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How much does school matter?

  1. Apr 14, 2007 #1
    (ok the name of this thread is a bit misleading... i'm takling about the prestige of your university, not high school grades)

    My cousin recently got into UC Berkeley like the little over achiever he is, which got us into a conversation between me and my dad and my sister. My sister claims the school you go to is everything but my dad (works as EE with a BSc) says it doesnt matter which school you go to as long as you get your degree once you hit the job market.

    So.. What do you guys think? Does it really matter which school you go to and how prestigious it is?
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2007 #2
    Well, I can't speak from personal experience, but I can relay to you what my dad tell me.

    My dad is a senior engineering for the biggest engineering company in Houston, Texas. Part of his job requirement is to show new recruits out of college how to do their job. He has always told me that he meets a lot of bright people from prestigious colleges, but he says a lot of them don't know how to think. They can solve problems, but for the most part, they lack the ability to think. Therefore, when he is looking for recruits, he doesn't bother reading from where they graduated from, he only makes his decision based on how well they pass his interview test.

    With that said, it seems that after you graduate and get a job, where you got your degree is less important than how you performed at your job.
  4. Apr 15, 2007 #3
    Most engineers I've talked to say that it might make it easier to find your first engineering job if you went to a big name school. It also might get you a slightly better first job that pays a few grand more per year, but a year after you graduate, no one is going to care all that much where you went to school.
  5. Apr 15, 2007 #4
    I agree wholeheartedly with Bitter and kdinser, and I would like to add the following.

    The studies vary as to the frequency, but you can expect to change jobs, even careers, several times throughout your lifetime. Where you went to school becomes less and less important. It's the contributions you make to your field &/or company that will open the doors of opportunity for you.

    Caveat: In the 'real' world, sometimes opportunities depend less on performance and more on favoritism. In companies where the powers-that-be all when to Football State University, you are more likely to be invited to golf with the bosses, join their clubs, etc. if you are a fellow alumni. This makes you 'one of the gang' and that's who they want to hire and promote. Mostly this phenomenom is regional, naturally. But I've seen it happen with other schools that have strong school spirit, like Notre Dame. And if you went to a rival school, God help you.

    The bottom line, however, is the bottom line. Make enough money for the company and they couldn't care less if you even went to school.:smile:
  6. Apr 15, 2007 #5
    I also say school doesn't matter so much but could help getting a co-op/internship, you don't have to go to an expensive school/private school to land a good job. My aunt/uncle both graduates from Penn State have very nice jobs. One was a chemical engineering and the other is a Comp Sci.

    It does help if you go to a well known school, but it can be public. For instance, Penn State, cheap school if your in state, and still not that $$$ if yoru out of state. Lots and lots of connections with big companies.

    Is it hard to get into Penn State Main campus? Not really, I made good grades in highschool but got a 930 on my SAT's and they accepted me into Computer Science major but told me I was going to struggle and should take pre-calc instead of calculus my first year. Of course I said f that.

    Since then i'm getting a free ride to penn state for good grades.

    I also found it interesting all the Co-ops at IBM @ Research Triangle Park in the Software Group where only chosen from the following schools. North Carolina State, Penn State, and 2 from RIT. (They sent a mass e-mail listing all the co-op's name's and e-mails, so from the e-mails thats where I got the data).

    Also the programs the school offers might have an advantage over others. For instance the career fair at Penn state is one of the biggest. I'm not sure if they said the biggest in the east coast or in the nation. I would think it would be east coast but who knows.

    They also have a nice co-op/internship program where they do the work for you in finding an job. All I did was sign up for the program, took a quiz on the policies and submitted my resume, when career fair time came, IBM called me on my cell phone and told me to come to the information session. I didn't even contact them, some how they got my resume, and I later found out it was through the co-op/internship program.

    So there are some bonuses but again, I'm not going to some elite school.

    I was talking to my buddy going to University of Pennsylvania and he is paying 37 a year! Never had a co-op/internship and is now graduating with average grades, I was like wow. He's pretty bad debt now and graduating in a month. I'm not saying its the school's fault but it amazed me how much he was paying a year because it was a private school.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2007
  7. Apr 15, 2007 #6
    ...you mean 37 thousand right?

    is there really any difference in the education you would get?
  8. Apr 15, 2007 #7
    Save your money for great grad schools.
  9. Apr 15, 2007 #8
    so it doesnt matter where you get your undergrad, the good grad school is more important?
  10. Apr 15, 2007 #9
    Yes $37,000 a year hah, not 37 dollars. that would be sweet though.

    Ki Man, I asked him what he was taught and it was the same as any other comp sci school. Except in his Comp Architecture class he was only taught to build a 16 bit not a 32bit ALU! 37,000 a year and they didn't even let him design a 32 bit. so sad. :P
  11. Apr 15, 2007 #10
    Sure it makes a difference. Going to MIT is not going to be the same as your local state university. But then again, just because you dont go to MIT does not mean you wont be sucessful. The people at MIT are going to be fast paced and smart....REALLY smart. Now, of course you can be just as smart as someone at MIT, but it just might take you a bit longer to get to that point. In the end, you can be just as smart though.
  12. Apr 15, 2007 #11

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    You can't infer that. Many organizations have limits on the number of recipients of an e-mail message. The recipient list needs to be split in parts to a list larger than the limit. You would see exactly what you saw if IBM sorts its intern list by school and then by name. Think about it: IBM @ Research Triangle Park doesn't take any inters from MIT, Cornell, University of North Carolina, University of Maryland, or UMass, all of which rank higher than NC State and Penn State in computer science?
  13. Apr 15, 2007 #12

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    A good school opens doors, so long as you get good grades. It is better to get excellent grades at a mediocre school than to get bad grades at an excellent school. A lousy GPA is one of the first filters that rules out a candidate for the best jobs. A GPA filter is sooo easy to automate.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2007
  14. Apr 16, 2007 #13

    your probably right I never thought about that, there is also a part of IBM called Big blue or Deep blue or something where probably a lot of the MIT kids are at because its more research where as the Software group is mainly just programming.
  15. Apr 21, 2007 #14
    this is a big question for me too - I could no longer afford going to purdue so i had to return to Australia and continue here. Though I'd hate to work here as an engineer and am desperate to work abroad - what are my chances?
  16. Apr 21, 2007 #15


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    when i took my current academic job after graduating from a state school with a phd, i was introduced as so and so from such and such state, and another new hire was introduced as So and So from BERKELEY!

    a couple years later I was sent to be a postdoc at Harvard, the other hire was long gone for a job in industry, and I am still at my job 30 years later, and have just been honored by a special birthday conference.

    On the other hand, the "unsuccessful" hire from Berkeley probably makes twice as much money in industry as I do. The guy whose job i took also went to industry, and returned a few years later actually making triple my salary. Academics is the only area I know where failing can raise your salary, except of course being CEO of Home Depot.

    Hmmmm.......on second thought maybe all CEO jobs are like that.

    Well at least as a meat lugger you had to be able to actually lug the meat to earn your pay. I have always been proud of that honest aspect of that job. Maybe thats the only job I've ever had where you really had to pull your weight, so to speak.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2007
  17. Apr 21, 2007 #16


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    Your education doesn't matter much at all once you have five or ten years of experience under your belt. :wink:

    Before you have five or ten years of experience, though, you education is all you've got! Of course it's important. Try to get into the best school you can, but don't bankrupt yourself or sacrifice a social life just to get your undergraduate degree. Going to a "lesser" school won't completely change your career trajectory, but it will certainly affect the kinds of offers you'll get for your first and perhaps second job.

    - Warren
  18. Apr 21, 2007 #17
    Well ..... if you want to know the sad truth , here it is :
    I certainly hope not all companies are like this but , when people apply for a job / inteview etc they compare the people , of course. Say two of the people have the same - or virtually the same , very similar competences , and both have the same required degree for that job. One went to a known university and the other went to a less known university. You guessed it . The person who went to the known university gets the job. It's come to that. Apparently that's how it is with applying for jobs where the competition is strong. I hope that's not the case everywhere. You woulmd have thought such educated people would realize they should compare the people themselves and not class them by the university they went to. Either way I hope you end up in whatever university is best for you, and get the job you want after your studies.
  19. Apr 21, 2007 #18
    Going to a good undergrad school may make things easier for you because of connections etc. Once you are out in the job market though, it doesn't really matter all that much. Once people have been working for say 10-20 years, they don't even really list where they went to undergrad school anymore. They usually just list the jobs they have had, their accomplishments, publications, etc. on their resumes.
  20. Apr 21, 2007 #19


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    You said their "competencies" are compared first, and, only if they're identical, are the schools compared. This means the people are compared first.

    - Warren
  21. Apr 22, 2007 #20
    .. Yes I guess that does make sense ; I have also heard that certain people get turned down because of the university they went to ? I supppose not many companies do that ( or at least, I hope ... )
    It's good to know it's not as important later on in life , after you have years of experience .... but I'm sure it's significant when applying for a first job ?
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