A piece up on “The Huffington Post” by Nelson Cheng discusses how in certain parts of the country, like the City of Angels, where you went to college doesn’t matter as much as some folks may think. And, while it may surprise our readers, we both agree and disagree with Cheng. Indeed Los Angeles, and Southern California in general, is less focused on the best universities in America. As Cheng writes, while “Where did you go to college,” “What do you do,” etc. are conversation starters in, say, Manhattan and Washington D.C., it’s not as much the case in Los Angeles. In LA, a conversation starter is often, “What have you been in lately?” Stereotype? Maybe. True? Absolutely.
Cheng describes in his well written editorial how his Princeton degree hasn’t helped him as much as he may have thought when he was super stressed out as a high school senior, applying to the same university his best friend was applying to (he got in, while his best friend didn’t — the friend ended up at Harvard). But Cheng really hems and haws on this point. In fact, he writes, “I used nearly nothing of what I learned at Princeton at Amazon or Google. But surely it helped me get to those places, right? I like to think of myself as a scrappy person. That all things are possible. But I can’t deny that that Princeton stamp means something. At Google, I was on two hiring committees and yes, the schools people went to mattered. It doesn’t mean nothing. But sometimes I think it should. Or at least that’s how I tried to process candidates. After all, it’s what you know, it’s not just brand association. But when you don’t know the person, it’s hard not to give undue weight to some seal of approval, which is what these universities are ultimately selling.”
We have never argued — not once — on the pages of this college admissions blog that you get a better education at Harvard than you do at, say, Amherst College. Indeed we’ve argued that you might get the finest education in America outside of the Ivy League — at schools like Williams, Amherst, Caltech, etc. But we’ve also argued that it’s not all about the in-classroom education. When you attend one of our nation’s finest schools, including the Ivy League colleges, you come away with a network of remarkable connections, of lifelong friends. You come away with that “seal of approval” that Cheng speaks of — a seal of approval that can make all the difference on those early job interviews — interviews that set the stage for the roadmap of one’s career. So does where you go to college matter? You bet it does.
While you’re here, read about the Ivy League’s Influence on Career.