calling me for money, kthx).

Thanks for the link, Jason. Interesting article.

The problem that other schools are equal in the sense that the pope is merely the “first among equals”, or the princeps just the “most equal” citizen of rome.

I only really care about the school’s reputation for very junior positions, when we’re hiring straight out of college. And that’s just because that’s the only information we’ve got.

For everybody else, it’s all about breadth and depth of experience and how they comport themselves in the interviews.

As an employer I don’t care which school they went to, I care if they seem intelligent, a good communicator and have the right skills (or potentially do). I have interviewed people from community colleges in BFE that were great candidates. The tech leads in my company once interviewed someone from MIT who was absolutely clueless about the most basic stuff (I guess they specialise so much they don’t cover the foundations?).

As a parent (almost) I would be open to sending my kid to an Ivy league school if they really wanted to go there AND I could afford it. But I wouldn’t be willing to go horribly into debt over it - I think its really only going to be relevant for certain ‘establishment’ careers (politics, law etc).

As a student, I picked the course that suited my interests the best, and didn’t pay any attention to the reputation of my university. I enjoyed my course, I got a degree and that’s all that was important. Again, if I had been interested in an establishment type career I might have made different choices.

Nothing diminishes your opinion of an Ivy League education quite so much as receiving one.

The average person is going to be very impressed if you apply for the average job with a Harvard degree.

Most people are still dazzled by them and not looking for any reason possible to diminish them because they didn’t go there themselves.

Note that this is for Harvard, Princeton, Yale type Ivys. No one cares about Penn.

I can’t speak for others but on the practical side you do get a leg up by attending an Ivy (or a similar caliber school) simply because a lot of major companies tend to do a new hire recruitment drive in these kind of schools first…and quite frankly, by the time they finish there will only be a handful of such positions open for the rest of the graduating class.

That’s not to say that you can’t get an offer from the likes of Goldman Sachs straight out of college w/o going to an Ivy, but you’ll have to work a hell lot harder to get into the interviews than those students that do.

These seem to apply most for financial/engineering/managerial type positions though, so if you’re in the liberal arts field I’m not exactly sure how much of this applies.

Going to small highly selective and highly regarded schools carries some significant advantages over state institutions, though in many cases the advantages can also be gained by an agressive and hard-working student no matter where they attend. As an administrator at one of these “highly selective private instituations”, I can provide a few examples:

–our student body is arranged into cohorts that all live together, eat together, and study together. This is (among other things) designed to develop relationships between our students that should carry well beyond college, and provide them with an excellent network to take advantage of once they are in the work world. You just can’t do that sort of thing with a student body of 40,000, with a large percentage being commuters.

–our students are strongly encouraged to participate in community activities, and to develop a large resume of extracurricular activities as well. Again, just not nearly as possible with a very large student body. This serves multiple purposes: hopefully to instill some social conscience, but also obviously to develop outside contacts, and to pad their resume.

–our students can fall back on a huge contingent of alumni developed over decades who came out of the same system they did, and who can provide that helpful “nudge” when they need–for example, we have freshmen who are already doing paid internships in quite responsible positions during their first summer as students here. Virtually 100% of our students can find “career” type work during their summer breaks through this sort of network, if they wish. And probably 90% of our students already know who their initial employer is going to be by the beginning of their senior year–the network really is that effective. Certainly large state schools have similarly large alumni associations that try to provide the same pattern of behaviour, but my own experience in those schools is that they don’t operate with nearly the same level of efficiency.

–our institution actually provides significant funding for our students to do things like study abroad, do unpaid internships, and seek out other opportunities that might not be possible without the funding.

–our institution pays faculty MUCH better than most public institutions. Now whether this actually improves the quality of education is debatable, but what I can definitely attest to is that it gives the student the ability to attach well-recognized names to the letters of recommendation they receive.

Those are just a few of the advantages off the top of my head. Are they worth the $200,000 that a 4-year education is going to cost at the Ivy League and other such institutions? As compared to the probably $80,000 an in-state education is going to cost? Again, debatable, but for those families that can afford it, the public certainly seems to believe it is worth it–application numbers increase every year, and the pool becomes more selective. And keep in mind that these schools also have HUGE endowments to help offset those high prices: something around 47% of our students receive some financial aid, and it many ways it is cheaper for a very poor student to attend our school than to attend a state school, because we don’t require them to borrow as much of their cost.