OPINION Demystifying the importance of college prestige By Natalie Agnew I n a world obsessed with social status, a degree from a prestigious school is coveted as the next hot luxury item. High schoolers fixate on the idea that they need to go to a “good” school due to pressure from peers, adults, and societal standards. However, in reality, college prestige is relatively insignificant for most individuals. How important it is for you depends on what you want out of the college experience. Do you want the time of your life, to make money, to go to law school? Going to a prestigious college is not the ticket to a life of success; what you make out of your college experience is more important than the name of the school. When most people think of prestigious schools, they think of Ivy League schools and other elite private schools such as Northwestern, Duke, and Johns Hopkins. Many students think that schools like these hold the keys to a bright future. These schools demand total costs as high as eighty thousand dollars, but are the benefits worthy of the hefty price tag? There are also public universities that boast similar academic reputations at a fraction of the price for in-state students. However a degree from a prestigious school may have some benefits unavailable to other graduates. Many people point to the higher starting salaries of graduates from elite private schools to prove their worth. For instance, a graduate from Stanford makes $73 thousand as their starting salary, according to Business Insider. Comparatively, a graduate from the University of Alabama makes about $48 thousand, according to the school’s first employment destination survey. But the higher Stanford salary is partially inflated by the higher cost of living and wages in California and Stanford’s higher graduation rate. However, starting salaries aren’t the only indicator of job satisfaction or potential for growth. When you are looking for your first job where you got your college degree is more important, since there is less work experience on your resume. This is the time when college prestige is more significant. After you get some work experience, that is what employers will look at more closely, not which university you attended. Besides the higher starting salary and brand of the college name, you are also buying into their network of successful alumni and recruiting connections. In a 2017 study, economist Raj Chetty found that low-income students at elite private schools have a better chance of reaching the top one percent of the earning distribution compared to similar students at public schools. There are also some competitive industries like investment banking, where large firms draw mostly from a shortlist of elite schools. According to NBC News, while more than 40 percent of billionaires went to elite schools, there are also plenty of successful people who 21 The Jolly Roger | June 2020

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