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Is going to a prestigious university worth the premium?

riprorinriprorin 37 replies6 discussions New Member
I've worked with brilliant scientists and engineers who got their undergrad degree at academic powerhouses like Oswego State, Western Michigan, Montana State, St. John Fisher College and Southern Illinois. Two of these folks are R&D Directors of major companies.

They then went on to Big 10 schools for their PhDs (one went to MIT).

I didn't see any differences among them and other scientists and engineers who went to Ivy League schools for undergrad.
edited May 2013 in Parents Forum
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Replies to: Is going to a prestigious university worth the premium?

  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids 212 replies4 discussions Junior Member
    A parent sent me the following message:

    I manage a team of 100+ engineers from universities all over the world. It is interesting to see the correlation between the "quality" of the university they attended and on-the-job performance. There isn't one, laziness seems to be the common denominator for bad engineers. Every few years we recruit high-tier university engineer graduates and they rarely do very well, certainly not any better than engineers from traditional universities. Interesting....

    I had dinner last night with one of my geologists that attended Colby College in Maine. He said he went there because his parents could afford it and they would be "laughed at" if they had sent their child to a public university. He said he was raised (in Vermont) to believe that ALL public universities are party schools and to be avoided at all costs.....ridiculous*
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  • riprorinriprorin 37 replies6 discussions New Member
    I graduated from a non-descript Jesuit college in Upstate NY. When I changed jobs within my company, I had to train my replacement - a ChemE who graduated from MIT. I was a product engineer and was on-site for at least the beginning of all manufacturing events, often going in in the middle of the night. This lazy sacks main concern was how to avoid having to come in.
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  • frugaldoctorfrugaldoctor 2 replies0 discussions Forum Champion
    I completely agree that the prestigious universities are not worth the extra money especially when you have to borrow to attend them. They have one overriding advantage over the other institutions, they have a plethora of accomplished and motivated high school graduates. That's it. But everyone gets a do over on the first day of class. Remember accredited schools mean that there is little if any difference across the board in the material. I bet you the books that the prestigious institutions are using are no different from the non prestigious ones.

    Sent from my DROID RAZR using CC
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  • riprorinriprorin 37 replies6 discussions New Member
    I think the issue about being with other accomplished and motivated high school graduates is mitigated by participation in honors colleges.

    My S was accepted at a couple of prestigious public universities, but was not accepted into their honors colleges. I advised him to consider less prestigious public universities where he was accepted into the honors colleges.

    Time will tell if that was the right decision.
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  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator 31 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    riprorin wrote:
    Is going to a prestigious university worth the premium?
    There was a 98 page (~2000 posts) thread a while back about exactly this topic that pretty much analyzed it to death.

    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/187878-what-lifetime-advantages-attending-top-colleges.html
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  • riprorinriprorin 37 replies6 discussions New Member
    I chose a bad title. Maybe a mod can change it to "can you succeed as an engineer without graduating a presigious school", or somethinh like that.

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  • MarianMarian 19 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    The answer to your question may be different for scientists vs. engineers.

    Scientists generally have PhDs. It's the quality of their graduate program that matters the most, not where they got their undergraduate degree.

    Engineers usually do not have PhDs. Some may have master's degrees, but many start their careers with only a bachelor's degree. If you have only a bachelor's degree, then the quality of that bachelor's degree is crucial. You would want to get it from a school with a really good engineering program.
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  • HuntHunt 152 replies1 discussions Junior Member
    If the engineers from Oswego State are better than the ones from MIT, perhaps the best of all are those who learned engineering from a comic book.

    This kind of discussion has taken place on CC many, many times. Lesser-known colleges can have very good programs in various disciplines, including engineering. Smart, hard-working students can get very good educations in all kinds of colleges. There are still some benefits to attending more selective institutions, but some of these benefits are intangible, and they are (at least in part) luxuries.
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  • riprorinriprorin 37 replies6 discussions New Member
    Never said Oswego State was better than MIT.

    I worked with a guy who got a BS in Physics at Oswego State and his PhD in EE from Michigan. He's a corporate R&D director, so Oswego State didn't hurt him too badly.

    Sent from my SCH-R760 using CC
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  • HuntHunt 152 replies1 discussions Junior Member
    There may be engineers from Oswego State who are better than engineers from MIT. That doesn't really tell you all that much about which decision to make if you're choosing between them.
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  • bovertinebovertine 41 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    Times are different now :D
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  • ordinarylivesordinarylives 24 replies0 discussions Junior Member
    If one has the money, education is great thing to splurge on. So by all means, play the differential.

    The premium is not "worth it" if it leaves one or one's family in a state a financial discomfort.
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  • PCHopePCHope 4 replies0 discussions New Member
    I would argue that the statistical distribution (in terms of quality) of MIT graduates is different from that of Oswego State graduates. While there is overlap and there are always outliers, the general consecus is that the former lies to the right of the latter.
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  • lisa6191lisa6191 5 replies0 discussions New Member
    warblersrule - I read a bit of that thread, and it certainly appears to be thorough (it was actually 131 pages for me - different formatting?), but it is also from 2006. I think the analysis and decisions may be different in 2013, considering how much tuition at most of these schools has risen.

    I'm starting to believe that colleges are approaching a "breaking point", where the ridiculous cost starts to outweigh any possible benefit. Whatever one believes about the advantages of the prestigious universities, at some point I think these schools simply become too expensive to justify. Is an education from *any* undergraduate institution worth a quarter of a million dollars? Particularly with the skyrocketing costs of some graduate programs (i.e. med school), unless money is truly no object, I just don't think it makes good financial sense to spend that kind of money on undergrad. (Full disclosure, Duke grad here, so I have no bias against prestigious universities).

    I don't have any familiarity with engineering hiring so I can't address that aspect.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 295 replies1 discussions Junior Member
    Engineering is a subject where school prestige is generally thought to matter much less in general employment after one gets the first job (which may be affected by the campus' attractiveness to recruiters) than something like investment banking or management consulting.

    This may be because most types of engineering have major specific accreditation with relatively high minimum standards, so the range is relatively narrow in terms of "quality" differences. That may also be why engineering has a high attrition rate at less selective schools.

    Of course, student fit to the nature of the school can affect the student's success in school and thereafter, although fit factors are not necessarily correlated to school prestige. (Fit factors include academic ones like what types of elective courses are available both in and out of major.)
    edited May 2013
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