# How much does school matter?

Ki Man

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 doesn't 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:

Bitter
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.

kdinser
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.

Type 7
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.

mr_coffee
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 high school 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 that's 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: Ki Man 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. ...you mean 37 thousand right? is there really any difference in the education you would get? Cyrus Save your money for great grad schools. Ki Man Save your money for great grad schools. so it doesn't matter where you get your undergrad, the good grad school is more important? mr_coffee 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

Cyrus

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 don't go to MIT does not mean you won't 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.

Staff Emeritus
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 that's where I got the data).

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?

Staff Emeritus
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:
mr_coffee
D_H,

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.

trickae
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?

Homework Helper
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 that's the only job I've ever had where you really had to pull your weight, so to speak.

Last edited:
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Your education doesn't matter much at all once you have five or ten years of experience under your belt.

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

Dan 1st
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.

gravenewworld
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.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
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.

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

Dan 1st
.. 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 ?

I think undergrad school is under grad school. Yeah, it may matter to certain recruiters, but when it comes to an undergraduate degree, would it really be that much of a factor? Paying 30 grand a year for an undergrad degree is an investment to get a job that pay how much? I think school matter when you get into grad and Phd levels, law schools, medical schools, and MBAs are where they matter most.

Bitter
When it comes to interviews, there are more factors to consider than your school. Most recruiters I've spoken to rarely say that school from which a person graduates is important. Most relay the message that it is more important to be able to communicate your message to others via verbally and non-verbal communication, demostrate your knowledge, and have a few internships during your undergraduate studies.

Dan 1st
Thanks for the informtaion - it'll be usefull for me, as my goal is law school...

Ki Man

...? maybe that's why they call it undergrad

Thanks for the informtaion - it'll be usefull for me, as my goal is law school...

Get your undergrad ed as cheap as possible, that is if you think saving money is important as an independent student that doesn't relie on their rich parents. Study your ass off for you LSAT, pay for a good Law School, and You will be less indebt than people that think about the "experience" of a 40 grand a year undergrad school. And Ki man, you'll understand what I am saying when you reach high school. :)

Last edited:
Ki Man
And Ki man, you'll understand what I am saying when you reach high school. :)

I am in high school.

That reminds me of when i asked my librarian for information about volunteering. He said 'You know you need to be in high school, right?'

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Get your undergrad ed as cheap as possible, that is if you think saving money is important as an independent student that doesn't relie on their rich parents.

You're only saying such things because you're attending a community college, and don't have any experience with better schools. It's true that your choice in undergrad school doesn't matter as much as your choice in law school, but I think it's disingenous to tell people to get their undergraduate education as cheaply as possible, particularly if they're not intending on obtaining a graduate degre later.

There really is a difference among undergraduate programs -- an enormous difference -- and it is somewhat correlated with price. I accepted a full ride to Florida State University for engineering, thinking that cost was the only concern. I felt that I could simply hit the books a little harder and make up for any shortcomings in the school's program.

In short, I was incredibly wrong. The FSU engineering campus was shared with another vocational school down the street, and wasn't even on the FSU campus proper. The faculty was poorly regarded, and their resources (labs, equipment, etc.) were practically non-existent. On top of that, FSU required engineering majors to waste two complete years studying music theory and english composition, leaving only two years for formal engineering training. Other schools have trouble fitting their entire engineering programs into four years! I quickly realized the school wasn't for me, and transferred to Virginia Tech. It cost me approximately ten thousand dollars a year, but it's a decision I haven't regretted, even for a minute, ever since. My current career and graduate school choices would never have been available to me had I stayed at FSU.

Thus, my advice is much more balanced that yours, mathPimpDaddy: Don't go bankrupt trying to go to the most expensive school on the planet, because it's probably not worth it. On the other hand, don't simply opt for the cheapest possible education, because it likely won't qualify you as well as a recognized university. Let's be honest: state schools don't cost very much in the grand scheme of things, and many of them are incredibly good. A very good education can be obtained anywhere in the country for less than the price of an automobile, and student loans can have extremely favorable terms. Keep your priorities straight.

- Warren

hawtsexymath
You're only saying such things because you're attending a community college, and don't have any experience with better schools. It's true that your choice in undergrad school doesn't matter as much as your choice in law school, but I think it's disingenous to tell people to get their undergraduate education as cheaply as possible, particularly if they're not intending on obtaining a graduate degre later.

There really is a difference among undergraduate programs -- an enormous difference -- and it is somewhat correlated with price. I accepted a full ride to Florida State University for engineering, thinking that cost was the only concern. I felt that I could simply hit the books a little harder and make up for any shortcomings in the school's program.

In short, I was incredibly wrong. The FSU engineering campus was shared with another vocational school down the street, and wasn't even on the FSU campus proper. The faculty was poorly regarded, and their resources (labs, equipment, etc.) were practically non-existent. On top of that, FSU required engineering majors to waste two complete years studying music theory and english composition, leaving only two years for formal engineering training. Other schools have trouble fitting their entire engineering programs into four years! I quickly realized the school wasn't for me, and transferred to Virginia Tech. It cost me approximately ten thousand dollars a year, but it's a decision I haven't regretted, even for a minute, ever since. My current career and graduate school choices would never have been available to me had I stayed at FSU.

Thus, my advice is much more balanced that yours, mathPimpDaddy: Don't go bankrupt trying to go to the most expensive school on the planet, because it's probably not worth it. On the other hand, don't simply opt for the cheapest possible education, because it likely won't qualify you as well as a recognized university. Let's be honest: state schools don't cost very much in the grand scheme of things, and many of them are incredibly good. A very good education can be obtained anywhere in the country for less than the price of an automobile, and student loans can have extremely favorable terms. Keep your priorities straight.

- Warren

Hey warren, you are taking this too personal. What he is giving is a suggestion. Hes talking about law school, you are talking about engineering. It must be a touchy subject for you. I've noticed that you get really touchy on stuff, I've been reading your comments. I think mathpimp has some very valid points. Learning to be independent not relying on breastmilk is a good thing, don't you think? What happeded to mathpimp? Why did he get banned? Is it because his comment? Shame on whoever banned mathpimp.

So education is correlated with price, I see... You say because he didn't have any experience with the expensive schools he doesn't know, it would be very costly to get that experience wouldn't it, just to see how it is like? Leave him alone, if he is happy at his school why switch to so many schools like you. I've attended a community college before and there are so many responsible young men and women that really put a lot of their efforts into their studies, and work full time jobs! You hear that? Isn't that imazing? Well anyway, all I can say is you certainly can have your opinion. My little son lives in his imaginary world sometimes... Verginia tech, is that where Cho went?

Last edited:
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I think mathpimp has some very valid points.

Of course you do -- you're the same person.

What happeded to mathpimp? Why did he get banned? Is it because his comment? Shame on whoever banned mathpimp.

All of your sock puppet accounts -- including this one -- have and will be banned simply because they're sock puppets. We have a policy against this. Your original account was banned because you were annoying several of the moderators here. Despite your repeated attempts to engage me personally, it wasn't me who banned you in the first place. The reason your sock puppets continue to be banned is because you continue to exhibit the same behavior.

So education is correlated with price, I see... You say because he didn't have any experience with the expensive schools he doesn't know, it would be very costly to get that experience wouldn't it, just to see how it is like?

It doesn't really matter to me whether you get the experience or not.

Leave him alone, if he is happy at his school why switch to so many schools like you.

If you're happy where you are, more power to you. It doesn't matter to me. I just don't believe get your undergrad education as cheaply as possible is good advice. It's a generalization, and you abhor generalizations, right?

I've attended a community college before and there are so many responsible young men and women that really put a lot of their efforts into their studies, and work full time jobs! You hear that? Isn't that imazing?

I work a full-time job myself while attending graduate school, so I don't find it all that amazing, no. I also put myself through my "expensive" state university education with summer internships.

Verginia tech, is that where Cho went?

Unbelievably tasteless. Grow up.

- Warren

Last edited:
Ki Man
hawtsexymath/mathPimpDaddy i don't know how law school works but in physics and engineering, more connections your school has, the better, and better schools will give you more opportunities from what I've seen so far. Unless it is your #1 priority, do you really want the cost of your education to conrol the rest of your education?

light_bulb
i've heard becoming a lawyer now is almost like shooting yourself in the foot because it's such an overcrowded field.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Different schools are more competitive for different majors, and that doesn't necessarily have to be the most expensive or biggest name school. You wouldn't study animal sciences at Harvard, nor would you choose MIT to study art. Employers do look at how competitive your education is. There is also some truth that alumnae networks can help you get jobs if you go to some schools, but that is more relevant for things like business and political science majors than it is for science majors. So, it is worthwhile to attend the most competitive school you can afford, but don't be lured in just by a "brand name" if that school isn't strong in the field you're interested in. Employers given a choice between someone who attended a competitive state university or a community college will choose the applicant with the degree from a state university, simply because they know the coursework is harder, so the student needs to be that much better to get the same grade.

As for the comments/questions on law school, it depends on the field of law. Most people going in have unrealistic expectations of what that degree will get them, others choose the right field and have the right undergraduate background to do exceedingly well. You're not going to make gobs of money as a criminal defense attorney, but if you have a strong undergraduate science or engineering education, intellectual property law is still booming (they can't find enough qualified graduates to hire, because while you can find good law students and good science majors, it's hard to find people good in both). Not a lot of people interested in science would be drawn to such a tedious job either (long days buried in never-ending mounds of paperwork). Though, the secret with law school is you don't pay for it. You get a job with a firm to do research for them, and let them pay your way through law school. If you're a strong enough student with a strong enough undergraduate background, they'll do this. It takes an extra year or two to finish law school while working, but it sure beats accumulating that amount of debt, and you can attend whatever school they will pay for you to attend and know they won't have a problem with the value of a degree from there (plus your work experience will then count for far more than the law school you attended).

J77
Like Ki Man seems to be arguing for himself -- better "schools" usually mean world-class researchers.

I'd always try to get in the "school with the best name" for this reason.

This obviously matters more when doing research -- however, it think it has an impact on the teaching also. Maybe not in the quality, but in the general "cutting-edge" atmosphere of a department.

(Also, in the UK, the name of the uni will be one of the first things that jobs like, eg. banking, look at when handed a bundle of cvs.)

Dan 1st
( hmm ... it really wasn't my intention to start off an argument ... )
I still have time to decide, being 16. I'm sure the french system is different too, I'll get advice from my current school for the future.
Going back to the original "how much does school matter" I guess that's in function of how seriously people take their studies, the job they want to get later, how they want their future to be. I Doubt there are many people in the world who can get a good job just by knowing the right people.
In general though, for anybody, I personally thinik school does matter quite a lot. For the social factor ; you meet people, make friends, work with others . For ( of course ) the education factor - it's good to learn things, and even the things some people say are "useless" might serve some purpose later on in life, you never know... . I'm sure there are many other positive points in school too...